eCommerce in Canada – Doing eCommerce Right

October 31, 2012

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Guest blog:

Ben Burmaster, owner of Snugglebugz, speaks about eCommerce in Canada, many of the challenges of eCommerce and how to get started the right way.

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eCommerce in Canada is a really hot topic right now. A lot of people are looking at the statistics that are out there – “30 billion dollars in 2012 is going to be spent online in Canada”. The majority of that money is going across the border. People are purchasing off U.S. sites and importing that product into Canada, it’s not going back into Canadian’s pockets. We look at things like the percentage of people who buy online and we look at the world and hear numbers like 8% and 10% and then we look at Canada and we see numbers like 3% or 4%. People are looking at the opportunity and they say, Canadians are above average computer users and we have above average internet connections. We are just not above average internet purchasers.

A lot of mom and pop shops in Canada, distributors and that, are looking at this, even major organizations like Rogers and Lowblaw’s, and saying what do we do online. How do we make this work? Like Shopper’s Drug Mart “we don’t have an online strategy”, “what should we be doing?” It’s a little bit of fear.  You see Amazon.ca coming into Canada, you see all these U.S. eCommerce merchants that are billion dollar corporations crossing the border to come tap into our market.

A lot of people are looking at eComm and saying “I need to have a solution”, but what most people don’t realize is that you can’t just go out and get a solution. It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of money. eCommerce has to be treated almost as a separate business. You need to create separate revenue projections, you need to create separate funding, you need to, as in our case, even have separate inventory. We carry inventory that is just for eCommerce. There are so many things that are different about the eCommerce business and it is important for people to realize that. It’s not a go out and get your front-end web developer to create you an open source e-commerce cart for $5,000 and put that up and all of a sudden you’re going to be in the eCommerce play.

The budget that you need and the team of people behind you to make that grow and what you need to do is not $5,000. If you go out and get the $5,000 to $25,000 solution, you’ll end up with an eCommerce site that will partially work, you will be able to collect payments, but it will not be integrated eCommerce with ERP Software, it will not be automated, it will not be #1 on Google. You will not be doing any of the marketing, any of the branding, you will not be able to deliver any of the product. You will not have the budget to be able to do it. You need to treat eComm, in my opinion, as a separate business and take it seriously.

I think if Canada gets serious about eComm – I think one of the reasons we are so far behind, go try to buy something online; you can’t buy it. There are no sites to do it, and if the sites are there, lots of times they look so bad I wouldn’t want to buy them off there anyways. So if we get our act together in Canada with eCommerce and businesses start spending some money developing proper eComm strategies, I think we are going to see that 3% number get up to the world average and we will see a great eCommerce business in Canada.


eCommerce Integration with Inventory & Accounting Software

October 22, 2012

Guest blog: Ben Burmaster, owner of SnuggleBugz, speaks about how he got started with eCommerce and how he has found success in it.

We sell everything, mostly hard good and gear; strollers, car seats, diapers cloth diapers, basically anything you require for a baby except for clothing and, we used to be able to say disposable diapers, but recently we have been doing more disposable diapers.

SnuggleBugz started eCommerce relatively soon after we got into business. We were founded in the end of 2006 and we started eCommerce mid-2008 but we did it as most typical small retail mom-and-pop shop businesses do; we went out and found a guy to create us a website, tried to add our products and run it out of a retail store. So we were trying to use retail staff within the store to add products to the web, pick and pack orders, answer customer’s phone calls and were basically putting the burden of eCommerce on the retail store. What happened was that eComm always became the backseat to retail because when there are customers in the store front-and-centre, they took priority. So even if there was an order that needed to be shipped, if there was a customer standing there, they would get serviced first.

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In doing that we identified a whole bunch of problems with the way we were doing things. One of the problems was that if we were ever going to scale this to more than 20 orders a day we couldn’t have a lot of the manual processes. We needed a re-design; we needed the look and feel to change. If we were going to be the best of baby in Canada now, instead of the best of baby in Halton, we needed the best website, the best processes, and the best integration. There are so many facets that people don’t realize to eCommerce.

When we started looking into all this, we were like “this is going to take a whole team of people, and we’re going to need a whole lot of help”. So that’s where we started looking for partners and ways to do this.

Working with Demac has been extremely beneficial to us. The relationship that we have with them has helped us grow and succeed at the rate that we have and Blue Link and their ERP system, has given us the flexibility. It has allowed us to allow us in this integration process to do the things we wanted to do.

