How Many Sales Channels Make Sense for your Brand?
In today’s retail environment, deciding which sales channels make sense for your brand has become critically important. Ignore some and you may miss out on a great opportunity. But move into all kinds at once and you may spread yourself too thin, depleting resources that could be employed more effectively elsewhere.
From launch to EDI.
For many nascent brands, the arc might go something like this.
You launch with an eCommerce store on your own web site. At first, sales come slowly but you make smart use of social media and internet advertising. An Instagram influencer shows some love for your brand and a major media outlet runs a story that captures attention. Suddenly, your products are hot and sales are growing in a hurry. Major national retailers begin calling — they want your products in their stores and their own online stores.
Not only does this attention validate your efforts, it offers the chance for significant growth. Even with the dramatic expansion of online shopping, you realize the size and scope of a major national retailer will put your brand in front of millions of new customers.
But first, those retailers will ask you to meet their EDI standards. And when you investigate EDI, it sounds like a new language — X12, EDI 850, EDI 754, EDI 856 — the list goes on and on. Those are just the numbers. It turns out some of the documents have names, too. What’s more, the first big retailer you work with doesn’t seem to do things like the second one that ordered your product.
Make EDI easy.
So here’s the thing. You could invest all kinds of time learning the ins-and-outs of EDI, investigating the various requirements of different retailers, and becoming an EDI expert.
Or you could not. And invest all that time in growing and improving your business.
How do you avoid a deep dive into EDI? By choosing an expert EDI provider with cloud-based software that helps you manage EDI documents as quickly as possible with the smallest drain on valuable human resources.
The key is automation. When manual entry is required and each order needs to be handled separately, the amount of time put against EDI quickly adds up. Automating tasks and processing orders in batch, instead of one at a time, will save you minutes on every order. When you have a lot of orders, minutes turn into hours. Lots and lots of hours.
Mistakes are also more likely if you rely on people to do things like cut-and-paste data or create shipping labels by manually inputting order information. When your EDI provider has software with effective validation checks and regularly updated mapping of retailers, you can be confident that you are meeting the requirements of your trading partners. With direct connections to shipping providers, order information is automatically transferred to labels so you can eliminate costly errors. As any supplier knows, returns and chargebacks are about as painful as it gets.
Manage online orders.
With your EDI transactions and documents handled by a reliable provider, your attention can turn back to all those online orders. After all, just because a huge retailer like Nordstrom or Home Depot or Bed Bath & Beyond put your product on their shelves doesn’t mean that your online sales slow down. In fact, they’re probably increasing — all that exposure in more stores only helps drive new traffic to the web and expand your customer base.
When orders are coming from an online marketplace like Amazon, an eCommerce store powered by Shopify or Magento, or from a traditional retailer with EDI standards, juggling it all seems daunting. Just remember that you’ll save all kinds of time if you process all transactions through the same software. Rather than pigeonhole a provider as either an EDI specialist or an online order processor, look for a company that can handle it with one platform. That’s exactly what we built Lingo to do.
Integrate orders with your ERP or QuickBooks.
Finally, when you are enjoying serious growth and your business has scaled, it may be time to integrate EDI and order processing into the system that powers your business. That could be an ERP like NetSuite, accounting software such as QuickBooks, WMS, or a 3PL provider.
Again, it’s all about automation and the seamless merging of information. When order data is transferred into an ERP like NetSuite without errors, you gain more accuracy and control. Inventory and orders are synced, invoicing can be done in a timely fashion, and your company simply runs more smoothly.
Integration of EDI and order management, however, requires a provider with the experience and a development team that can make it happen. Every company has workflows that are different — it is vital that integration of EDI and order management is tailored to the needs of yours. A clunky integration will end up costing you both time and money.
Less time on EDI and order management — more time for growth.
While orders are the lifeblood of your company, managing the details of EDI and online transactions takes focus off growing your business. When it’s not done well, your supply chain breaks down and it steals valuable time from you.
Fact is, the hours you devote to your company have significant value. Treat them that way. If you’ve built a successful business, it is because you made a personal investment in it — emotional, intellectual, financial. Chances are, it’s complicated as well, with multiple sales channels, different distribution methods, constantly evolving trends, and all kinds of moving parts. Don’t be distracted by EDI and order management just as you start to experience real success.
Do some research about the technological expertise, the culture, and the software of EDI and online order management providers. Find one that fits your company right now, and can be counted on to adjust as your sales channels change or grow.
When you make the right choice, you’ll be able to get back the time you used to spend managing orders from multiple channels. And put your focus on growing the business you love.