Brightpearl: Retail Operating System as robust as an ERP, and exclusively designed for retail and wholesale
ERPs are designed for all industries and are supposed to have the functionality any business may need. You may want an ERP just because of its “all-in-one” nature that is designed to provide all the functionality a business might need, no matter which industry the business is in.
It sounds robust, but it comes with drawbacks that can’t be overlooked. Because it’s designed for all industries, ERP has an overly complex system architecture that makes it super rigid and slow to deploy changes or integrate with any other tools that a retailer may need.
You’ll find more information about ERP pros and cons later in the article.
If you’re looking for a back office system as robust as ERP but tailored to retail and wholesale, Brightpearl can be a better solution.
As the industry-leading Retail Operating System, Brightpearl is exclusively built for retailers and wholesalers. It automates, simplifies and streamlines all the time-consuming yet critical post-purchase operations including inventory management, order management, warehousing, fulfillment, shipping, purchasing, accounting, retail BI and more. Plus, it gives you hyper-scalability to adopt a changing roster of market-disrupting tools, apps and platforms with its high-performance Plug & Play integrations.
Brightpearl will help you save time and make data-driven decisions, so you can achieve your growth goals. Here’s how…
Endorsed by Shopify
If you have Shopify stores and are considering an ERP system to cope with your retail back office operations, Brightpearl may be your best solution.
Not only is Brightpearl the ONLY retail-focused and Top-rated Shopify Plus ERP program partner, but also Shopify uses Brightpearl to automate and streamline the logistics of the distribution of Shopify POS hardwares.
Want to find out more about how Brightpearl can benefit your business?
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Retail ERPs vs traditional ERPs
Brightpearl not the right solution for you at the moment? No problem, you also have other types of systems on the market to help you with your post-purchase operations based on your current needs. Here’s a comparison of the ERP options available.
- Retail ERP
Retail ERPs are ERP systems that have retail modules providing features that retailers may need to run their businesses.
For instance, a retail ERP’s order management module is often more adapted to retail workflows compared to traditional ERPs that may be heavily focused on manufacturing, bill of materials or production. This means retail ERPs require less customizations to adapt to retail workflows. And you won’t pay for the customizations.
Additionally, retail ERPs usually have basic e-commerce integrations pre-built, which will save retailers time and money. However, as they’re not purely designed for retailers, some of the integrations may not be able to handle complex or unique workflows and struggle when order volumes spike. Also, you may still need to have other integrations that connect to emerging, marketing-leading apps and platforms built, and pay extra for them.
In essence, then, a retail ERP solution is an ERP that is more tailored to the business needs of retailers compared to traditional “all-in-one” ERPs, covering some of the most popular features retailers need. However, as it’s not purely designed for retail and wholesale, functionality and usability can quickly come short when you need more advanced or unique workflows and tools.
- Traditional ERPs
ERPs have the advantage in being complete, integrated systems that can typically handle the majority of processes across marketing, human resources, operations, finance and Engineering in all industries.
However this one size fits all approach may mean that a traditional ERP isn’t the best choice for your retail business. Here’s why…
- Inflexibility – Because of the robust “all-in-one” nature of ERPs, they’re usually clunky and rigid to deploy changes, which could be a huge drawback for retailers. As a retailer, you want to be able to sell on new channels that your customers are using and provide great customer experiences.
- Complex integration – With a traditional ERP, building an integration to a new system/channel often requires months or even years of development, as well as a significant amount of money. Plus, you may end up having a deficient integration or a completely failed one because it’s so complex to customize an ERP.
- Costly customization – Because traditional ERPs are not solely designed for retail and wholesale industries. Customizations are unavoidable to make the system work for your retail business. For instance, integration to a new sales channel will require customized integration, as we mentioned above. This means that you can end up paying extra money to get all the customizations you’ll need, which may bring your ERP fees up to four times more than the original quote.
- Implementation – As ERPs are such complex systems, implementation takes on average 420 days, and very often it takes years to complete. Because of all the required customizations, implementation can also be very challenging. 50% – 75% of ERP implementations fail because of poor scoping and project management as well as lack of expertise. It’s like flipping a coin – you only have half of the chance to get it implemented right.
