There’s no doubt that modern ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Magento and Shopify provide you with everything you need for a successful front-end operation. But you also need to consider all of the processes and workflows that happen behind the “buy button”.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the core activities that are best placed in a back office solution, like Brightpearl, and how you can ensure you’re able to successfully optimize your ecommerce store.
Ecommerce Inventory Management
Most ecommerce platforms have the ability to track inventory levels on a per SKU basis, which is a great first step to maintaining accurate inventory levels and limiting overselling.
However, once you scale up, you’ll likely want to start using multiple locations, such as opening new warehouses or launching new stores. Since most ecommerce platforms don’t have the concept of multiple inventory locations, you’ll need to find another way to manage your inventory.
Multi-location inventory management is a complexity that can be easily eliminated by using a dedicated back office or ERP system with strong inventory management functionality. These systems should facilitate the multiple pools of inventory, combining them to generate a product’s combined availability and then push that to your ecommerce store in real-time.
And when new orders are placed, the back office system can then takeover once again and route the fulfillment requests to the right team and inventory location.
Fulfilling Ecommerce Orders
Once you scale up and start processing hundreds or even thousands of orders per month, your warehouse team will need a tool with built-in warehouse management workflows to avoid mispicks, missed orders and a slow fulfillment process.
Some back office functions that can significantly improve your fulfillment process include:
- Consolidated picking lists to efficiently process batches of shipments rather than one at a time
- Barcode scanning to speed up order verification and reduce errors
- Channel specific packing slips to ensure desired branding across your ecommerce store, eBay, Amazon, wholesale, phone orders and more
- Product tracking by location (i.e. aisle, bay, shelf and bin)
Any good inventory and order management tool will have the basics of warehousing and order fulfillment covered - picking up orders from your ecommerce platform as they’re made, filtering them through the appropriate fulfillment streams, facilitating the order assembly through dedicated pick-pack-ship workflows, and then updating your ecommerce store with progress and tracking references.
All the best ecommerce platforms will provide you with the functionality to create multiple stores, in different languages and currencies, so that you can support the needs of your global audience.
But when selling across multiple channels, there are a few processes that can become tricky. When you make the move to multiple brands, you need that branding to survive all the way from checkout, to the time your customers open their packages.
Additionally, when setting up new territories, you’re likely to be setting up new fulfillment operations to support them, perhaps outsourcing this new venture to third party logistics companies (3PLs) to avoid international shipping costs.
By using a centralized order management system, your orders from each channel will be routed to the appropriate team, and most importantly, won’t need you to make any changes to your ecommerce website.
Point of Sale (POS) Transactions
Although some businesses choose to enter offline orders into their ecommerce platforms manually, this is not efficient and can become very time-consuming as your business scales.
Therefore, you’ll need to equip your staff with a powerful point of sale (POS) solution so they can take orders and issue returns efficiently, usually using a barcode scanner.
POS systems also care for the other necessities of running a store, such as end of day cashing up, manager versus store assistant permissions, and fulfilling orders from different warehouse inventory locations.
Wholesale and B2B Ecommerce
Wholesale and B2B ecommerce is a key area of growth, with Forrester predicting that B2B ecommerce will top $1.1 trillion and account for 12.1% of all B2B sales by 2020.
In the past, net payment terms, card-on file transactions, and customer specific pricing were once only possible in complex enterprise ecommerce platforms. However, more and more systems are now offering the functionality of B2B and wholesale orders. BigCommerce, as an example, is particularly strong in this area.
But you’ll also need to complement this front-end functionality with an integrated accounting platform, which is flexible enough to allow you to take your wholesale business online, decreasing the number of staff and time required to complete high value wholesale orders.
Consolidating Ecommerce Operations
Ecommerce platforms are not designed to be full-scale business management systems, which means you’re missing some of the functionality associated with back office or ERP systems.
Integrating an order management platform with your ecommerce store allows you to establish automated workflows for processing orders. This enables you to focus on the 5-10% of orders that raise exceptions as opposed to every order placed, helping to increase the profitability of each sale.
An order management tool should also send inventory updates automatically back to your website, preventing overselling and removing the manual tasks of keeping inventory levels accurate.
If you sell anywhere other than via your ecommerce store, you’ll run into customer data management problems without an ERP or back office system in place, such as:
- Where should your centralized database of customers be?
- How do you track a single customer interacting with your brand on multiple channels?
- How do you ensure their information is kept up-to-date?
You will either likely concede to not having a central customer database, or spend time and resources loading contacts into your ecommerce back-end or a siloed CRM system.
A business management platform allows you to consolidate all of your customer information into a single platform automatically. Instead of wasting time building your database, you can spend time analyzing your customer demographics and implementing targeted marketing campaigns.
Accounting and Financial Control
Ecommerce platforms are not designed to be accounting systems, and likewise, popular accounting packages like QuickBooks or Sage were not built to cater to online retailers. This can quickly lead to delayed or inaccurate financial information, which prevents you from making real-time data driven decisions.
There are a couple of areas where Brightpearl accounting allows ecommerce merchants to be more successful.
The profitability of products purchased overseas or with variable costs can be nearly impossible to track in a system without inventory cost accounting and landed costs. As orders are placed via your ecommerce website and then shipped using Brightpearl, all the necessary accounting entries are posted to accurately track the profitability of each sale and the business overall. Furthermore, landed cost tracking allows you to include costs like ocean freight or insurance into the cost of goods of each product, providing a more accurate view on profitability.
By consolidating your ecommerce sales data into your accounting platform, you will be able to see your profitability relative to all your business overheads. This will give you the time to focus on identifying performance issues in your business and opportunities for reducing costs, instead of consolidating information into spreadsheets or systems like QuickBooks.
Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Magento and Shopify, combined with a back office or ERP solution like Brightpearl form a cohesive technology stack for ecommerce businesses to focus on execution, instead of conforming to systems.
The powerful and flexible front-end features that come with these ecommerce platforms give you complete control over your shopping experience and product catalog, while Brightpearl provides the flexibility to ship those products to your customers, all while automatically tracking your accounting, inventory and customer data.
For a more detailed look into how a system like Brightpearl can enhance and optimize your ecommerce-powered operations, take a look at these guides for three of the best ecommerce platforms:
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