Front-end Appearance and Back-end eCommerce Integration Define the Online Shopping Experience

May 28, 2015

online sales channelIn recent years, the ever-growing popularity of eCommerce has continued to soar. As a result, both emerging businesses and older enterprises (that have traditionally stayed away from online sales channels) are finding themselves exploring this new avenue for growth.  Around the clock availability, speed of access, wider selection of goods and services, accessibility, and ultimately convenience are benefits of eCommerce that many consumers expect or demand. E-commerce is not ready to completely replace its bricks and mortar counterpart, as salesperson interaction is still important to many consumers; however, it is important to at least provide the option of an online sales channel to consumers. If your business already does online sales (or you’re looking to get started), here are 4 factors necessary to run an effective eCommerce website:

Pricing and Quality of Products

In order to be successful in any business the price point of the products and services offered must be match both demand and quality. With a seemingly endless list of online retailers, online shoppers have access to hundreds of different options on various web stores. Savvy consumers will compare your offering to similar products in the market in order to determine the best possible option to fulfill their needs. Therefore, it is very important to have a pricing structure that is consistent with the quality and brand, and the ability to respond quickly to supplier and competitor pricing. In order to act swiftly to industry changes, a strong back end software system is crucial; one that ensures any internal changes made to pricing are reflected automatically on your website with proper eCommerce integration.

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5 Software Features to Run a Successful Omni-Channel Distribution Business

April 30, 2015

omni-channel-business-managementOmni-channel retailing is exactly as it sounds – a business model in which a company offers its products and services through multiple sales channels including: on-line, bricks and mortar, showrooms, trade-shows, mobile devices, print catalogues, etc.  This model is becoming more popular with many industries, not just those who retail direct to consumer. Even traditional wholesale and distribution companies have started branching out to sell products on-line and in showrooms.  Omni-channel retailing provides businesses the opportunity to reach new target markets and serve a larger group of customers. However, the addition of sales channels increases the complexity of a business, which can make it challenging to find a software system to manage all channels in one database.  This is a where a fully integrated accounting and inventory ERP system comes into play.  An all-in-one solution allows you to gain control and provides insight into all retail and wholesale orders coming from multiple channels.  Although information gets stored in one database, users can still distinguish between type and source of orders.  This eliminates the need to pull information from multiple systems when managing orders, and ensures you always have up-to-date inventory information.  In order to accurately account for all sales channels when searching for new software, look for the following features:

eCommerce Integration

Whether you have your own on-line store, sell through sites like Amazon and eBay, or both, it is important that your back-end software is properly integrated with all your eCommerce stores. Sophisticated two-way integration means data is shared from your back-end system to your on-line store fronts and vice versa in order to properly account for sales and inventory.  Items purchased on-line get reflected in your back-end system for further processing and associated inventory gets allocated for picking. When receiving inventory this information gets entered once, into the back-end system, and pushed on-line. Two-way integration eliminates the need for double entry and ensures information across all systems is up-to-date.

B2B Online Order Portal

B2B eCommerce sites empower customers to place their own orders through a self-service type interface. Providing this sales channel allows for complete control over who purchases from your company through the use of a login.  This option also caters to your customers’ specific needs and business hours without having to hire extra staff to manage this process internally.

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eCommerce Integration with Inventory & Accounting ERP Software

January 7, 2015

ecommerce-erp-integration-optionsAs eCommerce continues to grow in popularity, online storefronts are now relevant beyond just the large retail companies, and in some industries necessary to remain competitive.  Many companies engaged in industries that historically stayed away from online sales channels, including wholesale distribution companies, are now branching out into distributing their products online, both through B2B sales tools and B2C direct to consumer.  For these wholesale distribution companies, although they have added a new sales channel, their back end processes will remain the same – they must still manage the inventory required to fulfill these orders and process sales into an accounting system.  This is where eCommerce integration between an online storefront and back-end inventory and accounting ERP system comes into play.  But what exactly does this mean, and what options are available for doing so? In order to answer these questions, you must first ask yourself a few others:

  • How many orders to you expect to receive online each day?
  • Do you have dedicated staff for managing orders and picking, packing and shipping?
  • Should anyone be able to purchase from your eCommerce store, or do you want to restrict which customers can?
  • Do you also sell through other eCommerce channels (such as Amazon or eBay)?
  • Do you have different pricing for different customers?