What you need to check when choosing an ERP for your retail business
With so many retail ERPs out there, it can be tricky to find what you’re after. A key question to ask yourself is: What are the most critical features you need? This can help you narrow down your options, as can considering:
The first thing to think about is how much money you want to spend on your retail ERP. Different ERPs will come with different price tags, either because of the features they include or the costs of scaling them up. Focus on what an ERP actually does, and if there are any hidden costs.
When do you need the system to be fully functional? If a retail ERP takes a very long time to get up and running, it’s not going to be very useful to you—or at least, not when you need it to be. Research its setup time to avoid disappointment.
As we’ve established, ERPs can take a very long time—more than a year, in many cases—to be properly implemented. While some kind of wait time is therefore to be expected (unless you opt for Brightpearl instead of a retail ERP, which will significantly reduce it), you ought to make sure the people setting it up know the ins and outs of it.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the relevant staff can manage the project effectively. This ensures you’re not waiting around longer than you need to, and that any unforeseen problems can be properly addressed.
- Customer support
Once the ERP is up and running, what kind of ongoing customer service can you expect? It’s highly unlikely there will be no problems ahead, given the established complexity of these systems. Can you trust there will be a friendly, knowledgeable voice on the end of the phone (or in the live chat box, or the email inbox) when you encounter an issue you can’t resolve?
Making sure your retail ERP provider offers robust customer support is almost as important as the ERP itself, so check out the support availability thoroughly.
With luck, your business will grow and develop following the success your ERP facilitates. What’s your growth plan? Could the system adapt to your business needs quickly when your business grows fast? If it can’t, the ERP you’re looking at may not be right for you.
Top 10 Must-Have Retail ERP Features
- 1. Retail Workflow Automation
If there’s one thing that customers in the retail industry want, it’s to have a consistent shopping experience, whether they’re stepping into a brick and mortar store or ordering online. Retailers should look for a retail ERP system that lets them consolidate all online, brick and mortar, wholesale, phone, and mobile sales into one single, easy to use system.
With delayed insight a thing of the past thanks to tailored ERP, the right systems can automatically route orders to the warehouse, update order statuses, highlight exceptional orders, and reduce fulfillment costs per order with advanced workflow automation. And because you’ll be able to gain real-time insight into your sales through instant reports and integrated accounting, you’ll also gain from having the tools to make better business decisions.
Most importantly, that data can be used to manage all customers in a personalized way across all sales channels – every single time they shop – ultimately strengthening the relationships with both your retail and wholesale customers.
- 2. Multi-Location & Real-Time Inventory Management
Within the inventory management functionality of a retail ERP, you should be able to easily maintain an accurate inventory through automatic updates across all your sales channels, visibility across all your locations, and the ability to perform frequent cycle counts easily.
In addition, you want have a real-time and accurate view into your stock, which ensures quick replenishment of your top-selling items, while supporting you in the phasing out of low-selling products as well.
Furthermore, with the right tailored retail ERP system in place, you should have the flexibility needed to manage inventory levels behind bundles and kits, as well as for the various product sizes, colors, and other variants your products might have.
With a more streamlined and automatic inventory management process across all sales channels, you’ll also benefit from gaining clarity on margins that are visible down to individual orders, as well as the ability to access inventory reports, historic sales data, and real-time sales reports that allow you to make more informed purchasing decisions quickly and easily.
This all results in more satisfied customers who no longer have to be told that an item is (unfortunately) out of stock. In short, from startups to large enterprises, all retailers can take total control of the stages of the supply chain within their remit. Without their ERP solution being complicated by supply chain management functionality—related to raw materials, manufacturing, etc.–that they simply don’t need. Of course, such tailored functionality is guaranteed if you opt for a Retail Operating System, instead.
- 3. Integrated Warehouse Management
One thing that’s essential to reducing processing costs and errors is efficient warehouse management and order fulfillment. You need to move your products quickly in and out of the warehouse to get them into rotation swiftly and to fulfill orders as efficiently as possible – plain and simple.
Or is it?
The integrated warehouse management functionality of a retail ERP should be able to support barcode scanning, inventory counts, and returned inventory, while being fully integrated with your entire business — including inventory management, sales order management, purchase and supplier management, customer service, and accounting.
