7 Benefits of Integrating Independent Systems into One Retail ERP Solution
It’s common for retailers to have separate systems to manage different aspects of their retail operations. But a fully-integrated retail ERP system can be the long-term solution to improve overall efficiency and profitability.
Not convinced? Consider these seven benefits of integrating different systems into one retail ERP solution.
- Ensures full integration: Some retailers may think their disparate retail software systems can be integrated into a single ERP system later, if necessary. But most retailers will find that only some features of their independent systems can be integrated. So while two independent retail software systems may be able to share inventory and sales data, they may not be able to share product descriptions, product photos, inventory hierarchy or promotional information.
Collects more detailed information: Retailers who take point-of-sales summary level data and manually transfer it to a separate accounting software program like QuickBooks are able to create a journal for total sales in a day, but they likely won’t get a breakdown of the sales. The analytics are limited to manually entered data or to a POS summary.
The scenario illustrates how retailers shortchange themselves on quality data. An independent accounting program may be able to classify the types of sales, such as total food or clothing sales, but it won’t have customer demographics, product sales breakdown or in-store sale information from other chain locations. Granular data or drill-down data obtained through one retail ERP solution can help retailers see a complete picture of their operations.
- Provides access to real-time data: In an integrated retail ERP system, retailers have access to data the moment a transaction occurs, enabling them to track inventory in real time. That can help retailers collect and analyze sales transactions during a specific time period.
- Offers unobstructed access to data: Let’s say a retailer needs a specific set of data to shed light on a business issue. The retailer sifts through several retail software systems only to realize the data needed is not available or that it may take more time and more manpower than expected to perform the desired analysis. An integrated system enables retailers to experiment with the data, meaning data is easier to access, which helps retailers better analyze or more quickly find clues to help their business.
Limits data errors from manual entries: Data errors are more likely to occur when information is manually transferred between two separate systems. In a spreadsheet, incorrect figures can be entered and entire rows of data can be accidentally deleted. An integrated retail ERP system limits these errors because data is automatically shared between systems.
An integrated system also prevents duplicate data entries. Manually inputting similar data into separate ERP, POS or commerce systems creates duplicate information in multiple places, which could lead to inaccuracies and inefficiencies.
- Provides greater usability: Systems within one retail ERP solution use a common interface and therefore increase usability. Consider Microsoft’s Excel and Word: they are different software programs, but their interfaces operate similarly; once you know one program, you generally know how to use the other. The same goes for an integrated ERP system; multiple systems in an integrated ERP system will have the same use and familiarity. Separate retail systems may require more training or more effort to learn.
- Able to adapt with new technology: Separate retail software systems may prevent a retailer from keeping up with current technology. Say a retailer has two systems with partial integration; upgrading one system could make it incompatible with the other. Also, outdated software platforms are often incompatible with new technology or new hardware.
For example, a retailer may have to keep an old credit card machine on hand because the current system’s interface is not compatible with new terminals that can process other types of payments, such as gift cards or debit cards. Having a fully integrated retail ERP solution helps retailers easily adapt or upgrade their software across multiple systems.
The same is also true with implementing a loyalty program. While you may be able to implement some sort of program, doesn’t it make sense to tie a loyalty member to a customer in you ERP system? Also, it’s a good idea to allow your customers a single sign-on to loyalty programs, mobile applications as well as your e-commerce website. When you can achieve this level of integration between all your channels, the wealth of information you will be able to mine for new and profitable ideas will more than pay for the integrated system’s initial costs.
While an integrated retail ERP solution may seem to offer more features than retailers need, in the long term, it will put a company in a better position to improve efficiency and increase profitability.