Answering these questions and others is important to determine exactly how sophisticated the ERP and eCommerce integration needs to be, which type of eCommerce store is best suited for your business, and how much it will all cost.  Consider the following options:

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POS Functionality & eCommerce Integration for Wholesale Distribution Companies

October 16, 2014

POS and eCommerce ERPAs B2B and B2C eCommerce continues to increase in popularity, the line between wholesale, retail and eCommerce channels has started to blur. Wholesale companies, previously restricted to buying product from the manufacturer, storing in a warehouse and then selling and shipping to retail and distribution companies, are now starting to offer their product through other sales channels and to different consumers. With eCommerce sales expected to reach US $1.5 trillion by the end of this year, it’s no surprise that wholesale companies are interested in a piece of the eCommerce pie. Many wholesale companies have also branched into the retail space, by opening showrooms for their product, exhibiting at trade shows and building actual brick and mortar retail stores.  In order to account for these new sales channels in an all-in-one system, it is important to look for proper inventory and accounting ERP software, with point of sale (“POS”) functionality and eCommerce integration options. This way all data can be stored in a central database, and consequently inventory levels and availability will be accurately reflected no matter which sales channel an order comes in from.

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3 Things I Learnt About eCommerce at IRCE

July 7, 2014

IRCE 2014

By Samantha Hornby

A couple of weeks ago we attended IRCE 2014 – the world’s largest eCommerce conference and exhibition in Chicago, IL.  This year’s show celebrated the 10th Anniversary of IRCE and showcased more than 600 solutions providers and had over 6000 attendees.  The great thing about IRCE is that it not only gives vendors a chance to speak with attendees and hopefully close some sales, but it also gives vendors an opportunity to network with one another, forge new partnerships and learn about new technology and trends in the industry. As a first time exhibitor, it was a great learning experience for Blue Link and we have highlighted some of what we learnt below.

1. There are A LOT of eCommerce packages available

Although a simple Google search will confirm the fact that there are dozens of eCommerce platforms available in the market, at this year’s IRCE show specifically, there were over 80 eCommerce platforms exhibiting!  With this much information and choice it can be overwhelming for first time attendees to distinguish between platforms and chose one that is best for their company.  Even those who did their research before may have encountered several platforms that they didn’t know existed. This is a common problem when searching for software and sometimes having too much choice can leave companies to not make any decision at all.

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3 Ways to Increase Warehouse Productivity with Distribution Software

June 27, 2014

warehouse distribution managementYou can achieve improved productivity in your distribution business’ warehouse through a variety of activities, ranging from automating order entry processes to providing training for staff. By definition, productivity describes the input to output ratio on a final product, so warehouse oriented businesses are always looking for ways to better manage those inputs while still producing quality outputs. With the help of distribution software, here are three ways this can be done:

1. Optimize picking/packing processes

As a distribution business, it is very important to optimize the basic picking and packing processes in your warehouse. Saving time and reducing errors here presents a huge opportunity to increase productivity. Consider investing in distribution ERP software with barcode scanning functionality to streamline the receiving, picking, packing, and shipping process. A great alternative to a heavy, expensive, traditional barcode scanning machine is a mobile application that runs on iOS devices. This technology streamlines many processes in the warehouse including the ability to itemize products that need to be picked, mapping out how employees should go through the warehouse most efficiently. Pickers and packers can also quickly scan and look up inventory items at the source to retrieve information about the product such as descriptions, pricing and images and in the case of an empty shelf if the item is somewhere in overstock, on backorder or available at other locations. Using this kind of mobile barcode scanning application for handheld picking and receiving is a great alternative to traditional scanners, and will help eliminate the errors and time constraints of performing these tasks manually with pen and paper.

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Why You Should Visit Blue Link at IRCE 2014

May 14, 2014

Visit Blue Link at IRCE

By Samantha Hornby

This year’s upcoming IRCE tradeshow marks the 10th anniversary of the world’s largest eCommerce conference and exhibition and is a great place for eCommerce businesses to learn about new trends and technologies in the industry.  The show is expected to bring in 3,000+ attendees and will showcase more than 600 solutions providers in the exhibit hall as well as offer multiple workshops and expert speakers. If your business is involved in selling online or considering this for the future, IRCE provides the perfect opportunity to learn from successful businesses about how to do eCommerce right, and what available technologies and solutions are necessary to succeed – besides, who doesn’t like an excuse to get out of the office?

This year will be Blue Link’s first year exhibiting at the show, and we are very excited about the opportunity.  Aside from getting the chance to explore beautiful Chicago, we are excited to speak with attendees about an often overlooked and certainly less glamorous aspect of eCommerce – back-end inventory and accounting ERP software.  For many eCommerce businesses, and especially those who are also wholesale distribution companies, proper inventory and accounting management can be the difference between your company succeeding and failing.  In such a saturated market, consumers will not easily forgive those eCommerce sites who sell inventory they don’t have, lose orders during shipment and are slow to respond to customer service issues. In order to avoid these problems, it is important for eCommerce companies to invest in proper back-end ERP software in conjunction with getting their online store set up.

When it comes to ERP and eCommerce integration there are several different options depending on how sophisticated your business processes are.

(1)    No Integration

The first and simplest is a site with no integration. An example is a website that allows customers to view product and place orders, but all inventory levels must be manually updated within the site’s interface and all orders are manually downloaded from the site and re-entered into an accounting system.  This is best for very small companies who want to give customers access to product information online, but only manage a small number of orders each day and so manual process are appropriate.

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