So the integration between Blue Link and Demac happens on two levels:

  1. One is inventory, where inventory is updated and synced with the Blue Link ERP system. Everything from descriptions, colours, attributes, pricing – as they change they are automatically synced.
  2. The second component is orders, where an order comes in to Magento, those orders are automatically created via the integration in Blue Link and then the entire shipping process of that order is automated. Once an order comes in, Blue Link owns that order and then Magento is sort of an afterthought at that point, and Blue Link manages that order and then the sync goes back the other way to update Magento. If the customers check their information online they will see the status of the order, that it has been invoiced, the tracking number and that type of information.

It’s hard to sometimes be modest but at the end of the day we’re doing things at a level that most eCommerce companies aren’t even doing. I’ve had major parties through to look at what we’re doing and to be able to ship every product every day, every order every day, to be able to fulfill things at the rates that we are fulfilling them. There are a ton of eCommerce companies out there are doing that but there’s not a lot that are doing that with the backend processes.

Basically, SnuggleBugz is growing at 300-400%.

eCommerce ERP Integration CTA


Apparel Inventory Software for Wholesale & Distribution

October 12, 2012

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What functionality should you expect from Apparel Inventory Software for Wholesale & Distribution?

The apparel wholesale and distribution business presents distinct inventory management challenges, compared with managing other types of inventory. The most obvious difference is that you may have hundreds or even thousands of SKUs for items that are similar, but have to be tracked separately. For example, the same style sweater may be available in several colors and also many different sizes.

A single product style, if available in 6 colors and 8 sizes, would create 48 separate individual SKUs (products) to track. This can complicate order entry and processing – not to mention setting up the inventory in the first place. Fortunately, there are solutions, such as an Apparel Matrix, that will automate this process for you – generating all the required SKUs for a product group from a single definition process.

The following specific functionality that will provide time-saving inventory management tools for an apparel wholesaler or distributor:

Product Generation

In the above example, manually keying 48 separate products for a single
style can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Product generation functionality is a vital piece of apparel inventory software and can save a lot of time when defining new products. Typically, you define a base part number (such as a style) with variations in the product ID for to account for size and color.

This is particularly useful when you consider a scenario where you not only need to create dozens of variations of a product, but need to input descriptions, categories, pricing and other product info. Replicating this info manually across dozens of variations would be both time-consuming, and error-prone.

Order Entry & Purchasing Matrix

Since both sales and purchase orders are likely to contain products of the same style with varied colours and sizes, it is much easier to enter quantities in a matrix for a given style. For example:

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Using this approach, an order entry employee can place orders by navigating a matrix of all colors and sizes for a given style, adding quantities where appropriate. This would create multiple order lines in a faction of the time it would take to key them in line by line.

The same functionality should be available for placing purchase orders. Similarly, a matrix approach to price changes on a sales order purchase order can again save time and reduce the scope for errors.

With appropriate apparel inventory software, entering orders line by line can be a thing of the past.


Common ERP Misconceptions

October 8, 2012

common-erp-software-misconceptionsEver hear that ERP software is only suitable for Fortune 500 companies? Or that ERP software leads to layoffs within a company? How about that ERP implementations are time-consuming?

We hear these and other common ERP misconceptions from time to time when speaking with potential customers. Unfortunately many people hear these myths and don’t take the time to investigate where they come from – so they continue to think that their company and ERP software don’t fit together.  The reality is that ERP software of some type is available and appropriate for companies of virtually all sizes and nature, implementing ERP software does not lead to employee layoffs, and with the right preparation work, implementations can be completed in a relatively short time.

From accounting inventory software, through integrated CRM and inventory management software, to ERP software complete with lot tracking capabilities, many different tiers of software are available to companies in all industries and along the entire supply chain.  In addition, many systems provide additional modules and are customizable to meet individual company needs.

Although ERP software can reduce the amount of manual labour needed to complete processes, it is extremely rare that this would result in having to lay off the employee who previously performed the work.  Employees are needed to work with the ERP system – instead of taking over their position, it will allow them to focus on the more important tasks and less on correcting errors and keying data.

With the proper preparation work from both the software vendor and customer, ERP implementations can be completed within a reasonable time limit.  A key factor to success is ensuring that both sides are fully aware of the plan and resources needed, before commencing implementation.  This is why it is important to discuss these details fully before deciding on which system to use.

Understanding the truth behind each ERP system misconception will provide a comfort level and help realize the value of automated, integrated systems.  So the next time you hear things like “ERP systems are too expensive and lack flexibility” speak to someone who knows the truth.


