There are many benefits to implementing the right ERP solution in your company. Advanced reporting functionality, opportunities for automation, streamlined operations across departments, etc. And if you are moving from mostly manual processes, the benefits speak for themselves. But there is another important factor to consider when you are evaluating different solutions…can a new system enhance your competitive advantage?
Your competitive advantage will be any sort of process, product offering or service that gives your company an edge over the competition. For example, it could be your fast shipping and delivery times, your great prices, your customer service or loyalty programs, your unique product offering or a combination of the above. While it may be necessary to customize your software solution to accommodate your competitive advantage, you may also find that a robust ERP solution already includes a lot of the functionality you need, out-of-the box.
If your competitive advantage is ….
Fast & Reliable Shipping
Nowadays, same-day or next-day shipping is becoming the norm, thanks to retail giants like Amazon. If your business prides itself on fast-shipping times, or local deliveries, you want to make sure any new software solution will contribute to this competitive advantage. When evaluating different software vendors, try to find a solution that provides the following functionality:
- Rate-shopping features to ensure you always get the best price for shipping
- Wireless barcode scanning to help you pick orders faster and with fewer pick errors
- Integration with common shipping carriers to easily share package, address, shipping and tracking information between your ERP and the carrier of your choice
Excellent Customer Service
Customer Service as a competitive advantage can refer to many different things. It might be personalized service from an in-house team of experts, it might be a great loyalty program or return policy, or free services provided with certain purchases. Whatever the case, an important aspect of great customer service is having the right data, available to the right people at the right time. An ERP solution with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality can help you easily manage different customer accounts and includes functionality for:
- Tracking communication with different customers and individuals
- Scheduling follow-up items and setting next action dates
- The ability to easily create a quote or sales order or look up customer sales history
- Functionality for automatically emailing information from the system
- The ability to manage marketing lists for special promotions, or for organizing customer and product-specific information
If your business offers competitive pricing, you need to have a way to manage this in your software. Manually trying to track multiple pricing contracts, volume discounts, promotional prices etc. for each customer and for different products is very time-consuming and prone to errors. Instead, look for a system that provides the following:
- Allows you to easily set-up different pricing levels for different customers and products
- Includes automated processes for identifying the best price when creating a new sales order
- Has tools to override prices depending on specific promotions
- Allows you to set a hierarchy of pricing rules
A Unique Product Offering
Lastly, another common competitive advantage is having a unique product offering or exclusive relationships with distributors and manufacturers. Some companies also remain competitive by being able to easily source “hard-to-find” products. In any case, it’s important to have software to help you manage your inventory levels to make sure you always have enough product to meet customer demand. Look for software that allows you to:
- Easily create a purchase order from a sales order when an item is out of stock
- Suggest similar or substitute products when something is out of stock
- Track product in-transit or on the water
- Set min and max inventory levels with alerts for when product is getting low
Your competitive advantage is what sets you apart from the competition and keeps your customers coming back. Therefore, you must be able to continue to support this competitive advantage as your business grows and requirements change. Find a software partner that not only supports your competitive advantage but can offer features and products to help enhance it.