In an earlier post, we looked at how smaller businesses were using e-commerce to establish brands, even premium ones, while getting closer to their customers. Along with the benefits that e-commerce provides smaller concerns comes new business requirements. Faster shipping is one of main ones.
While brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled to bring in customers in recent years, e-commerce has steadily grown and shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers, however, want more than just the convenience of shopping in their pajamas. They expect their purchases to arrive more quickly than ever, and e-commerce giants like Amazon are obliging with more same-day shipping capabilities. Small and midsize companies are feeling this trickle-down pressure to speed up their shipping times, and many are turning to their business application vendors in hopes of rising to the challenge.
Leslie Hand, research director for IDC Retail Insights, an IT analyst organization based in Framingham, Mass., observes that more manufacturers than ever are embracing e-commerce as a business model. According to Hand, by partnering with e-commerce sites such as Amazon, manufacturers can sell a broader range of products and deliver them more quickly to a wider range of customers than they could reach on their own. “In addition to finding the right software, small and midsize manufacturers that really want to reach consumers directly and quickly need to foster relationships with partners that can facilitate unit-level picking, the process of taking products directly from inventory to shipping,” notes Cole.
One of the benefits of speeding shipping times is doing a better job of juggling multiple sales outlets and logistics services. Cole cites a colorful example in her piece: Savvi, a manufacturer of novelty temporary tattoos in Tucson, Ariz. Savvi has been using Epicor's ERP system since June 2010, after 10 months of due diligence exploring vendor options. "We have three distinct divisions," says Chris Huff, vice president of operations at Savvi. "One deals with retailers like Walmart and Target. Another is a custom product, make-to-order division. A third is our vending machine division." The company also has a stock division, where an order can be shipped either same day or next day, depending on what time of day the order is placed.
We've got hundreds of thousands of stock images that you can pull up on our website," notes Huff. "You can place your order and get a confirmation number as soon as it ships. We have the same thing with our vending division, where orders that come in before 2:00 p.m. will be shipped same day."
The challenge for Savvi is multi-channel: it must juggle a number of different sales models and outlets when distributing its products, including e-commerce, major retailers, made-to-order manufacturing, and inventory control. Its shipping models are also varied, including overnighting products, shipping container loads overseas, sending truckloads for domestic sales, and going through FedEx and UPS.
According to Huff, Epicor ERP has helped simplify operations and speed order fulfillment. "This has been great for putting all our needs in one package," he says. "We were a mom-and-pop company initially, with a home-grown system. We acquired two or three competitors and at one time had five disparate systems running simultaneously; you can image the chaos that ensues from that." Now that the chaos has been put to order, orders are reaching customers when they expect them—a requirement for anyone operating e-commerce.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team