In the digital age, mom and pop shops are becoming marginalized.
Even those operations that have traditionally been flooded with foot traffic and direct sales are being forced to hybridize and expand their operations online. According to the U.S. Census bureau, e-commerce sales have increased to 6.2 per cent of total retail sales so far in 2014. This number is part of a larger overall trend of transactions going digital. With the consistent growth of internet juggernauts like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy growing year after year and the continued emergence of internet retailers worldwide, this is a trend that’s likely to continue. The chart below from the Census Bureau outlines the overall growth of internet commerce during recent years.
While expanding into new sales channels is seemingly a positive thing, it can be a real challenge to those who aren’t used to the logistics of ordering, packing, receiving, shipping, etc. E-commerce is a completely different animal and if your business doesn’t have the proper systems in place, you’ll find yourself spending an exorbitant amount on order processing and inventory management.
How to Streamline and Scale Supply
For the majority of businesses, growth is always at the forefront of their goals. However, if you’re unprepared or do not have the proper systems in place, you’ll rapidly cut into your profit margin as you hire staff to manually process, print, invoice, ship and perform the tedious (and costly) necessities that come with e-Commerce. For a small-time operation this may be sufficient, but as you grow and expand your sales channels, integrate your supply chain or acquire additional key trading partners, the pure logistical nightmare makes it necessary to work smarter not harder. The first step towards realizing this philosophical change is streamlining your ordering processes. Efficient supply chain management is a necessity for any scalable operation. It’s that core competency that has made Walmart into the retail juggernaut they are today.
Part of bringing this to fruition is smart data processing solutions. In order to address this issue, many businesses have implemented EDI or “Electronic Data Interchange”. This is the most widely utilized B2B technology for e-Commerce. EDI is all about efficient exchange of important business information between trading partners. The standard formatting of EDI data makes it easy for partners to communicate and eliminate mistakes, costs and time. It is extremely more efficient and secure than manually exchanging business documents. This system is very scalable and can allow you to integrate your sales channels with legitimate suppliers and start growing your operations and start pushing more volume through a variety of means.
From Supply to Sales
Although EDI can help you refine your business tremendously on the supply side, you still need an eCommerce sales platform that helps you bring in revenue. In order to sell more and sell everywhere, you need an eCommerce platform that can keep up and help you manage your acquired inventory. While there are a multitude of sales channels available, managing them all and managing your inventory as you sell across a variety of shopping engines can be a nightmare. In order to make it all work, you need to integrate your channels into one cohesive inventory management system that’s dynamic enough to track and report sales and accurately account for your product stock, price changes etc. While there are a number of solutions available, some of the most robust solutions on the market include Channel Advisor and Bigcommerce. These platforms allow you to centrally manage your inventory counts, track sales across multiple consumer shopping engines and create a powerful and unified digital storefront to reach customers at many points of sale.
Bringing it all together
Now, nobody is going to be an Amazon or a Walmart, but if you work smarter than the competition, you’ll gain an important advantage in a highly crowded and competitive internet marketplace. Implementing smarter solutions and automating processes helps you cut costs and improve profit margins. The beauty of the internet is you can seem bigger than you are. And, with the right infrastructure behind you, you can act it too.
This has been a guest post from Leigh Tinnin. Tinnin works with 1 EDI Source to help businesses manage data efficiently. She challenges herself with riding her bike long distances and keeping up with big data industry news.
[Image: fgjose2012 – Flickr]