Growing revenues and attracting new customers are the top business goals for small wholesale distributors and retailers. But, in the age of the empowered buyer, these goals are getting more difficult to achieve. Today, both consumers and business buyers have information at their fingertips, and can tap into an ever-widening range of digital content and reviews to learn about products, get advice about different brands, and ratings for sellers. Once buyers decide to purchase, they expect a fast, friendly, efficient shopping experience—online, in-store and on mobile devices. If they don’t get it, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
The result is an environment that is more complex and competitive for small business wholesale distributors and retailers than their predecessors could have ever imagined. But many small businesses use a patchwork of databases, spreadsheets and manual processes to manage sales, marketing and inventory. This may work when a business is very small, but will eventually create a drag on the business as more information falls between the cracks of different applications. Often, just as a small business starts to take off, the owner realizes that relying on different applications that don’t connect leads to mistakes and missed opportunities.
Blue-9 Steps Up to an Integrated Solution to Support Growth
Despite these problems, many small businesses resist upgrading to a more integrated solution, fearing that an upgrade will be too complex, costly and time-consuming for them to use and afford. So I was very interested to speak with David Blake, President of Blue-9, at SAP’s 2017 SAPPHIRE user conference. When Blue-9 was just a year old with three employees, Blake took the leap from a tangle of point solutions to an integrated front office solution.
Launched in 2013, Blue-9 Pet Products developed and manufactures the KLIMB dog-training platform. Blue-9 sells the platform, along with dog harnesses, training videos and other accessories, directly to customers and via dealers and affiliates.
Blue-9 started the business with a WordPress website, Woo Commerce for ecommerce, and Microsoft Excel for inventory tracking. Blake tried using the same web store for both B2C and B2B partner sales, but the B2C site didn’t accommodate the different workflow and processes required for B2B sales. Meanwhile, orders began to surge, and Blake was concerned about not having enough inventory to meet demand. He also wanted to centralize inventory, and integrate Blue-9’s marketing campaigns with its ecommerce operations.
Blake didn’t know that SAP offered a solution for small businesses, but stumbled onto SAP Anywhere, a cloud-based solution that integrates five critical front office functions into one integrated solution, at a tradeshow in 2014. He investigated the solution, and decided that SAP Anywhere could help him solve all of his workflow problems with one integrated solution, quickly and efficiently.
The Blue-9 team migrated Blue-9’s website from WordPress to SAP Anywhere In about thirty minutes. It took them another two week to migrate ecommerce information from Woo Commerce, and inventory data from Excel took.
Today, Blue-9 uses SAP Anywhere to host its B2C and B2B websites, and for ecommerce, payment processing and inventory management. According to Blake, it has the tools he needs to create customer specific pricing for dealers and affiliates, and also provides Blue-9 with a clear view of inventory, integrated across online and in the field consumer and partner channels. The company has also integrated social media marketing, email marketing, and its Intuit QuickBooks Online accounting with SAP Anywhere.
SAP Anywhere also offers a Learning Center that has made it easier for Blue-9 to get new employees up to speed on different tasks, such as creating a P.O. or managing inventory. Notes Blake, “In a small business like ours, all seven of our employees have to wear many hats. This has made it easy for new employees to get up to speed quickly.”
And, instead of relying on a hodgepodge of different application providers and third-party tech support, Blake has one place to go for support. “I’m actually spending less money now on applications and support than I had been before, and now I feel like I have a staff of 10 IT people, available seven days a week, to help if we need it.”
As customer expectations grow, the sales environment for small wholesale distributors and retailers is becoming more complex. Using a patchwork quilt of databases, spreadsheets and manual processes to manage sales, marketing and inventory may work when a business is very small, but won’t enable a business to grow.
For many small retailers and wholesalers, automating and integrating key front office functions with a solution such as SAP Anywhere can help align supply with demand, accelerate business growth and drive sales. A unified solution uses one database to run and integrate applications for different functions, providing a common user interface and a complete view of each customer and inventory.
Once repetitive front-office functions are integrated and streamlined, small business owners have more time to focus on things that can help the business grow—like meeting customers and partners, developing new products and services, evaluating new business opportunities and creating new marketing strategies.