As a result, you’ll reduce your time to ship, eliminate errors, reduce processing costs, and save time, leaving you free to focus on revenue growth.
- 4. Multichannel Order Management
Supporting fast and frictionless shopping experiences, whenever and wherever sales are made, is essential to meeting the needs of today’s savvy omnichannel customer.
However you choose to sell your products – be it online, offline, or through wholesale – a retail ERP needs to manage everything within one centralized system for you, enabling you to focus on the experience and building strong customer loyalty.
Built-in integrations within a retail ERP will take care of your e-commerce orders from channels such as BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, eBay and Amazon, while retail ERP vendors must also understand the benefits and market opportunity that can come with a brick and mortar store, and thus, provide likely come with an integrated point of sale system as standard as well.
The integrated aspect is key here as it will ensure all your orders can be automatically downloaded and stored centrally within your ERP system. If possible, you should also look for an integrated point of sale that has an offline mode as well, so should you find yourself without an internet connection – for instance while on the road, at trade shows, events or at your pop-up shop – you’ll still be able to take sales and record profitability. All this may be a struggle to find, even from the best retail ERP, but is standard with Brightpearl.
- 5. Flexible Order Fulfillment
As a complex retail business, you’re likely using a myriad of different fulfillment options in order to satisfy the needs of your demanding customers.
Your ideal retail ERP should be fully equipped with various features to support your unique processes, such as dropshipping, partial fulfillment, back orders, and more.
You’ll simply need to choose your primary and secondary warehouses to fulfill from and let your own processes guide you, rather than limitations of one-size-fits-all legacy ERP software.
- 6. Integrated Accounting
Native accounting means you’ll always know exactly what funds are owed to your suppliers and when they’re due, allowing you to easily keep on top of your accounts payable.
A retail ERP should eliminate the risk of paying duplicate invoices or errors caused by manual data input. In addition, it must give you the ability to capture the right discounts, improve supplier relationships, and generally improve productivity across the whole of the business.
Furthermore, the best retail ERP will also come complete with essential retail accounting features like landed-cost and multi-currency.
With software tracking the landed-cost of each product, such as freight charges, import duty, insurance, and other taxes, you’ll always know the true costs of your products, and therefore, how healthy your margins are. That makes it easier to assess related aspects of your business, like pricing strategies and budgeting.
Additionally, all your exchange rate gains and losses will also be automatically accounted for and recorded within your financial reports, ensuring you can grow your business through cross-border trade with peace of mind.
If efficiency and global growth are goals you have, then even the best retail ERP may not be right for you. A Retail Operating System like Brightpearl could truly be the solution you need.
- 7. Demand Planning & Inventory Forecasting
Customers have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it. If you can’t provide that for them, they won’t hesitate to get what they need from a competitor. That’s why it’s so important to provide great customer service, and that includes meeting their demand for your products, which makes forecasting extremely important.
With the right retail ERP software, tracking past trends and forecasting future demand should be easier and higher on accuracy. Because the software centralizes all inventory, sales, purchasing, accounting and reporting data into one single system, you can manage the quantity of inventory on hand, optimize inventory levels and manage inventory movements easily and efficiently.
You’ll also have a real-time and accurate view into your stock, which allows you to quickly replenish your top-selling items, as well as phase out your less popular products. If you opt for an ROS like Brightpearl instead, meanwhile, integrations with expert tools like Inventory Planner mean you can easily forecast demand and purchase inventory in advance that is guaranteed to sell well.
- 8. Integrated Retail CRM
In retail, customers can make or break your success. Keeping this in mind, retail ERP systems should offer a dedicated customer management module that helps support the necessary factors of managing today’s modern customer relationships. Along with providing a truly integrated view of customers, it also helps you to overcome customer-related challenges.
Orders, emails, and call notes are all logged against contact records, providing you with a complete history of each relationship, as well as the ability to function as a coordinated customer-first business. Because you’ll have access to a full order history and customer interactions, your staff can unite their approach towards your customers, instantly improving the customer service your company provides.
Plus, as all your customer and supplier information is integrated with the rest of your business, you can also easily personalize your marketing efforts. For instance, you’ll be able to segment your customers based on order history data to help identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities within your existing customer base.
