How to Evaluate Business Management / ERP Software for your Omnichannel Business

Cory GabelIndustry News & ResourcesLeave a Comment

Guest Author: Cory Gabel, Agency Director, Atticus Digital Marketing

In today’s omnichannel marketplace, having a business system that properly fits your business can save you money – and make you money! Having an old/outdated order management system, or a patchwork of entry level accounting tools and a lot of Excel – or on the other end of the spectrum, having a large “bloatware” solution that is an expensive, unwieldy monster – can mean be wasted time and money. It’s important to put a right-sized, strong omnichannel business management system (OCBMS) in place in order to stay competitive.


What is an OCBMS?

An omnichannel business management system (OCBMS) is a single, unified software environment that helps manage all aspects of your omnichannel business, not just “order management”. Within a full-featured OCBMS, you can manage all processes starting with orders, and all related areas, such as shipping, inventory, warehouse, accounting, marketing, sales forecasts, and customer management, to name a few. The OCBMS will also integrate with all sales channels your business operates in: website/e-commerce, shopping channels, call center, catalog and retail POS.


How can an OCBMS help your business?

No matter your business’ combination of online, in-person, or catalog retail, today’s customer expects a seamless experience. Thanks to the influence of major retailers like Amazon and eBay, customers can enjoy faster delivery and lower shipping charges than ever before, and that’s not to mention the variety of products they can choose from.

Installing a robust, integrated OCBMS will ensure that you don’t experience inventory shortages, accounting inaccuracies, delivery mixups, or problems at point of sale. It can also reduce your overall costs, allowing you to pass the savings on to your customer. It provides real-time data on integrated processes so you can make informed decisions regarding your business.

A strong OCBMS will set you apart from your competitors and keep your business adapting and thriving.


Evaluation Criteria

If you’ve decided that your business needs an integrated OCBMS, or are looking to upgrade your current system, there are some things you should look for:

1. Included Functions and Modules
What’s included in your OCBMS? Do you need features such as fraud prevention, email marketing capabilities, and CRM?

Look for a system that has the basics for running your omnichannel operations smoothly, such as integration with accounting, inventory, payment processing, and shipping – and then think about how you might add additional features to help your business succeed. For example, perhaps your customers have been asking for flexible shipping options, including the ability to order online and pick up in-store.

A strong OCBMS will have a comprehensive suite of options that have been proven to help omnichannel businesses succeed. After all, this is an investment in the future growth of your business, so why settle for a system that only works half as well as you want it to?

2. Integration Capabilities

An omnichannel business management system can only work properly when it unifies as many components as possible. It won’t do your business much good if your inventory levels across in-store and online channels don’t update in real time after an order is placed, or if you have to remember to manually update your accounting software after a sale. Not only is this a waste of your valuable time, but it also leaves the door open for costly errors.

When searching for a good OCBMS, look for one that can integrate with the most vital software and processes of your business. The more systems that are integrated, the smoother your business will run overall.

Common integration categories include:
• E-commerce packages
• Selling channels
• Shipping providers
• Payment processors
• Email providers
• Marketing services
• Fraud prevention

3. Adaptability

Some omnichannel businesses are happy with an out-of-the-box OCBMS and are willing to change their business to fit the software. Others demand a solution that they can customize to suit their specific needs.

For example, if you are a retailer that is constantly designing and implementing a wide range of unique promotions, an out-of-the-box solution won’t handle those, and you will be limited to what the system was designed to handle. An adaptable system can be readily modified to handle any promotion or series of promotions needed.

An important consideration when looking for an OCBMS with good adaptability is the ability to customize your system without these changes being overwritten in newer versions. A good system will have provisions in place to avoid this.

Whatever your omnichannel business may need, look for a robust OCBMS that is designed from the ground up to allow for customization – now and in the future.

