With ERP systems at the very core of your business processes, choosing the right one is obviously an important step to get right. Some ERP vendors will try to sell you a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but as all businesses operate differently, it’s also important to ensure your new ERP solution works for your unique retail business.
But the concept of ERP for retail also runs deeper than that. Retail has changed significantly in recent years with the introduction of “omnichannel”. No doubt you’ve heard of that concept before, but it’s more than just a buzzword, it’s now a way of life for retailers.
Consumers have access to many more channels, tools and technologies than they ever did before - Facebook, mobile, ecommerce websites, brick and mortar stores, Instagram, the list goes on. But with many big box retailers like Amazon and Jet offering an excellent customer experience, consumers have grown to expect seamless and speedy service, regardless of where they are coming to you from.
This is why it’s now more important than ever, not just to use a central ERP system that can specifically help your retail business, but one that can offer true omnichannel features, not least because it’s what your customers have come to expect.
In this article, we’ll dive into some key features your ERP system should offer, as well as how you can successfully go about choosing the right solution for your unique business.
ERP Features Crucial for Omnichannel Retail Success
1. Supported Multichannel Capability
One of the fundamental requirements in omnichannel retail success is to offer a seamless experience across a variety of channels we’ve already mentioned.
But how is it possible to do that if you’re either a) not able to sell on whichever channels your customers are using to browse, or b) those channels are not fully supported by your chosen ERP vendor?
Look for vendors that have integrations to the leading sales channels such as BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, eBay and Amazon, as well as integrations to some lesser known channels like Woocommerce and Opencart as well (just in case you need to utilize those within your ecommerce strategy).
Multichannel integrations should not only download orders, but update inventory levels in real-time and update sales channels with shipping information so your customers are always kept informed.
And ideally, these integrations will all be built and supported in-house by your chosen vendor, should something go wrong or if you need help understanding how the integration works.
2. Integrated Retail Accounting
It’s no surprise that accurate retail accounting is crucial in reducing human error, and saving vital time and money.
Some ERP or back office systems may require you to handle your bookkeeping and financial management in a separate system like QuickBooks or Sage.
Although this is definitely an improvement on using spreadsheets or other manual processes, it’s not the perfect solution. Siloed accounting slows things down, doesn’t provide you with access to up-to-the-minute reports for decision-making and in this seamless omnichannel world we all talk about, how is siloed data going to help make things seamless in the first place?
Therefore, it would be beneficial to look for a system that combines sales, purchasing and inventory management with traditional accounting features. You should be able to import transaction data easily, create auditable records of purchases and be able to document assets, liabilities, expenses and revenue, all in real-time.
3. Integrated Warehouse Management
An efficient warehouse management process is essential in order to reduce your shipping latency and processing costs, not only quickly serving your customers’ needs, but also your own.
Although there are lots of great WMS (warehouse management systems) out there, it’s important that your WMS successfully talks to your back office or ERP system.
When you update inventory levels during an inventory count, you’ll want these changes to be reflected on both your sales channels and accounts reports. When receiving inventory into your warehouse, either due to a supplier delivery or customer return, you’ll also want this to be reflected on your sales channels and in your accounts.
And surely, it’ll save many hours for your warehouse team if this all happened automatically from one quick barcode scan.
This is where an integrated WMS will save you vital time, which can be better invested into business growth activities instead.
4. Integrated Customer Relationship Management
Although many ERP systems come with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool as standard, it’s so important in omnichannel success that it warrants mentioning anyway.
CRM software is more than a glorified phone or address book. It helps you to understand your customers’ buying habits and how they prefer to communicate, as well as providing your staff with a record of all their previous communications.
Think about it - how impressed would your customers be if they place an order via your ecommerce website, and then phone up about it afterwards, maybe to make a few changes, and all they have to quote to your sales team is their order number.
In an instant, your team can not only trace their current order, but previous orders and communications, enabling your team to better serve them (and maybe even take the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell to them).
Thus, be sure to view your ERP system with a critical eye when it comes to the CRM module. If you can walk in your customers’ shoes for a moment and assess how well the system can cope with situations your team are likely to find themselves in, then you’re bound to be onto a customer service winner.
5. Integrated POS
With customers expecting to be able to buy from you in any way they choose, it may make sense for you to open up a permanent bricks and mortar store, or maybe even a temporary pop-up shop.
But your POS should act as more than just a cash register. It should contain details of buying history, relevant personal information for your customers, vital product information such as inventory availability within each warehouse location and be able to provide a simple (and quick) end-of-day reporting process.
What this ensures is that instead of your staff finding themselves in the position of explaining that they cannot locate a product or transaction, they can dazzle them with all of the information they’re able to pull, and will be more likely to create a sale (even if the item is not physically available in store right now).
A Quick Note on These ERP Features
Note how most, if not all, of these listed features mention the word “integrated”? By having everything in one place, regardless of how your orders are created or how your customers communicate with you, is how you’re really going to be able to succeed in offering a seamless omnichannel experience to your customers.
Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl - a cloud-based back office solution for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single automated system.