Gaining more clarity on who your customers are and how you can better support them is a huge advantage of the right retail ERP system – and one that any retailer should recognize as a key factor in strengthening their business. It’s something, though, that’s undoubtedly easier to achieve with an ROS like Brightpearl.
- 9. Hybrid Retail & Wholesale Functionality
Multiple vendors? No problem! Hybrid retail ERP systems may be the choice for you. These systems can serve both retailers and wholesalers; but still not as well as Brightpearl.
With hybrid ERP systems, you can get access to a full customer audit trail and previous order history for every customer or client, allowing you to work efficiently with your customers and build lasting relationships with them – no matter what type of customer they are. This is sure to be a winning scenario that can only help to optimize all your retail goals.
- 10. Returns Management
Returns are inevitable within most retail businesses, which means specialist retail ERP systems should be flexible enough to support how you want to process each return.
They should often allow you to bring items back into the warehouse for immediate resale, or if the items have been damaged in transit, or are faulty, then you’ll also be able to place the goods into a ‘quarantine’ location ready for review at a later time, or be able to write them off completely if needed as well.
As for refunds, with a retail ERP system in place, you should be able to decide whether to issue an immediate refund, allocate the payment against any outstanding orders, or keep the money on the customer’s account balance so it can be used against a future order.
This ensures your business remains flexible and adaptable – even during this post-sale phase – ensuring you don’t isolate customers from buying from you again in the future.
Best Alternative ERP Software for the Retail Industry
If Brightpearl is not the right solution for you, and you’re still set on a retail ERP, here are some systems that could work for your retail business:
Acumatica describes itself as ‘a platform that makes change easy’. It offers easy data access from any device, fosters a collaborative environment with modern, cross-module workflows, and lets you scale users and resources up or down depending on your unique requirements.
However, when compared to Brightpearl, a few problems present themselves. Acumatica isn’t wholly tailored to suit retail or wholesale environments – something Brightpearl handles easily. Acumatica also lacks in-house integrations with the likes of BigCommerce, Amazon, and eBay. Given the importance of these, Acumatica can be tricky to recommend.
Odoo offers a family of apps designed to handle a variety of different tasks. Whether you need to boost sales, streamline operations, manage finances, or amplify your marketing, Odoo has something for you. It also offers an open-source development model that results in a diverse software ecosystem.
Even with that array of apps, there are some tasks that Odoo may struggle with. Odoo can’t handle key things such as order and inventory management, point of sale, and customer relationship management—key tasks for any retail business. It also lacks support for payment processors like PayPal and Sage Pay, as well as eBay Inventory Management.
If you’re a frequent user of Mac devices, Odoo lacks support for these devices as well.
Netsuite accommodates a variety of different priorities, making it a suitably flexible tool for today’s businesses. Whether you’re looking to improve the efficiency of your final operations, get better control of your inventory and fulfillment, or replace outdated accountancy software, NetSuite can help you out.
However, that flexibility is hampered by some extensive technical requirements. NetSuite requires plenty of scripting and coding, which can take several hours to complete. Its integrations can also take years to complete, and you’re looking at an implementation timespan of over 400 days. Other requirements, like a dedicated system administrator, can make that flexibility seem less appealing.
- Infor ERP
Infor highlights many benefits of a retail ERP including complex process automation, quick data-driven choices, and simple scalability – all advantages it presumably offers in its own products. It also boasts industry-specific capabilities thanks to its use of Amazon Web Services infrastructure.
Again, though, Infor runs into various issues that can make it an unattractive prospect. These include slow integrations, long implementation times (an average of 420 days compared to 120 days for Brightpearl), and unforeseen price increases. These include extra charges if you want to bring on more users at a future date.
- Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics boasts cloud-based operation and a unified view of your business activities. It lets you individualize selling at scale, personalize service experiences, and make positive changes to your manufacturing operations.
However, Microsoft Dynamics suffers from a lack of focus, custom coding and scripting, and a reliance on reseller partners to solve any problems. It also may be difficult to train staff in how to use it effectively.
Lightspeed isn’t strictly speaking an ERP. It’s more accurately termed an ePOS system, which lets you bring together multiple systems and revenue streams and view them within a single interface. This interface can be easily accessed from a smartphone or tablet, and it also receives regular software updates to keep it running effectively.
