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Ingredients of a Comprehensive Retail Suite for SMBs

Written By: Khudsiya Quadri
Published On: July 24 2009

To achieve success in today’s retail industry, retailers that are small to midsize businesses (SMBs) need to effectively meet their customers’ needs on time, with the right price, in the right quantity—and at the right place, with the right promotions. All of these things can be very overwhelming for a retailer. To get them, retailers require tools that support effective and precise operations. In this volatile global economy, every retailer is trying to beat the competition and win over the customer base. The winners in this race are the retailers that can provide customers the supreme (winning) combination of product, price, and customer service, and do it without affecting profitability. For a retailer to make gains over its competition, it should incorporate one of the best business solutions created by experts in the retail software industry. Retailers need solutions that have capabilities to help them serve their customers better than their competition, and that don’t cost them an arm and a leg to do it. As retail operations are becoming as complex as its supply chain, retailers are not only trying to stay competitive, but also face challenges of short product life cycles, sudden changes in product demand, and new evolutions in technology.

Retail operations consist of more than just one store, but large chains of stores with numerous amount of inventory and thousands of pricing decisions to be made with ease and flexibility. Retail management software needs to have numerous modules that can help retail operations be more efficient and lucrative. A comprehensive solution for the retailer’s specific industry—i.e., food, consumer goods, apparel, etc.—is beneficial for success.

Bringing all operations under one comprehensive system will facilitate retail organizations to make decisions based on actual information about the product’s position, price, and market trends. As well, retail organizations will be able to locate and move products in a leaner way, by which they will be reducing product cost and delays in delivery to the customer.

It’s all fine and dandy to think of having complete retail management software, but the question arises: what should this software include? TEC’s research analysts are currently developing a comprehensive new retail research Evaluation Center. Our main objective is to leave no stone unturned within the retail industry. But TEC analysts don’t want to create a monstrous and unwieldy number of solution requirements either for SMB retailers to deal with. In our retail research Evaluation Center, only the requirements needed by retail organizations will be included. TEC analysts will make sure not to exclude anything critical for retail operations and the achievement of their objectives. Within our research Evaluation Center, retail organizations and retail software providers will be able to match up with each other, just like an e-harmony dating service, in which individual needs are matched with potential qualified prospects meeting the predefined criteria.

So now the question is: what do retail organizations need to look at when buying a “reasonably” comprehensive retail software suite or package?

Here’s a list of the modules SMB retail organizations need in a retail software suite.

Merchandising System

A merchandising system is just like a gizmo or device with which a retailer can manage and analyze inventory by product, location, demand, price, etc., throughout the enterprise. The merchandising management system helps retail organizations with coordinating every retail process to give business maximum return on investment (ROI). The main features in a merchandising system are:

  • product information management

  • enterprise data management

  • purchase order management

  • price management

  • inventory management

  • merchandise planning

  • warehouse management

  • allocation and replenishment

  • distribution and fulfillment

  • merchandising reporting


Store Operations

SMB retail organizations require a system to connect internally and externally, to ensure lean operations and the best customer experience. Store management requires a variety of capabilities ranging from cash to inventory management—and everything that falls in between. The following is a list of features that are key for the store operations module:

  •  point of sale (POS)

  • cash management and reporting

  • inventory control / management

  • multichannel / store services

  • customer profile management

  • catalog management

  • back-office capability

  • store planning

  • marketing management

  • a range of transaction scenarios

  • multimode payment methods

  • multimode gift registry

  • loss prevention

  • return process management


Supply Chain Management (SCM)

The main objective of the SCM module for retail organizations is to have enough product available in inventory at the right price to maintain the enterprise’s overall customer satisfaction, profitability, and delivery objectives. In any retail environment, it’s necessary to have the business strategy in line with business processes in order to design, develop, distribute, warehouse, and sell products (and deal with their return). There are a variety of supply chain models to choose from, depending on the needs of a particular retail enterprise. As the expression goes, “not all the figures in the hand are equal” (or, as parents know, not all children have the same personality and capabilities), and the same thing applies here: no supply chain model can exactly fit any other organization’s requirements. Some of the key modules in supply chain for retail are as follows.

  • demand forecasting

  • advance inventory planning

  • replenishment management

  • supplier management

  • vendor managed inventory (VMI)

  • warehouse management

  • trade management

  • supply chain network optimization

  • supply chain collaboration


Workforce Management

Retail organizations that have the best talent matched with effective business strategies (and revenue) will move ahead of their competition. Getting the best talent is important to retail organizations, as they will be using their workforce or human capital to create customer satisfaction and customer-centricity –generating sales, profits, and repeat customer visits. Here are the main areas of focus in retail for workforce management:

  • recruitment (store, field, or corporate)

  • workforce performance measurement  (store, corporate, distribution center, or call center)

  • online training

  • e-learning

  • advanced employee scheduling

  • workload coverage

  • time and labor management


Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A retailer’s main target market is consumers who, in the end, become their customers (given that success for a retailer is not just having the right mix of product and price, but also to retain customers). Retail organizations need to look at not only the product life cycle, but also at customer life cycles. The CRM module will help retailers keep up with the service demands of customers; also, it will be able to indentify customer’s needs. Key areas for retail in a CRM solution:

  • sales pipeline forecasting

  • contract management

  • customer loyalty management

  • lead management

  • return material/product management

  • call center reporting

  • marking campaign reporting


Financial Management

As for any type of organization, the financial module will give retailers a picture of how the enterprise stands in terms of cash, debt, and on-hand inventory, etc. Retail organizations need a financial management system in place to understand revenue generated by store location, but also to measure profits. The financial system does not end here for a retailer; one of the major aspects of financial management is its payment system. Key areas of a financial management system for SMB retailers are:

  • budgeting and financial planning

  • purchasing management

  • invoice matching

  • margin reporting (sales, markup, gross, markdown, etc.)

  • profit reporting

  • inventory reporting (stock turns, shrinkage, etc.)

  • labor (commission, sales per labor-hour, etc.)


These are the modules that TEC’s analysts are considering as they create the research Evaluation Center. Some apply to small to midsized retail organizations—but as we say, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Retailers may have a CRM, workforce management, or financial management system already in place, but would like to upgrade the functionality of merchandising and store operations. It will be very beneficial for these retailers to check out our new research Evaluation Center to discover the software providers for merchandising, store operations, or workforce management. Not only that, but retail organization can also run a side-by-side comparison of vendors like Celerant Technology, Epicor, Pronto, Retalix, etc.

TEC’s research analyst team has been in contact with many retail software vendors that would like to contribute to the development of the retail research center.  Analysts from TEC would like input from other retail software vendors as well as retail organizations that are interested in contributing to this top–notch retail research evaluation center.
 
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