Integration Essentials for Retailers
To be truly successful as a retailer it requires more than just great products and marketing. It means that all your essential business operations should work together to create a seamless experience for your customers and employees. This also adds value to overall management of daily tasks and long-term planning. To do so, right data must be attainable for the right people at the right time - and it must be accurate and consistent; which can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the specific needs of your business.
Sharing data across operations can feel like a monumental task, so there are two major paths that you can take to achieve this availability: integration or interfacing. Though these phrases are often thrown around, they are far from the same thing and care should be taken to understand the difference. In this post, we will focus on integration as it is related to an ERP; which is essentially having all your operations work within a single platform. Interface, on the other hand, is the “bridge” that allows programs to share information between them, which can be helpful if you have solutions that use different programming languages and the goal is to make sure that they can communicate with each other. (source: http://www.lokisys.com/2015/01/integration-vs-interface/)
In this post, we will look at what happens when your business is not integrated, plus a few major pros and cons of any integration.
Some processes that can suffer from having disparate operations include:
- Overall employee productivity and decision making. If your staff is spending hours entering data to make it manually obtainable, they are not focused on key business activities (don’t forget the increased risk of error associated with human entry).
- Business agility. If you only have your information in separate places and you can’t make it relatable, then how can you expect to be able to respond quickly? The correct answer is that you can’t, and you’ll either end up making rash decisions based on intuition or you’ll end up spending so much time waiting for information that it becomes no longer valid.
- Customer retention. Competition in retail is serious. Any disruptions to the buying experience means that your customers are likely to turn to other sources quickly. You can only expect to be able to create the right buying experience if you have the right information from which to draw from.
These problems, thankfully, can be largely eliminated with a successful integration and therefore should be looked at as ways of improvement instead of roadblocks. However, there are a few major pros and cons of integration.
- The most obvious one is that integration opens the door to more and better data. This means more informed decisions leading to better short and long term planning.
- No code mapping, which means that the incidence of error can be much lower as most changes will be applied automatically, rather than requiring manual entry.
- Rapid data transfer because all information is located in the same database - meaning synchronization isn’t necessary.
- IT time and cost savings - if you don’t have a million different software that constantly need to be updated and maintained, your IT team can better focus on other tasks and innovations, saving you time, money, and resources.
- May require initial customization to meet your specific needs. This can be eliminated by choosing an ERP that is designed with add-ons for your industry in mind
- Implementation complexity and challenges. One of the greatest difficulties associated with ERPs is getting started with it. Choose the right partner here and you minimize the risk of disruption and data loss for your business and ensure that your implementation will be as painless as possible.
- Interdependence - if one part of your integration isn’t quite right, it will have a ripple effect across the rest of your business. Again, having the right partner in your ERP here is essential, as they can ensure that all of the different pieces of your business come together smoothly and continue to function in that way.
From these, it’s clear that the benefits of integration for retailers very often can outweigh the costs, but it all comes down to the specifics of your business and the problems that you are hoping to solve.
If you think ERP integration could be the answer to your data woes but aren’t entirely sure where to begin, make sure to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get started on your path to data and operational ease.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.