Unleashing potential in retail distribution and warehousing

SAP team member Adam Rawlins explores how SME retail distribution and warehousing brands can unlock growth by implementing the right tools.

Retail distribution and warehousing businesses often plateau at the smaller SME size, without ever going on to achieve their full potential. But what is the difference between those who break through this ceiling, and those that are constrained by it?

The answer to that lies in a combination of mindset, knowledge, and successful partnerships. Here; we’ll look at each of these areas, and how to approach them in order to fulfil your business’s potential.

Adopt a Large Business Mindset

History is littered with examples of rapidly growing retail distribution and warehousing brands that are ready to take the next step to become a large enterprise. The major retailers are circling, and the first orders are placed. But rather than become the expected breakthrough, this opportunity sometimes breaks confidence.

Large retailers are the goal, but they can be incredibly unforgiving. It only takes a minor slip-up such as an incorrect first order for them to leave you behind. Put simply, SMEs who aren’t equipped to take advantage of the opportunity to scale rapidly with a retail partner might not get a second chance.

This experience can damage a leadership team’s confidence in dealing with larger retailers. But by making a few small adjustments, these same teams can adapt and go-again, grasping further opportunities with renewed resolve and confidence.

Knowledge is power

With all the inherent pressures of running and growing an SME, worrying about whether stock is arriving on time and in the correct quantities is a headache you just don’t need. Likewise, having your best and brightest people under-utilised due to creaking systems is not the way to push a business forward.

There’s no magic wand that can transform an unprepared SME into a rapidly growing large enterprise. But knowledge of the most important steps any retail distribution and warehousing business must take is the next best thing. 

For many companies, the single largest leap they can take is investing in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. If prescribed, installed and managed correctly, an ERP can answer these challenges and more.

An ERP is an integrated solution that uses software and, sometimes, hardware to bring together various business processes into one manageable platform. It offers a data-driven snapshot of all of your company’s business functions, pulling together elements including stock levels, cost management, and supply chain planning.

ERP’s become even more potent when paired with an effective Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

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At its most basic, an EDI is a tool that converts file formats, letting you take documents (such as customer orders) and convert them instantly to a format that works with your ERP.

Why is this important? Many large retailers, supermarkets, and government bodies – the types of businesses that will buy at the scale required to fuel your next wave of growth – will work with their own systems and procedures, and they’ll expect you to process their order their way—not yours. Having an EDI in place means that you can immediately start fulfilling the order, rather than spending large chunks of time decoding the information and inputting it into your system.

"EDI solutions were once considered to be too much of a luxury for SMEs. They were seen as expensive and complicated to use. Today, thanks to advances in technology and the advent of cloud computing, an EDI as part of your ERP system is both affordable and user-friendly."

Adam Rawlins / SAP team member at Thinc

 

In short, an effective ERP with a cloud-based EDI solution is the ideal way to help your company operate more intelligently.

And the benefits don’t end there. Several ERPs, such as SAP Business One, provide mobile connectivity to empower sales teams in real-time.

With a mobile device and the SAP Business One app, a sales rep can be on-site with a customer and instantly check stock, place orders, and offer alternatives.

Not only does this allow the employee to focus on actually selling rather than logistics, but it also instils trust in the customer that your business can handle orders in an efficient, reliable way.

This mobile functionality is a bonus at events and exhibitions, too, thanks to the ability to process orders from the public quickly and easily.

The app acts as a digital catalogue, allowing your sales reps and exhibition employees to showcase products and place orders without reams of paperwork and admin.

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Finding a partner, not just a fix

It’s important to remember that, as with any potential business solution, the partner you choose to work with when putting together an ERP solution is as crucial as the tool itself.

Here are two things to consider when seeking out an ERP partner:

An experienced partner will add value

Any system that you put in place must be carried out by a business who has a proven track record in building effective solutions.

Always look for independent Managed Services partners that offer multiple ERP solutions — that way you’ll know you’re getting the right solution for you, rather than the most convenient one for them.

To see how we helped the skincare brand Bulldog, check out our case study here.

Seek support beyond the sale

Getting up and running with any new business solution requires careful onboarding and support for you and your people during the early phases. With that in mind, it’s essential to work with a supplier who will continue to offer ongoing account support after the initial product has been implemented.

Question your chosen supplier early on about their processes for supporting you in things such as software updates and product maintenance. Make sure you pick a partner with a strong track-record in customer service, and one which looks after your needs first.

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In summary

The opportunity to see your business grow at the scale it deserves is the dream for many retail distribution and warehousing business owners. Putting in place the right ERP solution means that you’ll have the perfect tool to take advantage of your big break, leaving you to focus on the next horizon.

If you want to know more about how Thinc helps customers build class-leading ERP solutions, you can speak directly to our team. Contact Adam Rawlins (SAP team member) or Contact Gary McKnight (Sage team member) today.

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Speak to Adam

Adam Rawlins SAP team member

Adam works with small and medium sized enterprises all over the UK to help them achieve the business benefits associated with use of SAP Business One.

Speak with Adam today
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Speak to Gary

Gary McKnight Sage team member

Gary works with ambitious SME leaders to help realise their business goals. His experience and knowledge of Sage products is unrivalled and he spearheads our drive for customer service excellence.

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