4. Speed and Scalability

In order to properly run your OCBMS, having a system that starts with outstanding speed should be a minimum requirement. Today’s new technologies, in both hardware and databases, allows for nearly instant response across the application if properly configured.

An omnichannel business system that helps drive growth in your business is a great thing – but not if the system’s speed will suffer as growth occurs.

Therefore, it’s important to find a system that not only delivers excellent response times initially, but also to ask if the system and underlying database structure are built to allow for growth alongside your business. If so, what measures are they taking to ensure that speed is not sacrificed?

Don’t hesitate to ask these questions as part of your research. Any good OCBMS vendor will be more than happy to talk about all aspects of their system with you – especially when it’s your ROI that’s on the line.

5. Service and Support

As we all know, even the best technology can hit a snag now and then. And if that happens with your OCBMS, you want to ensure the issue will be corrected and have everything running normally in the shortest amount of time.

To that end, it is advisable to also research the support team backing your prospective omnichannel business management system. How many points of contact will you have when you need support? Will you be speaking with the same person each time? How many avenues are available to you to get in touch (such as phone, email, web form, or live chat)? Is your main contact also well-versed in the development aspects of your system – and is that a priority for you? Is it important to you that the support team is domestic, or do you mind if they are located overseas?

While it’s unlikely that you will have to utilize your OCBMS’ support system very often, you will want the most peace of mind possible when the unexpected happens. Look for a system that comes with a strong and responsive support team that you feel comfortable relying on.

6. Total Cost of Ownership

When calculating your potential return on investment, consider the total cost of implementing a new solution. Look for factors that contribute to the overall cost of an OCBMS, such as:
• Purchase model (i.e. license or subscription)
• Initial costs of integration
• Ongoing maintenance fees
• Custom development fees
• Server, hosting, and other infrastructure costs
• Personnel – will you need more (database administrator) or less?


The Evaluation Process

Now that you know what criteria to look for when investing in an omnichannel business management system, here are recommended steps to take in your evaluation:

1. Vendor/product research
Compile a shortlist of 3-5 OCBMS solutions that look appealing to you. Aside from a simple web search, ask your colleagues or business contacts if they use an OCBMS that they would recommend. We suggest creating a list of capabilities your ideal OCBMS should have, as well as a list of features that would be useful additions, and use those lists to help you narrow down your research.

2. Virtual demos or product tours
Many OCBMS vendors offer virtual demos or product tours to give businesses a feel for what their system can do. Ask potential vendors to demonstrate specific capabilities that you’re interested in, or how they would customize for your business’ needs.

3. Ask for proof of customization capability
It’s common that most vendors will say “Yes, we can do that!” to just about any specific requirement you may have. The truth, however, is that not all software products are engineered the same. The ability to customize depends on many factors.

If you know of a specific need you have and the software you’re evaluating doesn’t offer it, don’t settle for a promise that they’ll “figure it out” after you become a customer. It’s not unreasonable to request that they demonstrate in some fashion how they would accommodate your needs.

4. Have the vendor visit your business
A good OCBMS vendor will want to get to know your business as well as they can even before the purchase. This will give them firsthand knowledge of your existing processes and systems, which they can use to design a customized proposal for you. Have them meet with any and all of your internal stakeholders – from the CEO to shipping manager, call center personnel and the internal marketing team.

5. Site visits to vendor clients
It may also be useful for you to pay an onsite visit to other clients using a particular vendor’s omnichannel business management system. This way, you can see how the OCBMS in question handles processes similar to yours, and you can gain valuable information about the system from people who use it every day.

6. System selection and budgeting
Once you have decided on an OCBMS for your business, a good vendor will be happy to discuss ways your new omnichannel business management system can fit your budget comfortably.

7. Finalize the purchase
When you are satisfied that your OCBMS has the features and capabilities you need at a good price, the purchase can then be finalized. However, this is far from the end of your relationship with the vendor – they will help you integrate your new system and provide ongoing support for years to come.

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