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How Can A Retail Software Solution Improve Communication With Vendor Systems?

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A retail software solution must do more than manage store operations; it must also communicate seamlessly with other store and vendor back-end systems using web portals and electronic data interchange (EDI).

What’s the difference? A web portal is a web-based application, meaning it operates through an Internet web browser. There is a user interface to it, meaning that a user can log into the web portal system or visit it through the web browser and gather information provided by the store system or the vendor that created the web portal.

EDI is the standard format to exchange information like invoices or purchase orders electronically between store systems. EDI is a “paperless” document with no visual interface. However, it’s not an electronic version of a paper purchase order or invoice, but rather a purchase order that is transmitted via EDI and automatically uploaded in the receiver’s store system.

Retailers must mirror the digital savvy traits of the modern retail landscape in both front-end and back-end operations. Ensuring that your retail software solution is compatible with emerging forms of electronic communication is necessary in the modern retail environment.

Here are three areas where a retail software solution that’s compatible with EDI and web portals can improve supply chain communication between store systems and vendor systems.

  1. Faster inventory management: The traditional method when issuing a purchase order is to create a paper document that factors in vendor lead time. This purchase order is sent via fax, mail or email, and then the supplier receiving the order enters it into its system. The retailer must follow up or wait for the vendor’s confirmation of the order with the expected delivery date. This process can take as long as a week, and the retailer is at risk of stock shortage during the process.

    However, an EDI-compatible retail software solution enables retailers to be more proactive. The sending, receiving and acknowledgement of the purchase order is nearly instantaneous when transmitted via EDI. This can alert you early on to any problems with vendor lead time, helping you to decide more quickly whether to pay for expedited shipping, get the inventory from another vendor or check for inventory from another store and, if available, issue an inventory transfer. This scenario illustrates how being more proactive with an EDI system can reduce inventory shortages.

  2. Earlier ship notifications: Traditional purchase orders are at risk of human error, such as when a clerk enters incorrect information into the system. When a purchase order is transferred via EDI, the receiver’s system creates an advance shipping notice also in an EDI format, which is sent directly into the retail buyer’s store system. The advance shipping notice usually contains a detailed list of the items ordered, including quantities of items shipped and the expected delivery date.
  3. More options to manage a supply chain: Not every store or vendor system can transfer information via EDI. More large companies are steering their suppliers and partners to use their web portals, which can provide enhanced visibility of inventory data, inventory fill orders, automated shipped notifications and more, all sent via the Internet.

    Your retail ERP system can be integrated with a vendor’s web portal, allowing you easy access to the vendor’s information. For example, clicking on a vendor’s card within your retail ERP system would take you to the vendor’s web portal where you can download and import information into your system resources, such as the vendor’s price list. In this example, the alternative would be to have an employee download or print out the information, and then manually enter it to your store’s retail ERP system. Think about it: Which method would likely provide more accurate results? 

These are just a few of the ways retail back-end systems are changing in the shifting retail environment. A retail software solution that is compatible with EDI and web portals can improve supply chain communication between store systems and vendor systems. Deciding which of these systems to use, and when to use them, will depend on your store’s unique operations and needs.