Business has been booming for online sellers. As a result, companies have been shifting budgets to bulk up their online presence, whether it’s launching a new branded ecommerce website, enhancing an existing online store, expanding to new marketplace channels or using third-party logistics providers (3PLs). To keep up with increasing order volumes and expanding inventory, operations managers need to ensure their front-end online storefronts and back-end business systems are properly exchanging data, so everything stays accurate, operations are efficient and the customer experience is optimal.
Many companies rely on manual processes like batch file exports or data entry to move data between systems and reconcile discrepancies. This can lead to inaccurate inventory levels, order processing delays and manual accounting processes that require significant extra work to resolve, slowing down business growth and impacting customer satisfaction.
Let’s look closer at some of the problems these manual processes create.
Problem: Inaccurate Inventory
Tracking inventory across multiple channels can be a major undertaking when done manually or with disconnected systems. For each channel you want to sell in, you need to provide item descriptions, images, specifications and other product content. In order to sync your inventory across a third-party ecommerce storefront and/or marketplace, you either need to manually add new items and remove sold-out SKUs within each channel or create a product catalog that can be sent to each channel to refresh your inventory.
Most companies opt for the latter for efficiency’s sake, but they only send the product catalog once a day in batches (or even worse, by manually exporting and importing files). This process is error-prone and can lead to stock level discrepancies if an item sells out in one channel and still shows as available for sale in another. If you oversell a product, then you’ll have to cancel the order which leads to customer dissatisfaction. It’s also difficult for your inventory managers to track items across multiple warehouse locations to better determine reorder points, control safety stock and enable more precise cycle counts(opens in new tab).
Problem: Order Processing Delays
Order management gets more complex when you send orders from your ecommerce store or marketplace to be fulfilled in your back-office systems. Similar to a daily product catalog feed, you’re probably bulk importing orders from each channel once a day. That means your warehouse team is picking everything at once instead of throughout the day, creating bottlenecks when order volumes spike. Although shipping information is available once they package and ship the orders, you still need to mark it as shipped and provide tracking in another system to notify the customer it’s on the way. Batch importing order and fulfillment data potentially adds 1-2 business days of extra processing time.
Using a third-party fulfillment (3PL) solution like ShipStation or Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment (either Merchant Fulfilled Prime or Fulfilled by Amazon) exacerbate these delays. Once sales orders are processed, they must be sent to the 3PL to be fulfilled and the shipping information needs to be posted back for the cash sale to be recorded as revenue.
Returns management can also be complicated, requiring staff to credit back the amount of the return, add inventory back to stock and then communicate this back to the customer in the respective channel. Your customer service team may struggle if they’re not able to see a customer’s complete order history from all channels or if reps are managing multiple systems.
Solution: A Central Data Source
These challenges often keep leaner companies from growing online sales. However, you can overcome these problems with a single platform that manages data across channels. A single platform consolidates fragmented sources of data into a central repository for all customer, item, inventory, order and return information.
When inventory data is updated in near real-time instead of in a batch daily process, inventory managers get visibility across the entire enterprise. When an item sells out in one channel, it is automatically deducted from your inventory and marked unavailable in all other channels. You can manage your item master in one place and automatically syndicate it across channels.
Additionally, since you’re processing orders as they come in, they can be processed faster to meet customer delivery expectations to buy, fulfill and return anywhere. Customer service has a unified view of every customer to provide more relevant support. Your specialized employees can focus on improving your customer experience and driving more sales instead of inefficient, manual processes.
Solution: NetSuite Connector
NetSuite simplifies online selling by becoming the central hub for all your company’s data. The NetSuite Connector(opens in new tab) allows you to map data between NetSuite and your ecommerce storefronts, online marketplaces, point-of-sale (POS) systems and 3PLs and automatically transfers it between platforms. It synchronizes stock levels, replicates sales orders, processes fulfilment with shipping tracking and creates and updates customer information in near real-time. By automating the transfer of data, you keep your vital information centralized and eliminate manual data entry, costly errors and delays, data exports and processes managed with spreadsheets and email.
Register(opens in new tab) for the Suite Fundamentals product demo webinar to learn more about NetSuite Connector.