Blue-9 Climbs to Success With SAP Anywhere

Blue-black-tunnelGrowing 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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 1.54.33 PMToday, 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.”

Perspective

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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.01.39 PMFor 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.

SAP Anywhere – Enabling SMBs to market, sell and commerce with an integrated front office solution

The retail sector has a well-earned reputation as one of the most challenging industries for participants to navigate successfully. Retailers – be they traditional brick and mortar companies, online sellers or, often, a combination of the two – must manage complex supplier relationships and inventories while also catering to the sometimes mercurial wants and needs of their end customers. For retailers, “supply and demand” is more than a trite catchphrase. Rather, it encapsulates an ever-shifting and intricate relationship that demands real-time data, accurate forecasting and efficient operations if the retailer is to generate profits in a business characterized by razor-thin margins.

SAP_Anywhere

In short, retailers truly need a 360-degree view of their business, encompassing suppliers, consumers and the many processes that connect the two. With little room for error, retailers and etailers must not only track critical operational metrics closely, they must continually strive to make their processes more efficient and effective.

Retailers sit at the nexus between wholesalers and distributors on one side, and end buyers on the other. They must deal with product availability and pricing demands from their suppliers, while keeping their store offerings competitively priced and in line with current customer demands. As friction-free online shopping options proliferate, maintaining customer loyalty as well as profitability is proving increasingly elusive. Among the operational challenges retailers face:

Retail businesses encompass supply-side and demand-side

Supplier-side Challenges:

Product availability and pricing: All but the largest of retailers are at the mercy of their suppliers, who can set prices close to retail selling prices and whose products may not always align with changing customer demands.

Incoming inventory management: Retailers need to maintain inventory levels and mixtures aligned with the current and forecasted consumer preferences, which aren’t always the same as the suppliers’ preferences and product lines.

Buyer-side Challenges:

Outgoing inventory management: Retailers must have good visibility into inventory levels and purchasing trends to ensuring that inventories are stocked to meet both current and future demands, while limiting overstocking and forced discounting.

Customer satisfaction: In addition to ensuring that they have the right product selection and price points, retailers must work to engender customer loyalty while also increasing the number and value of products each customer buys.

Commerce operations: As higher percentages of retailers enter the online selling realm, they must deal with everything from cart abandonment rates to rapid and accurate processing of orders and shipments.

In addition to the above challenges, retail and distribution business today need to think globally. Digital commerce enables them to setup web-shops and transact beyond their geographic borders and becomes players in a global economy. This is where SAP Anywhere will benefit from being part of the larger SAP company. Most global businesses need more accurate multi-currency exchanges. Does the solution calculate financials in local currencies and support local tax compliance? What languages does it support?

Having a reputable cloud provider handle these and other critical business processes – as well as providing the platform for commerce sites in some instances – frees companies from performing these tasks, which are often outside of their areas of core competency.

 Target Market:

SAP Anywhere is targeted at companies with between 10 and 500 workers. Built from the ground up for the SMB market. It leverages SAP HANA to mine the data for real-time analytics and insights.

SAP Anywhere is a cloud-based solution, it will be delivered as SaaS (software as a service) by SAP in a public cloud (Amazon cloud for the US market). While it can be accessed through either mobile devices or desktops, SAP is emphasizing that it will allow SMBs to manage their business from anywhere using their mobile devices.

Perspective and Go-to-Market Channel Implications:

SMB spending on digital commerce solutions is increasing, especially for solutions that are simple and aimed at improving customer experience across mobile, social and web. This new category of front-office solution for small businesses will open new doors for SAP and will necessitate a new channel approach. In North America SAP plans to develop new channels where SAP has not gone before for SAP Anywhere and not restrict it to their existing Business One channel partners. There is also potential for affiliate partners like PayPal, eBay, Facebook, etc. Success with SAP Anywhere will also require partnerships with other type of affiliate solution providers, as part of an expanded ecosystem, that can help specialized SMBs setup sophisticated web-presence instead of the generic out-of-box experience.