By nature, however, it’s clearly less comprehensive than a true retail ERP and, by extension, than an ROS like Brightpearl.
Why do Retailers Need a Tailored Retail ERP System or Retail Operating System?
The idea of stripping away those redundant elements of traditional ERP solutions has its own obvious benefits. No business, after all, wants to deal with—or pay for—functionality they simply don’t need. The reason retailers, particularly, need a tailored retail ERP system or even better, a Retail Operating System, though, runs deeper still.
Many growing retail businesses start out using a variety of simple tools like QuickBooks or Excel to manage different processes. While that’s often fine when starting out, the needs of retail businesses quickly change as they start to grow.
Not only does this growth demand different applications to impact all aspects of the business, but it also begins to become time intensive and detail oriented – making it nearly impossible for the human touch alone to keep up.
Once retailers have grown to the size of a mid- or large-scale enterprise, many of them turn to ERP to resolve their bottlenecks and operational deficiencies. However, as we’ve already discussed, traditional ERP systems are not going to ideally satisfy retailers’ needs.
Thus, many of these businesses find themselves in the position of needing to implement multiple standalone modules, features, and integrations in order for the ERP to be truly fit for purpose.
Instead, retailers can turn to a tailored retail ERP system. Whether you need an apparel ERP system, jewelry ERP system, fashion ERP system, or otherwise, there are benefits to each of these unique ERP categories.
For instance, the process involved in selling a product might seem simple, but it’s actually quite complex. Consider this journey as an example:
A customer buys an apparel item from an online retail store. At this time, a retail ERP system captures the customer’s information, feeds it to the integrated CRM module — including their name, contact information, credit card number, and shipping details – then seamlessly integrates the necessary next steps into one cohesive experience for the customer to understand and the business to react to.
This process includes having already confirmed the product is in stock and available to send, having a notification strategy in place for when it’s shipped, and a concrete fulfillment process that includes preparing a packing slip and shipping label. Each of these processes is where the inventory, warehouse, and order management features of a retail ERP are involved.
When the order is ready for shipment, the fulfillment part of the ERP inventory system reduces the inventory one by one, and lets the inventory module know that it’s necessary to re-order this shirt in this size if it’s scheduled for automatic replenishment. The perk of this entire process, what’s more, is that each detail can be customized to support each specific brand or retailer using a tailored ERP.
When you factor in the necessary steps involved in an apparel ERP process – or any retail ERP process for that matter – it’s easy to understand that doing this all by hand or via processes not connected with one another is both time consuming and inefficient.
This is where retail ERP truly shines, however, by allowing busy merchants, like yourself, to trust that the complexity of any single order is easily managed across all the touchpoints of your operation. By having the system automate the process of information sharing, the many steps of the purchase process are essentially completed in the blink of an eye.
In addition to saving you time and enabling you to gain more clarity across your entire operation, your employees benefit from retail ERP systems as well. Thanks to a tailored ERP, they can make more accurate buying and operational decisions, as they have accurate, real-time information and the ability to eliminate potential errors caused by bound-to-happen human mistakes.
Plus, retail ERP lowers the cost of doing business by streamlining various operations and eliminating redundant processes – something any business can truly appreciate. Of course, the level of integration and unification is greater still with a Retail Operating System like Brightpearl, which is built specifically for retailers and wholesalers. There’s no doubting, though, that retail ERP is a cut above either the manual approach or traditional ERP alternatives.
Signs You’re Ready for a ROS or Retail ERP System
When you look at the advantages a ROS or a retail ERP can provide, it’s clear that they’re a valuable tool for retailers. But how do you know that you’re ready for one?
- 1. Accounting has become more difficult
Among the many categories of retail operations that tailored ERP benefits – whether fashion ERP, apparel ERP, jewelry ERP, or any other specific type – is that of accounting.
Long gone are the days when retailers can efficiently use paper-based sales orders and invoices, or even singular systems that do not sync with one another. Through integrated financial management within a retail ERP, you can confidently eliminate lost profits and loss of productivity while gaining accuracy in your accounting – among other – efforts.