11 Reasons You Need New ERP Software

October 5, 2012

reasons-you-need-new-erp-softwareDoes your software include a component for automating calculation and remittance of sales tax? Can it factor landed costs into recorded inventory values and costs of goods sold? Does it create meaningful financial and management reports? If you answered no to any of these questions, it may be time for you to consider upgrading your ERP software.  These three examples are a sample from the list of 11 Reasons Why You Need New ERP Software and they represent a small percentage of the benefits a fully integrated ERP software system can provide.

  • Software that includes a component for automating calculation and remittance of sales tax will not only enable your company to deal with customers from all over the globe, it will also ensure you charge and remit the correct sales taxes.  Not to mention the reduction in keying errors and time needed to check tax rates.
  • A system that can factor landed costs into recorded inventory values and costs of goods sold is necessary in order to make appropriate commission payments and pricing decisions – and to accurately assess gross margins.
  • Without meaningful financial and management reporting it is impossible to fully analyse and understand the growth and success of your company.  This information should be readily available to share and analyse with other departments and employees in order to remain profitable in the future.

There are many possible reasons why you may need new ERP software, and even more excuses as to why you haven’t upgraded to this point.  However, once you understand the potential benefits of a properly implemented new ERP software system, you’ll be excited about the possibilities offered to increase profits, reduce costs and facilitate growth.

It’s amazing (and quite entertaining) to learn about some of the creative workarounds businesses have designed to manage daily operations, when software exists to automate these activities in a fully integrated system.  Each business has unique needs, but on the other hand there are several reporting features and applications that should be an integrated part of every ERP software system (in addition to add-ons and customization work that can cater to individual company processes).

Taking some time to research the functions provided by ERP software systems will give you a better understanding of the functionality that you could now be enjoying.


Replace QuickBooks: Getting Over QuickBooks

October 1, 2012

Replace QuickBooks - QuickBooks ReplacementYou awoke one day and realized that it’s time for a change: “QuickBooks has to go”. It has served your organization well over the years – its simplicity its greatest strength – but now the limitations of QuickBooks are putting the brakes on your rapidly growing business. What to do?

The obvious answer is to replace QuickBooks with ERP software to fully manage not only your accounting, but your inventory and contacts as well. The problem: you may encounter some resistance. Of course, you may be emotionally tied to QuickBooks yourself or, worse yet, your accountant may be adamantly opposed to changing systems.

Resistance to change is a common problem in many industries but is particularly apparent in the software space. It can be difficult to overcome, but with priorities set and objectives clearly defined, change can be accomplished. Focus on the limitations brought on by QuickBooks and make it clear (in your mind and theirs) that you need something more robust and scalable.

Here are some examples of objectives:

Improve reporting

  • QuickBooks is great for bookkeeping, but when it comes to delving down deep into historical data, identifying trends and making major business decisions, there simply isn’t enough depth or breadth of business data available

Eliminate double-entry and keying errors

  • If you have multiple systems your staff is probably spending a great deal of time duplicating information which can lead to keying errors

Improve accounting integrity

  • QuickBooks is flexible – too flexible. Lack of audit trails and the ability to erase transactions entirely can severely compromise data integrity – which was less problematic when you were a small business, but as you’ve grown this has become a recipe for potential disaster

Lack of inventory control

  • Get a grip on live inventory information, including costing, quantities and reorder levels by ditching software that focuses primarily on bookkeeping.

For  more information, use this QuickBooks Replacement Kit.

QuickBooks may be familiar to you or your staff right now, but familiarity comes with time and can be attained with any user-friendly system. Of course, it helps to determine the level of resistance you are about to encounter when trying to replace QuickBooks. It helps to get everyone on board with the change by involving them in the process, and ensuring that they understand why moving on is important for business growth.

The next question is, are you financially ready to replace QuickBooks? Many businesses start with QuickBooks for a reason – it is very inexpensive. Once you’ve experienced significant growth and begin to notice its limitations, you’re ready to start thinking about the next step.

So how much will the next step cost? Using our ERP Software Pricing Guide you can begin to set realistic expectations of what it will cost to move onto the next level of business software. Depending on your budget, it may not be realistic to move onto a fully integrated system (but the benefits cannot be overstated). A middle-tier system, as opposed to an introductory system like QuickBooks, can carry your business for decades.

Are you ready to replace QuickBooks? Download this Software Buying Guide for recommendations on how to start the process today.

Replace QuickBooks Download


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