For any wholesale business, software has become critical to survival. Competition is now so fierce – and national and international supply chains so changeable – that wholesalers need systems that are fast and reliable to keep up.
So what should you keep an eye out for when you’re shopping around for wholesaling software? Read on for 17 key features – and why they’re key for wholesaling businesses.
- Learn more: Handle your wholesale orders with confidence
Why is dedicated software so crucial for a wholesale SME?
No stock, no sales; too much stock, not enough sales – and wasted money.
That place in between? Perfect.
Software designed for wholesalers is the way to find that middle ground and remain there. With inventory management and other software features built for the wholesale environment, you’ll be able to work towards success in a number of ways: improved profit margins by holding a lean inventory, optimising inefficiencies to cut labour costs, better strategic decision making through data… the list goes on.
And therein lies the short answer to the question: Why is software so crucial for SMEs? Because it makes business easier.
● Learn more: Why Should Wholesalers Invest in Inventory Management?
Software for wholesale businesses: features for SMEs to look for
So what should you look for when you’re shopping around for wholesaling software?
We’ve identified 6 important categories that wholesaling features fall under:
- Inventory management
- Supply chain
- Customer orders
- Warehouse management
- Data and analytics
- Key software integrations
And within these categories, we give you 17 features to look for – and why they’re important.
1. Inventory control
‘Inventory control’ covers quite a lot of the points we’ll be making in this article, so we’ll break the idea down into its components as we go.
For now what you need to know broadly speaking is that good inventory control is about gaining visibility across the five Ws and H of your goods – who, what, where, when, why and how.
But your software should do more than track goods as they travel through your warehouses. It should also readily integrate with other software suites – like CRM, financials or ERP. It should also be able to monitor suppliers, the reverse supply chain (i.e. returns) and handle complex shipments (e.g. split shipments).
2. Batch (lot) tracking and serial tracking
Batch and serial number tracking give you traceability. Where did your components come from, and where did they go next?
If you can capture this data and monitor it at a glance in real time, you’ll be better able to demonstrate greater accountability for compliance purposes, track costs, monitor wastage, organise product recalls and more.
● Learn more: Batch tracking with Unleashed
3. Barcode scanners
Another important element of inventory management, barcode scanners take what is usually a menial task – adding or subtracting goods from your system – and makes it almost automatic.
Equipping your floor staff with barcode scanners can drastically increase the accuracy of your stock data, giving you a more reliable source of information for the location and expiry of products, as well as where they should be going next. No matter how goods move through your premises, it only takes one scan to keep the information accurate.
4. Inventory kitting
Kitting – also known as bundling – is the act of selling multiple separate products together as a single unit. Examples include pre-assembled products, packed ready-to-order sets, gift or subscription boxes, and custom bundles.
Without the ability to automatically put these individual items together in the back-end, it can be complicated and time-consuming to track the combining and selling of a kitted set. This is where you would look for inventory management software that will automatically link products if they are combined as a part of a set, check stock levels, assign product variants for batch tracking, and update the system to suit.
5. Supply chain management
Supply chain functions are an important part of the wholesaling software package, enabling the tracking and analysing of key business relationships.
For example, if your software can consolidate information into one place, you will always have what you need to negotiate deals and contracts – and at a glance. Such information should include pricing (including quantity pricing and quantity discounts), purchase currency, margins, transaction histories, and key contact information.
6. Purchase ordering
You also might want to consider software that doesn’t just passively monitor supply chain information, but can actively participate in connecting your system with those of your partners.
If you register suppliers in a purchase ordering system, for example, you could set prices and references and have the software automatically populate purchase orders when required. When connected with inventory management functions, purchase ordering software can also send out low-stock alerts and auto-generate the relevant purchase orders to save you time. Some systems even reorder the new stock on your behalf, without your intervention.
7. Order management
Order management is useful for any wholesaler, but even more so for anyone moving to a multi- or omnichannel business model. This is because it gathers customer order data from any channel and collects it into a single catalogue so you have clear visibility over sales. It also means you can connect your front-end to the back – i.e. inventory management – which ensures that your customers don’t buy items that you don’t have in stock.
With smart software, you can also track and automate customer-specific pricing where relevant, or quickly calculate bulk discounts.
As a bonus feature, you should consider also looking for order management software that has expanded functions such as complex shipment management and comms. That way you can easily track split shipments or other tricky orders, and keep customers up to date in real-time.
● Learn more: 5 Tips to Improve Omnichannel Inventory Management
8. Shipment visibility
Save yourself the frustration of having to calculate freight for each sales quote or invoice by making it automatic.
Good shipment features will enable you to add appropriate shipping fees to quotes and sales orders automatically, and then split those back out again when you want to check your sales revenue later.
9. Warehouse management systems
Warehouse management functions are like an expanded version of inventory management, in that while they do take into account inventory, they also factor in staff, physical space, shipping, and so on.
