Sales has changed quite a bit recently.
In some ways, getting products in front of consumers is easier than ever. There’s Amazon, Ebay, direct sales through a company’s web site, as well as the traditional reseller and in-store sales channels. But in other ways, selling has gotten a lot harder: businesses must connect simultaneously with a number of different sales channels--from Target and Amazon to reseller backend systems--and makes those channels interface with their own backend systems in real-time.
Many companies are struggling with this multichannel sales environment.
“Businesses are all struggling in some way with how to service multiple channels. How do I have inventory availability for Amazon, for Ebay, for Target, for Wal-Mart at the same time?” notes Ralph Hess [Interview], vice president of global sales for Navigator Business Solutions. “Those are the types of things that they have to do in today's marketplace because it's so competitive, and ecommerce has really changed the rules.”
Getting Systems Talking to Each Other
The problem is that backend systems for many businesses are struggling to keep up with this new multichannel world. And there are several reasons for this challenge.
First, there’s the issue that many businesses have cobbled together various software packages that don’t properly talk with each other. Customer data might be in one system, inventory in another, production and operations data in a third system, and maybe even logistics and ecommerce residing in a forth piece of software. These separate data silos often interact partially but imperfectly, making it hard for businesses to properly share data with the various sales channels in real-time.
A second reason for the widespread challenge is that many businesses are running older on-premise ERP systems that might house all of a company’s data, but interface poorly with modern ecommerce sales channels that are all but essential for business today. These older systems were built for a pre-ecommerce world, and so they complicate and limit a company’s ability to fully take advantage of multichannel sales even though they get around the data silo issue.
Then there’s the burden of customization. Many business systems lean heavily on ERP and other business systems that have been significantly tailored for their business, reducing the speed with which they can connect with new platforms and handle things like API changes that might influence connectivity. There also is the burden of maintaining these custom integrations.
Cloud ERP to the Rescue
Thankfully, there is a solution for these multichannel sales headaches: cloud ERP.
“Cloud-based ERP does a much better job at multi-channel due to its inherent connectivity,” notes Hess.
Unlike legacy on-premise ERP systems, cloud-based ERP natively connects with other systems over the Internet and is built for things like EDI and API integration. It also stays current with the latest evolutions in multichannel sales since it is maintained by the vendor instead of individual businesses.
Not just any cloud ERP system will work, however. There’s still the issue of customization and integration. What businesses need is an ERP system that is built around easy third-party integration and can connect easily with multiple sales channels.
That’s why Navigator focuses on standard ERP implementations that then connect with third-party systems via one-click integrations.
“SMBs don't want a custom solution today like they did a few years ago,” says Grant Fraser [interview] president and CEO of Navigator. “They want something that's off-the-shelf so they can implement quickly and get back to doing business as usual.”
Navigator focuses on standard implementations that then connect to a range of third-party systems via one-click integrations that have already been established in the system.
“One thing that’s different about Navigator is that we started a middleware product called iConnect several years ago that is designed to create a click integration between SAP Business ByDesign or SAP Business One and popular third-party solutions,” notes Fraser. “For ecommerce, for instance, it integrates Magenta, Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon and things like that off-the-shelf. You plug it in and it works.”
Multichannel Sales That Just Works
The combination of cloud-based ERP and easy integration with outside systems transforms multichannel sales from a headache to an opportunity.
Cloud-based ERP brings together all of a company’s data and business processes into a single source of truth that keeps track of areas such as production, inventory and logistics in real-time. Easy integrations with outside systems then enables this single source of truth to seamlessly integrate with the various sales channels.
As new and unanticipated channels open up, businesses also can easily support these new channels with additional integrations.
“What that really does is deliver on the promise of the cloud: easy integration with best of breed back to your digital core,” says Hess.
If multichannel sales is causing your business trouble, it might be time to look at a modern cloud-based ERP solution.