I’ve spent much of my career working with small business owners. During that time I have learned a great deal from them about cash management, entrepreneurialism, making difficult choices, and leadership. I’ve also learned that small business owners can stretch an investment in infrastructure in ways that still amaze me.
I recently attended a meeting of small business owners talking about the changes there were making in order to take advantage of the way that consumers buy product. In the past, most of these small business owners were dependent on brick and mortar retailers to merchandise their products, but the explosion of virtual retail store fronts has opened new avenues to sell their products. Many of these small business owners now market their products on Amazon, Jet.Com and other virtual retail stores.
The Impact of Direct Merchandising on Small Business
It was interesting for me to learn the impact that direct merchandising had on their business.
This what I learned:
The roles and responsibility for merchandising grew significantly. Often someone was now in charge (for the first time) for direct retail merchandising. A role historically usurped by the brick and mortar retailer. With direct online selling product companies now had to set the retail price, define and execute promotions, refine product descriptions and attribute information and ensure that the product images were “perfect”.
Supply chain choreography changed significantly. Instead of replenishing product to retailers quarterly and/or monthly in large batches, the product orders were now more numerous with singular shipments directly to consumers. A replenishment model that was once easily supported by a single person or a small team was now too overwhelming to manually support. Digital signals are mandatory in the virtual retail environment with the need to support inventory status, orders, order acknowledgements, shipment notices and invoicing.
Pressure on business owners to abandon their accounting software (Excel, QuickBooks), in search of an ERP. Most of these small businesses previously had no formal systems for order management, inventory management or shipping.
What I loved most about this meeting was the opportunity to talk to these business owners and discuss how these small business owners could continue to grow and automate the supply chain choreography without having to abandon their accounting software for an ERP solution. While I certainly don’t harbor any ill will towards ERP solutions (we partner with SAP, Oracle, MS Dynamics, NetSuite, and more), I have come to appreciate the investment in capital and time it requires to migrate to an ERP solution.
Extend the Life of Your Accounting Software
Rather than embarking upon a costly ERP implementation, small business owners can combine B2B integration services with an order inventory management system (a self-sufficient software module, such as DiCentral's DiOMS, that contains order management, inventory management and shipping management) to extend the life of their accounting software.
Here's how it works:
A B2Bi managed service provides data and process integration between small businesses and their customers and or suppliers without them having to deal with EDI. The B2Bi provider converts the EDI into data streams that can be consumed by small accounting software packages such as QuickBooks or Excel. In our case, DiCentral’s B2Bi Managed Services can be integrated to DiOMS should a small business want to stay on QuickBooks while automating the handling of orders, shipments, inventory and invoicing.
By combining B2Bi and inventory management services, your small business can support typical omnichannel transactions such as inventory status, purchase order, purchase order acknowledgement, advance shipment notice and invoicing. Integration to USPS, UPS and FedEx are standard features for labeling and tracking. Inventory management capabilities include the ability to track lots, serial numbers and expiration dates.
If you have been trying to avoid the need to upgrade to an ERP system in order to accommodate your omnichannel strategy, using an order inventory system (in conjunction with your accounting software) can typically provide a one year return on investment vs. moving to an ERP solution.