5 Software Features to Run a Successful Omni-Channel Distribution Business

Mark Canes

Omni-channel retailing is exactly as it sounds – a business model in which a company offers its products and services through multiple sales channels including: on-line, bricks and mortar, showrooms, trade-shows, mobile devices, print catalogues, etc. This model is becoming more popular with many industries, not just those who retail direct to consumer. Even traditional wholesale and distribution companies have started branching out to sell products on-line and in showrooms.  Omni-channel retailing provides businesses the opportunity to reach new target markets and serve a larger group of customers. However, the addition of sales channels increases the complexity of a business, which can make it challenging to find a software system to manage all channels in one database.  This is a where a fully integrated accounting and inventory ERP system comes into play.  An all-in-one solution allows you to gain control and provides insight into all retail and wholesale orders coming from multiple channels.  Although information gets stored in one database, users can still distinguish between type and source of orders.  This eliminates the need to pull information from multiple systems when managing orders, and ensures you always have up-to-date inventory information.  In order to accurately account for all sales channels when searching for new software, look for the following features:

eCommerce Integration

Whether you have your own on-line store, sell through sites like Amazon and eBay, or both, it is important that your back-end software is properly integrated with all your eCommerce stores. Sophisticated two-way integration means data is shared from your back-end system to your on-line store fronts and vice versa in order to properly account for sales and inventory.  Items purchased on-line get reflected in your back-end system for further processing and associated inventory gets allocated for picking. When receiving inventory this information gets entered once, into the back-end system, and pushed on-line. Two-way integration eliminates the need for double entry and ensures information across all systems is up-to-date.

B2B Online Order Portal

B2B eCommerce sites empower customers to place their own orders through a self-service type interface. Providing this sales channel allows for complete control over who purchases from your company through the use of a login.  This option also caters to your customers’ specific needs and business hours without having to hire extra staff to manage this process internally.

Point-Of-Sale (POS)

If you have a retail aspect to your business in the form of a full brick and mortar location or showroom, an integrated POS system will reduce the need for managing multiple systems.  When a sale is placed in store, an order is created and the inventory gets automatically allocated.  This prevents any inventory issues for customers placing orders at the same time through other channels such as on-line and over the phone.

Mobile and Tablet Sales App

Mobile and tablet devices provide another avenue for entering orders and can be used by employees in a showroom, at a trade show or when taking orders on the road.  This channel works well for businesses that would benefit from a visually appealing representation of their products. Customers can place orders through the app which then get sent automatically to the back-end so that inventory information is always up-to-date.  This eliminates the need for entering and managing orders once back in the office from being on the road or at trade shows.

Multiple Warehouse and Inventory Locations

When a company starts to sell through multiple channels, it usually means they will also have inventory stored in various locations.  This could include the use of their own warehouse, 3PLs, drop shipping from the manufacturer, brick and mortar stores, etc.  Software that provides insight into what product is available at each location and allows for easy inventory transfers increases the efficiency of the order management process and keeps customers happy.