Some of the specific features of warehouse management include:
- Receipting of inward goods
- Tracking stock movement through one or more warehouses
- Ensuring shelving or pallet racking is in place to secure stock
- Maintaining the quality of goods while in storage
10. Inventory transfer
Also known as stock or warehouse transfer, inventory transfer is the act of moving goods from one warehouse to another. This feature is very important when it comes to stock consignment, or managing the reverse supply chain (spoiled, expired, damaged or returned goods). It can also help a company keep inventory availability healthy at each warehouse location.
Inventory transfer works best when partnered with inventory management, so that your system is able to automatically track stock levels and compare them to what inventory a facility should have, based on current activities or the time of year. This means it can alert you that a stock transfer is required before it becomes a problem for customers.
Data and analytics
11. Forecasting capability
What if you always knew what was going to happen next?
This kind of power is attainable – at least to a degree – with sales forecasting software. Sales forecasting is the act of trying to figure out future demand using a variety of information, such as historical sales data and future conditions – for example seasons, holidays, public events, changing trends, and so on.
With goods forecasts, you’ll better know what inventory you’ll need in stock at what time of year. This can help those operating with a just-in-time or lean inventory model, reducing the risk of a surge in demand creating unexpected stockouts, or a slump in demand meaning you’ve bought goods you can’t sell.
12. Real-time reporting
Almost everything we’ve talked about in this article requires data – real-time data in particular. The closer your business gets to having real-time analytics, the quicker it can react to current trends, red flags and unexpected changes.
A few different terms are used for real-time data reporting, such as big data, data analytics, business intelligence or data science. While these are all technically different, from a layman’s perspective they refer to much the same thing – and if they’re in real time, you’re onto a winner.
13. Cost of goods sold (COGS)
This is a fabulous function, as COGS works out how much it costs to sell your products – even taking into account labour, overheads, and more.
By calculating your COGS, you’ll know what your best-selling products are from a profit perspective, and which items might actually be costing you to sell rather than earning you profit. These results are quite often surprising.
COGS is also vital for calculating inventory turnover ratios, a metric which tells you how fast your business sells through and replaces its entire inventory. Faster inventory turnover often points to a healthier bottom line.
● Learn more: How to calculate COGS and inventory turnover
14. Landed costs
Importing from overseas? Landed costs are important for you to track.
A landed cost is the total amount it costs your business to get your products to a buyer. That includes not just product costs themselves, but transportation, customs duties, insurance, handling fees and any currency conversions.
The international trade landscape is constantly changing, and therefore landed costs are always in flux. Any wholesale software system you deploy should be able to account for these costs and automatically adjust to suit – for example if currency conversion rates change, there are new taxes or trade restrictions, shipping fees increase, and so on. Knowing accurate landed costs can help you set and adjust your prices.
Key software integrations
15. B2B eCommerce
Most eCommerce shop fronts seem geared towards B2C retailers. But there is a growing demand for B2B eCommerce platforms, and as a result, a growing number of shop fronts suited to the B2B sales experience.
B2B eCommerce software supports the core functions of two businesses making a deal, like custom pricing, high-value transactions, complex shipments and auditing trails.
16. Sales apps
Many of the software features above feel like they’ll always have to be viewed on a desktop PC, right? But that’s not necessarily the case.
A sales app integrated into your wholesale software, or one that is offered by the same software vendor, can take all of that critical information and distil it into a smartphone format. With all of this complex, vital data at hand, your sales teams will be able to make evidence-based deals, using real-time stock levels, margins, production times and more to help them.
● Learn more: Sales on the go with Unleashed Software
17. Common industry software
Chances are your business will require other software to cover aspects of your sales pipeline outside the realm of inventory. Each of these should readily integrate with your wholesale system and speak the same language, and share clean data so that they can all work in perfect tandem.
- ERP – AKA enterprise resource planning. ERP is usually offered as an all-in-one mega-system that incorporates a variety of functions under one roof, including inventory as well as supply chain, CRM, operations, reporting, manufacturing (if relevant), and even HR. That said, it’s often not suited to SMEs, but larger organisations that need such a massive suite and can afford it.
- CRM – AKA customer relationship management. CRM systems manage people’s relationships with your business. These tools are typically used for monitoring customer relationships in the sales pipeline, as well as marketing and customer service interactions across the customer lifecycle. Basically, it is a single source of truth for where each customer is in your sales funnel.
- Financials. Automated accounting systems are a must-have these days, replacing old Excel spreadsheets that require manual data entry. These systems can track financial information, generate key reports, and maintain compliance with far less human input than a manual system.
If you can integrate your wholesale software with any of the above, you’ll be able to supercharge your business’s decision-making ability. For example, pricing and cost information from the inventory management component can be fed directly into the accounting and bookkeeping component, while stock levels and shipping can be fed into the CRM to go out as client comms.