To remain competitive, retailers, importers and wholesale distributors, need to be agile and stay on top of innovation in technology – while maintaining a strong reputation for exceeding customer expectations.
Collaboration between JCurve – the Australian SME partner of NetSuite, Global Leader in Cloud ERP – and our EDI partner and supply chain automation specialist SPS Commerce has distilled out the five top tips for using technology, ERP and EDI to put you ahead of the competition and accelerate your business growth:
1. Automate your processes with integrated technologies
Making the effort to integrate and automate systems frees up a huge amount of time to focus on core competencies and on growing your business.
Internal and external automation delivers a wide volume of data and metric points. This provides the operational insights needed to easily derive important business and customer data. By eliminating duplicate data entry and manual consolidation of financials, you’ll be agile and ahead of the curve in no time.
Internally, elements such as automatic reorder points for stock replenishment once quantities drop below the minimum preferred levels, ensure demand and supply is optimised for the business. Externally, automated order acknowledgements elevate customer (both retailer and end user) satisfaction and automated invoicing compresses the order-to-cash cycle by up to half. This allows companies to run efficiently and not only make better business decisions, but also respond effectively to customer expectations.
And the best part? Once you’re up and running with automation in full swing, you’re able to view critical data with built-in analytics, and real-time insights into your business.
2. Bust the bottlenecks with business intelligence that put you closer to the customer
Making performance metrics like sell-through and on-time delivery (‘delivery in full on time,’ or ‘DIFOT’) a top priority in order to stay ahead of the competition might seem obvious and straightforward, but as feedback from some of the most seasoned distributors tells us, bottlenecks in business processes can bring everything to a grinding halt.
Use business data insights to manage expectations by keeping customers up-to-date from the minute they place the order to the minute they receive it. Studies show that “explained waits” are tolerated much better by customers than “unexplained waits” so this simple factor improves satisfaction and customer success. Keeping the customer informed through tracking promotes positive associations, customer loyalty and will prove advantageous when deliveries are on time, as well as when delays beyond your control strike.
You can harness technology by accessing business data from all the stakeholders in the supply chain and gain visibility into every moving part contributing to your customer’s order. Then, it’s really important to keep that business data available to all parties in the process, ideally in real-time, to improve communication and keep everyone in the loop – customers, suppliers and internal resources alike. SPS Commerce incorporates elements like order performance into Fulfilment, as well as delivering analytics for brands. Analytics solutions for wholesalers of product brands delivers insights to what is selling where and when, so that you can make intelligence stock movement decisions and promote sell-through. Eyewear brand Oakley used SPS Analytics to transform a retailer return request for $125,000 into an additional $75,000 sale.
3. Win business with information at your fingertips; by taking the warehouse with you
Retailers and wholesale distributors form part of a complex retail network that extends far beyond in-store and the warehouse. It’s a complex world of interdependent partnerships, collaboration and sourcing.
The ability to easily and accurately answer questions regarding pricing, stock levels and delivery dates during a face-to-face meeting with retailers or distributors can make all the difference between winning a new account and losing an opportunity. By “taking the warehouse” to every prospect meeting, you can demonstrate the timely and informed service that will continue to impress after winning the account. This level of service keeps existing customers loyal, creates word-of-mouth buzz and wins new business.
The true beauty of this is that using JCurve and SPS Commerce, you can do it from anywhere; at the office, your kitchen table, before you board a flight, or on your way to or from a meeting, making it easy to keep track of stock, know your stock position and get orders out the door - without stepping foot back into the warehouse. Leveraging cloud-based technologies fundamentally integrate adaptive and flexible, including the ability to work anywhere in the world.
4. Ensure the technology is working to your full advantage
The right solution can help you optimise inventory and supply chain management for your growing business, including improving stock handling streamline picking operations to get more done in less time – and overall increasing delivery speed to your customers in the process. Solutions such as SPS Commerce Fulfilment EDI eliminate duplication and significantly reduce errors automating transmission and receipt of orders, invoices, shipping documents, acknowledgements, and all other trading documents. Data is entered only once, ever, saving a large volume of data entry hours.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business documents in a standard electronic format between business partners.
By moving from a paper-based exchange of business document to one that is electronic, you enjoy major benefits such as reduced cost, increased processing speed, reduced errors and improved relationships with business partners.
Do your research and you’ll find that while EDI continues to prove its major business value by lowering costs and increasing business efficiency, some of the greatest EDI benefits often come at the strategic business level, by:
- Enabling real-time visibility into transaction status. This in turn enables faster decision-making and improved responsiveness to changing customer and market demands, and allows businesses to adopt a demand-driven business model rather than a supply-driven one
- Shortening the lead times for product enhancements and new product delivery
- Streamlining your ability to enter new territories and markets. EDI provides a common business language that facilitates business partner onboarding anywhere in the world
- Promoting corporate social responsibility and sustainability by replacing paper-based processes with electronic alternatives (saving you money and reduce your carbon emissions).
SPS Commerce offer all this and in addition has built and maintains a network of connected retailers – so consumer product brands and distributors that connect to the network can easily initiate trade.
5. Take your relationship with your accountant to the next level
You can get more value from your accountant by giving them secure online access to your cloud ERP system, allowing them to access the appropriate business data, make informed and timely strategic advice throughout the entire year, not just at scheduled intervals or upon closing the books at year end. Imagine if your proactive accountant had important business insights into your operations that allowed them to highlight ways to improve profit, address cash flow issues and identify growth strategies in real-time.
Also think about the amount of admin work this cuts down for your business, no longer having to worry about exporting your business data and storing securely until it’s time to meet up with your accountant. And what if any of your data has changed? Time to start re-running and exporting again unless your accountant can securely access an online accounting system in real-time, whenever they need to.
For wholesale distributors dealing with so many tricky variables – from managing product ranges, increasingly crowded markets, customer expectations to tighter delivery times, a challenged Australian exchange rate and squeezed margins – creates a clear need for a unified system in order to continue to grow and expand your business.
Through JCurve and SPS Commerce, you can access cross-department visibility and automation that supports your business to sell more product faster, better manage your inventory and reduce your costs – while also allowing you to promote easily online to sell directly and indirectly through ecommerce and online retail.
The combination of JCurve for internal automation and optimisation, combined with SPS Commerce for full supply chain automation (incorporating fulfilment, attribute management, sourcing, and analytics), delivers a complete and future-proofed solution, positioning you for real business growth using technology.
Hopefully our high five has given you a few ideas to think about – for even more ideas, check out our blog on how to improve warehouse efficiency and reduce costs, or look into the SPS Commerce blog on the importance of order acknowledgements, and how to quickly deploy them.