This same explanation applies to financial reporting as well. By implementing a retail ERP system, you’ll no longer have to use countless spreadsheets to consolidate financial information across systems. An integrated retail ERP system can perform operations in seconds – something that would undoubtedly take most humans hours to do.
In addition, with all financials in a single database, your accounting staff will be more productive, leaving them more time to prepare, extract, and compile critical reports – among other responsibilities – without any hassle.
- 2. You have too many different processes
How do you record, track, and process information? Is there one system for accounting and another for sales? Does taking orders and getting them fulfilled and sent to your accounting system seem like an arduous manual process?
When employees use one software system to track, record, and process information while the accounting staff uses another, are you finding a disconnect between details and inaccuracies within your data?
Creating unnecessary challenges and inefficiencies shouldn’t be among the stresses of today’s modern merchants. Instead, retail ERP can diminish these complications; not as well as an ROS, but pretty well, nonetheless.
Through tailored ERP software, you can benefit from a ripple-like effect that supports everything from inventory management, to sales summaries, to payroll necessities, to shipping strategies, and more.
Retail ERP software combines all these systems so that every business function relies on a single database – delivering accurate, real-time information that retail leaders across any sector of any unique business can benefit from.
- 3. Retrieving information is difficult
If someone asked you about your month-over-month growth or the efficiency of your retail merchandising, how long would it take you to find that information? What about other key performance metrics, such as average sales margins or sales channel profitability?
If you’re a business that relies on spreadsheets and manually-written KPIs, or on a traditional ERP system that has various siloed modules, that answer could either take too long – or be too complex – to figure out.
Employees should be able to access key data immediately, without delays and without having to search for it through a mountain of paperwork or cross-reference a variety of digital platforms. With a retail ERP system and certainly with Brightpearl, however, you and your employees will have access to up-to-date and accurate data at any time that allows you all to effectively do your jobs of work in an efficient manner.
- 4. Customers are complaining
When a business is small, inventory management can seem like an effortless process. But as the business gets larger, one of the biggest challenges is making sure you have the right amount of products in the right location at the right time.
If you run out of a popular product, you’re missing out on sales until the next shipment arrives. Meanwhile, if a customer is asking about the availability of a product and the employee can’t provide a quick answer, your company could develop a poor business reputation of being unreliable or lacking in satisfactory customer service.
A retail ERP system keeps everyone on the same page by giving all departments access to the same information in real-time. Sales reps, customer associates, and all front-facing employees are given the tools to answer customers’ questions about everything – from order status to service issues – without having to check with another department.
- 5. IT Management is a nightmare
The IT department can feel like a minefield when trying to manage multiple systems spread across the business. Trying to customize, integrate, and maintain each individually — along with general upgrades — can be complex and costly… both financially and in terms of staff time and resources.
As a result, two-thirds of mid-size businesses are running outdated versions of their business software. Instead, retail ERP solutions, or better still ROSs like Brightpearl, make it easy to scale the system to adapt to your individual stage of growth, without the need for time consuming IT administration or costly developer time.
Retail ERP – Tailormade for Retailers but a Step Short of a Retail Operating System
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is utilized in fields as diverse as manufacturing, healthcare, and many more. In order to account for the needs of these varied businesses, traditional ERP solutions often include elements that are entirely redundant when it comes to retail.
That’s where retail ERP comes in.
Retail ERP is software tailormade to integrate and connect the specific business processes that are vital to retail operations. With such a solution, retailers can better track, assess, and streamline all of those crucial processes. A recipe, if ever you saw one, for improved efficiency, enhanced productivity, and a healthier bottom line.
Even the best, tailored retail ERP, though, is only a half-way house between the limitations of traditional ERP and the true efficiency and flexibility provided by a Retail Operating System like Brightpearl.
Therefore, as you look ahead to your own process of identifying if retail ERP is right for your business, consider what your long-term goals are.
- Are they to strengthen employee operations?
- Reduce errors?
- Increase sales?
- Improve customer retention?
- Provide more clarity to sales, inventory turnover and opportunities?
If “yes” is your answer to each of these questions, then “yes” should be your answer to: “Is retail ERP betterright for me than a traditional ERP alternative?” The answer is still “yes”, however, to the question; “could a Retail Operating System like Brightpearl be even better, still?”