5 Ways Enterprise Resource Planning Will Streamline Your Ecommerce Business

Posted by RodneyLaws on June 4, 2019

Enterprise resource planning, or ERP, is a vital part of running a competitive enterprise-level business — particularly in the digital world. It essentially involves using versatile software to bring together business processes that would traditionally have been distinct, making them parts of a cohesive whole and using real-time insights to achieve wide-ranging improvements.

Given how hotly-competitive the ecommerce industry is, and how many component parts can go into getting from the very beginning of the sales funnel to after-sales support, ERP is a natural fit for an online seller. Consequently, if you run a large ecommerce business and you’re not currently taking advantage of ERP software, it’s time to change that.

There are numerous affordable packages on the market, and top options such as Oracle’s NetSuite and Sage’s Intacct are very easy to use. Though they’re most commonly associated with paid platforms, they’ll integrate with OpenCart through the eBridge Connections integration platform or another such system — while you’ll also need to pay for that, the cost is justified (ERP integration will also help you integrate other tools).

Tempted, but need a little more convincing? Here are 5 ways in which enterprise resource planning will usefully streamline your ecommerce business:

Stock levels will be optimised

Managing inventory is a delicate and often-frustrating process. If you order too much stock and struggle to offload it, your cash flow will suffer, and you’ll end up turning to drastic measures (such as hugely dropping your prices) to clear out some space in your warehouse storage. If you order too little stock, of course, you’ll be unable to fulfil orders, leading to great disappointment and a lot of damage to your professional reputation.

Through providing strong inventory management functionality and making it a core and accessible part of your software system, ERP will allow you to spend less time thinking about stock, all the while working in the background to forecast stock demand and minimise instances of ordering too much or too little.

Customers will get clearer updates

While ERP software is taking care of your stock management, it will be tracking your inventory very closely, giving you a comprehensive view of how things are going — and you can turn that information to your advantage by selectively sharing it with your customers.

Imagine chasing up an order and being told simply that your order is “being processed”: that’s a frustrating experience at the best of times. Now imagine getting a clear update of where your order is, where it has been, and where it’s expected to be next (NetSuite offers such a thing, as do many other top ERP suites) — vastly more helpful.

Keeping customers happy is enough of an issue in the B2C world, yes, but it’s even more important in the B2B world (consider the higher value of the average B2B customer, and that 93% of today’s B2B buyers prefer to buy online). Bad communication kills B2B relationships.

Consequently, it doesn’t really matter what your niche is, or what niche you fill: it’s worth your time to master the update process, and ERP software can make this a reality. With an order-tracking system (and possibly a live chat feature) hooked into an ERP suite, the provision of an order number can get a customer the kind of update likely to keep them happy.

Data entry errors will be reduced

Rudimentary human mistakes can be damaging for the smallest businesses, so they can do serious harm to the largest ones: someone inputs a 4 instead of a 40, and the next day you’re suffering major problems with product availability. What’s more, you need to scramble to resolve the issue, often without knowing exactly how you can identify it.

Now, until your business becomes 100% automated (which will likely, or hopefully, never happen — even the smartest automation processes require extensive manual calibration), you won’t be able to completely do away with data entry errors. It’s particularly hard to avoid them given the usefulness of customising data views through tweakable exporting tools — sooner or later, you’ll be dealing with CSVs.

Even so, using an ERP suite to bring all the elements of your business together will significantly reduce them. How? By ensuring the rapid sharing of information between databases, essentially eliminating the need for duplicate entry (something that can easily cause massive problems with inconsistency). You’ll still need to be very careful when rearranging data for reports, but you shouldn’t come across any glaring duplication errors.

Staff productivity will increase

The more systems you use on a daily basis, the harder it becomes for employees — particularly those straddling various roles —- to work efficiently. It’s difficult to get into a groove when you keep switching from one interface to another, and it gets worse when you need to export a file from one tool and import it into another.

Not only does ERP confer the automated-related advantages we’ve already looked at, freeing up employee time to spend on more important tasks, but it also provides a more cohesive working experience through providing a consistent user interface throughout all the provided system modules. Someone can go from updating a product description to working on advertising copy without having to adapt to wildly-different controls.

Legal compliance will get easier

Distance selling is constrained by various legal restrictions: some involve taxation, some concern truthful advertising, and others still (particularly in a post-GDPR world) seek to regulate the storage and use of customer data. If you’re planning to sell in various countries or states, even shipping by air, you’re going to face various potential legal problems.

Many ecommerce CMS platforms either handle some legal matters natively or provide easy access to suitable plugins, but the addition of an ERP suite can provide the next level of cohesion. For instance, having a comprehensive record of each order will help you significantly if you ever face legal action for whatever reason and need to build a defence. Transparency is a huge demand today, and it’s enormously arduous to manually keep track of everything — why not let a software solution cover all your bases?

Ready to give ERP software a try? It can contribute so much to your business that there’s really no good reason not to attempt it. Any initial investment will pay off soon enough, so what are you waiting for?

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