The retail industry isn't immune to the side effects brought on by the Great Resignation. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were a total of 155,000 job openings in retail as of March 2022.
While big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target can incentivize retail associates to fulfill job openings with sign-on bonuses, increased hourly wages and extended benefits, independent retailers cannot compete against these perks, further limiting their ability to fully staff their retail operations. What’s more, independent retailers are also grappling with balancing the increase in online sales that began in 2020 against the current re-establishment of their brick-and-mortar locations as more and more shoppers return to physical stores.
To succeed against the limited labor resources available, automating certain aspects of digital transactions through e-commerce integration can help independent retailers streamline their business processes and compete against big-box retailers.
“E-commerce integration” refers to creating a seamless connection between a retailer’s e-commerce website and its additional back-end systems, including the retailer’s ERP or CRM system. This allows the retailer to create a data flow loop and eliminate the task of manually entering the same information across multiple systems.
For example, an independent retailer might use an ERP system to track inventory levels for each of its products. However, after implementing a new shopping and fulfillment method for its customers, such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), the retailer is then often tasked with manually updating the inventory count within its ERP to ensure accurate inventory numbers across all channels.
Given this, many independent retailers would stand to benefit from cloud e-commerce integration technology and its many valuable automation features, including the following:
Automating manual data entry
Integrating e-commerce and back-end systems, such as ERP or CRM, eliminates the need for manual order entry and re-entry, as the systems are connected and updated automatically. Automating manual entry data also minimizes the time it takes to exchange data from one system to another, thus allowing the retailer to quickly organize and gain valuable insights from their data.
Omnichannel inventory synchronization
As independent retailers toggle between online orders, BOPIS and physical store transactions, e-commerce integration ensures that inventory synchronization, pricing and exchange information is accurate and reflected in both back-end systems and e-commerce platforms. This can also allow the retailer to automate real-time inventory tracking updates to ensure accuracy and help the retailer verify the product the consumer purchased is in stock.
What’s more, real-time synchronization of inventory levels enables automated updates to customers, notifying them of when their orders are processed and shipped, as well as for partners and suppliers, which will need to be notified when inventory items must be replenished or shipped.
Freeing up staff resources to focus on the customer
Automated synchronization of inventory levels and pricing means that retail associates can eliminate this repetitive task from their day-to-day responsibilities and focus on resolving customer and order issues, helping to elevate the retailer’s customer experience.
Bottom Line: It’s About Streamlining Business Processes to Remain Competitive
The level of automation enabled by e-commerce integration provides independent retailers with the agility and adaptability to successfully compete and operate in an omnichannel environment without losing efficiency in their digital or brick-and-mortar stores. This provides them with the opportunity to engage new markets of potential customers and diversify their revenue streams without increasing overhead or operational costs. E-commerce integration also arms independent retailers with the necessary capabilities to succeed in the face of future market disruptions.
John Thielens is the chief technology officer at Cleo, a provider of robust integration software that powers seamless end-to-end integration flows with your ecosystem of trading partners, customers and suppliers.
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