The world has changed a lot in a short period of time - which is not news to anyone. But the changes we've experienced have also fundamentally changed the way we do business, the competitiveness of markets, and the expectations of our buyers.
The relationship between seller and buyer is different, with timing, channels, and communications all evolving. Gone are the days where 'Sales' was simply a travelling salesman knocking on doors. Yes, this might be an outdated example, but swap it for tele-sales or cold emails and it still stands true: Single channel markets are a thing of the past.
All businesses - but particularly smaller and mid-sized ones - are under pressure to keep up and adapt their sales processes to ensure they can continue to win and keep customers. This means embracing the multichannel market (ie. using multiple channels, platforms or avenues to sell).
Not all businesses have made the switch yet - and not all are excited about the prospect. But understanding where your businesses stand, and the preparation and tools required to set you up for multichannel success, is the first vital step in the process.
Staying where you are means falling behind
The multichannel market is not a new concept or even a new way of operating. In fact, it is fast becoming the only way to operate to keep business competitive. Those who haven't shifted to a multichannel approach yet face the pressure of being in a market that's moving ahead of them.
As expectations evolve, methods that have kept customers coming in and coming back may not continue to be enough. The failure to expand market and sales channels and upgrade customer interactions can lead businesses to:
- Miss sales opportunities: Having focus in only one area, tactic or market, ignores (or deprioritises) resales or up-sales with current or past customers.
- Lose customers: If another business can offer service that is better, more personalised, or more easily available through multiple channels, customers are more likely to shift their business to a provider that can deliver for them in a way that suits their needs.
- Fail to be competitive: Multichannel forces more visibility and organisations, meaning competitors will know exactly where stock is, how much they have, what is in demand and what customers want.
Of course, overcoming these challenges by transitioning to the multichannel market is not as easy as flipping a switch. The first change required is attitude - overcoming uncertainties and unknowns to commit to a new process. The second change is to the systems and set up of your business.
So, let's take a look at what you need (or your 'readiness') to switch to the multichannel market while continuing to be profitable and competitive and achieve sustainable growth.
Your systems are the key to your success
At its foundation, multichannel sales is simple maths - expand your sales channels, expand your audience, expand your sales opportunities. Shifting to this way of operating is not always as simple. You'll need to ensure you can:
- Maintain service levels and continue to serve customers to the standard they (and you) expect
- Have full visibility over sales, orders, stock, etc. to be able to fill demand and make the right inventory decisions
- Connect stock and warehouse management so orders can be filled in a correct and timely manner
- Achieve integration between different sales channels.
Your ability to do all this comes down to the systems you're using and how they are set up. You can't move into the modern sales environment while relying on outdated systems. Automation and integration are key for success - which is why CRM and ERP are must-haves to ready yourself and prepare for a multichannel market.
ERP allows businesses to address new expectations and challenges without increasing costs, manpower or workload by offering capabilities including:
Cross channel visibility: The fundamental benefit of having ERP is that it connects everything to everything else. View and access all information from different channels, locations or platforms in one place for real-time visibility and reporting - plus managing the coming and going of stock.
Customer management: A well-constructed CRM allows you to record, monitor and update all information about your current and former customers (including last interaction) to improve sales opportunities, secure your existing base and avoid chances of losing repeat business.
Risk/value/cost assessment: Not all sales are sales that will benefit your business. While you might be willing to take a loss on a tight margined product to get it to your best customer when they need it, you wouldn't do the same for one off, small value sales. ERP will provide you access to this information to make the right cost/value calls.
Contingency planning: When an order can't be filled immediately or there is a shortage of inventory, you will have direct access to information to help the decision-making process - how long before you can get more inventory, if it's best to go to another vendor, any additional costs - so you can react quickly and positively.
Kick off your multichannel journey
The multichannel market shouldn't be viewed as a challenge, but as an opportunity. And the sooner businesses start to embrace the change, the sooner they can start reaping the benefits.
While the prospect of a system overhaul and ERP implementation can sound scary or risky, it doesn't need to be. There are platforms, like SAP Business One, that are designed specifically for small businesses. And with the right advisory and support, ERP be implemented in a way that will allow you to adapt to and make the most of multichannel market, remain competitive, and bring in business at a profitable level.
We've partnered with dozens of Australian small and medium businesses to implement leading ERP software and expand business growth and capability. We offer clients incredible functionality and innovation - but more than that, we offer our experience and understanding, discussing what your business actually is and what you aim to achieve.
To further discuss your move to the multichannel market or explore ERP options that could assist with your business goals, contact us here for a chat.