From XU Magazine, 
Issue 28

Ten years of e-commerce growth in just 90 days

How integrated inventory management and reporting helped many businesses rank not tan

At the height of the pandemic, a decade of e-commerce growth occurred in just 90 days, a 2020 McKinsey study revealed. Adopting smarter technology was the key for many businesses.

The last 18 months has seen an extraordinary 2 speed economy, with a mix of “winners” and “losers”.  For those in the former group this has been a phenomenal period for businesses, with e-commerce a key driver.  Those less fortunate have experienced lockdowns, recession and in some cases business failure. 

At the beginning of 2020 (even with the benefit of hindsight) I can see no obvious clues as to how COVID-19 would differently impact different businesses.  That is not the case now: with the world irrevocably changed there are some clear indicators as to which businesses will be best positioned for financial success for 2022 and beyond.

Management Consulting firm McKinseys found that “reinventing the organisation for speed” was key to success in the post COVID-19 era.  “An organisation designed for speed will see powerful outcomes, including greater customer responsiveness, enhanced capabilities, and better performance in terms of customer efficiency revenues and return on capital”, their report stated.

With a commercial accounting background that spans change management and technology adoption, I know firsthand the power of technology to lead reinvention.

And yet, while CFO-level accountants in larger organisations have the ear of the CEO, in mid-sized businesses processes and systems often lag behind the owner’s vision. The owner can see the opportunity for their business, but doesn’t know how technology can assist with execution, and has no one to make that assessment.

Which begs a number of questions.  What are the real benefits of spending on technology?  Can that spend deliver for the business owner?  Who is going to make that assessment, and offer advice?  And what are the key features that these businesses need to succeed in 2022 and beyond? 

This is the list we have identified as being critical, and which are within the reach of small businesses through apps such as LOCATE, Big Commerce and Xero.

Business owners can be a pretty demanding bunch – and so they should be!  A few of the features they need include:

  1. Real-time operational information across the entire business, of open orders, stock on hand, impending shortages, and much, much more.  Business owners can use this to fill more orders in full on time, whilst not letting their stock holding blow out (a sure way to kill cashflow). 
  2. Real time / visible from anywhere / on any device financial data of sales and gross margins by channel, by category, by rep and by many other criteria. 
  3. Real time integration, completely eliminating the need to rekey data, speeding up delivery, eliminating errors and reducing costs.  For businesses selling online at scale this is critical.  

But what about other users – for example what do the sales team need?  For any organisation to thrive it has to be able to make every customer experience easy, efficient and pleasurable.  A few of the tools the sales team require include:

  1. Enter orders from anywhere, whether on site with a client, in the office or working from home.  Similarly with quotes. 
  2. Real-time access to current stock levels, past orders, price lists, negotiated prices, customer notes (again, and much more).  Never take an order and discover your business can’t deliver! 
  3. Invite customers to log into a B2B portal – not for everyone, but those who like it love it!

At the warehouse level, it’s all about operational efficiency.  How to deliver more at lower cost, and how to do that right every time.  They are going to need (and love) features such as:

  1. Orders available to be picked within minutes of being entered, even if they are entered to a different app (everything is integrated).
  2. Handheld devices that guide staff to precise bin locations in the most time-effective sequence for either individual or multiple orders (wave picking). 
  3. Barcode scanning that can almost entirely eliminate picking errors. 
  4. Training time is sliced, making onboarding staff (including casuals) a breeze. 
  5. Powerful re-ordering tools, again designed to get the right stock on hand at the right time, whilst avoiding overstocking.

And finally for the finance team (internal or external) – too many SMEs survive on the most meagre of financial information, but they really do not need to.  Once again every transaction is integrated across all apps, with nothing to be re-keyed.  Each of the apps in this stack offer:

  1. A wide range of customisable reports and real time BI dashboards to help your client run their business, and you to offer them advice. 
  2. Full integration that provides confidence in the accuracy and consistency of information from any app.  Great real time operational information for the business owner, equally great real time financial data for the financial advisor.  

Part of the magic of LOCATE is the ability to “batch” transactions into Xero, opening up Xero for larger organisations (no more worries about Xero’s transaction volume limits). Integrating LOCATE with Big Commerce (for B2C and/or B2B), Xero and possibly a range of other apps creates a solution that will deliver benefits to organisations with turnover of around $5M up to $100M, or more.  A solution delivering all the functionality of an ERP, at a fraction of the cost, and enabling the client to continue running Xero.

While the benefits of software integration are increasingly apparent, there is no doubt that the implementation and integration is both onerous and risky without the right partner.  Finding the right solution for your, or your client’s business is critical to both profitability and growth, doing so without the right help is at best daunting, at worst disastrous! 

Cloudsolve is proud to be an accredited implementation partner for LOCATE Inventory, a software system developed by inventory accountants, for accountants. Cloudsolve takes care of everything: from project design and implementation to change management, and we back that up with great training. LOCATE Inventory offers enterprise level inventory and workflow management features accessible to the small and mid-sized business market. Together Cloudsolve and LOCATE will help your clients benefit from the e-commerce boom!

Why leave it there?

Need advice for your UK, Australian or Asia-Pac business?

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