New retail businesses usually start because entrepreneurs identify a market opportunity and structure a business to deliver products or services to meet that demand. The modern, retail entrepreneur generally adopts cloud-based platforms for eCommerce, ePoS, Inventory, CRM and Financial management. Cloud-based retail technologies are ideal as they lower the barriers to entry and enable new products and services to be on the market almost instantly.
These individual applications support key processes that are at the heart of new business success, such as managing inventory, selling smartly, tracking customers and managing cash. Naturally, each of these systems generate large amounts of customer and transaction data.
In the early stages, the business founders are most likely extracting this data from each of these systems, manipulating it in spreadsheets and copying key information between applications. This manual data manipulation happens because it supports critical processes such as:
- Managing stock
- Understanding and engaging with customers
- Managing finances and cash-flow
Use this data wisely and the business grows – ‘Eureka! We’re doing nearly £1m in revenue and I’ve got 10 people working for me’.
eCommerce start-ups can have an advantage over their bigger established rivals as they are more able to adopt agile working. Their proposition gains traction, they acquire more customers, who develop brand loyalty and sales keep growing. Fantastic, but increasingly difficult to keep up with as the manual processes begin to grind!
We find that when a retail business reaches over £1 million turnover, growing pains really kick in:
- Having to dedicate more employees to established manual tasks such as pricing, marketing, fulfilment and service
- Keeping the finance system updated so you can manage cash-flow efficiently
- Having greater numbers of transactions, more suppliers, more customers and more partners
- Because the founders have less time to analyse the performance of the business and make proactive plans.
Growing pains negatively impact operations, customer service, innovation, working hours and profitability. The cloud-based platforms acquired to establish and manage the young business are now problematic:
- Because: Although each of these systems have a narrow focus, they each want to own the customer record, which means duplication, inconsistency and constant copy and paste
- Because: The second, bigger, problem is that very few of these systems have any real interest in communicating with each other. This lack of native “integration” makes it very difficult for a business to automate even the simplest process that cuts across more than one of their operational systems.
Innovative retail SMEs have their growth stifled because they struggle to automate the processes that consume their time, productivity, energy and profitability.
Larger retailers will dedicate an internal team to automate the processes such as managing prices in response to cost fluctuations or exchange rates. They have the luxury of investing in bespoke integration projects that automate the processes for them.
SMEs, on the other hand, do not have the resources to adopt this approach.
Let’s look at this in real terms: a business stocks over 2000 product lines from a range of suppliers and distributes them to over 100 customers. Each customer has negotiated a bespoke price list. This company generates over £1.5m in revenue each year employing eight staff. However, each week supply costs change and the business finds it increasingly difficult to adjust all the bespoke pricelists for all their customers. 60 to 70 hours a week can be spent trying to tie all this data together from various cloud based systems.
This results in eroded margins. The significant cost of trying to stay on top of this process equates to nearly two full-time jobs. The Entrepreneur knows that this situation is harming the business (s)he feels so passionately about.
Automating this single business process, and recovering just 3% of the eroded margin will improve the bottom line for this business by £45,000 per annum. That’s right – the bottom line. The benefits gained from this one simple automation is clearly a big win for this retail business.
At Talisman Innovations, we identified a need for a more affordable and easily accessible solution to automate the processes that smaller retailers waste huge amounts of time and effort on every day. This inspired us to create and build a Retail Integration Platform for SME businesses called TIDE.
TIDE enables retail business to:
- Connect – save time by joining up ePoS, eCommerce, Inventory, CRM and Accounting systems
- Synchronise – Increase productivity by ensuring all systems know about sales, customers and inventory
- Transform – Improve margins by automating business management
- Archive – Better understand past performance and trends
TIDE is specifically built to connect the processes developed to manage sales, inventory, finances, customers and pricing. If they are to prosper, ambitious retailers must outgrow these manual tasks and automate.
Today, TIDE automates thousands of transactions and processes every day for a range of retailers across the world. Our experience shows that retailers who automate the business processes that consume their time, cash and profitability, boost their growth and free-up energy.
Automation is no longer the preserve of the “big stores”. It is here, today. It is easy to adopt and affordable. TIDE ties cloud platforms together, enabling smaller retailers to operate smarter and improve their bottom line.