These days it’s relatively easy for a company to sell their products online via platforms such as eBay, Amazon and niche (but popular) sites such as Not on the High Street. These platforms are designed to be accessible to non-technical users and make it easy to create product listings, upload images, videos and other sales and marketing collateral. These platforms are also optimised to make it very easy for potential buyers to find and buy products from retailers.
In recent years, it has become easier for companies to sell products via their own websites using dedicated ecommerce platforms such as OS Commerce and Magneto. These provides online merchants with a flexible shopping cart system linked to their own website which can also be used to process payments.
For many businesses with their own ecommerce website, the greatest challenge – especially as the volume of online product sales grows – is inventory control. A rapidly growing company can very quickly become a victim of its own success if online sales can’t be fulfilled because items have been allowed to drop out of stock.
Real Time Inventory Management
Having to contact a new customer to tell them that their order can’t be shipped- despite the fact that their payment has already been processed- is embarrassing at the very least and can easily jeopardise repeat business. Social media means it has never been easier for disgruntled customers to voice their frustration about a retailer’s failures and this can damage a growing business’ reputation very quickly.
SMEs need to be aware of what stock is available in real-time and also safeguard against the likelihood of customers placing online orders that can’t be fulfilled. For this, online retailers need to integrate their website and shopping cart system with dedicated stock control software.
In its early days, many businesses can probably get away with using spreadsheets to monitor and manage stock levels but if they are processing multiple orders on a regular basis, the level of manual data entry required can becoming highly time-consuming. It’s also prone to human error.
The alternative is to manage stock using accounting or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with dedicated inventory control functionality which is integrated with a company’s ecommerce website.
This ensures that product lists are updated after an order has been placed and also alerts an SME’s users when stock numbers have dropped to a pre-determined level and long they have reached zero. This means managers have complete visibility of stock levels and can place repeat orders with their suppliers in good time.
Improving the Flow of Data Around Your Business
The most sophisticated ecommerce and ERP Software software will bring together web sales order processing and inventory control with reporting and financial management. By centralising all transactions and processes within a single system, information can flow freely between an SME’s team members, ensuring everyone has access to the same, accurate and up to date information.
In practical terms this means that once an online order has been placed, stock levels are updated automatically. The back-office section of the solution can be used to produce a sales invoice and despatch note. The system’s cashbook is also updated automatically, meaning that finance staff don’t need to enter the transaction manually.
Reporting is another key benefit or using a fully integrated ecommerce and ERP software system system. Data can be analysed to spot buying trends such as seasonal order spikes. This helps users anticipate future demand. This is essential in terms of effective inventory control and management.
There are many accounting and ERP systems on the market but not all are equal. Some basic bookkeeping systems, for instance, will allow users to maintain a basic list of stock items and numbers but will not integrate with a website or ecommerce platform. It’s essential that SMEs look carefully for a fully integrated ecommerce and ERP software system.
Although integrated ecommerce, stock control and financial management might not seem particularly important in a business’s early days, it is key to future-proofing operations and ensuring that online sales order demand can be met no matter how quickly the business grows. This provides the foundation for effective ecommerce and most importantly, for ensuring new and repeat customer are happy with their shopping experience.
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