The massive uptick in ecommerce sales has created opportunities and challenges for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers worldwide. Organizations that already had effective ecommerce storefronts and backend systems in place were well positioned to handle the pandemic-driven online sales surge. Everyone else had to scramble to get those systems in place quickly—or miss out on a big chunk of sales—while at the same time dealing with a global crisis and subsequent economic downturn.
Here are five major pain points that many brands are dealing with right now:
- Online shopping takes the wheel. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed a record number of consumers to buy online. Worldwide retail ecommerce sales posted a 27.6% growth rate in 2020, with sales exceeding $4 trillion. Over the 2020 holidays, online sales in the U.S. reached $188.2 billion, a 32.2% increase compared to 2019. Driven by the emergence of COVID plus the subsequent shutdowns and quarantines and a sentiment that shopping online is a safer bet during a global pandemic, the online shopping boom isn’t expected to tail off anytime soon.
- Expect the unexpected. Caught off guard by the events of 2020, many brands had to scramble to get their ecommerce storefronts, fulfillment infrastructures, and distribution networks put into place. With business slowing down due to the pandemic, and with social distancing requirements impacting the labor environment, not all organizations were equipped to handle this shift.
- On-premises systems are the remote work killers. Social distancing, quarantines, shutdowns, and the move to remote work exacerbated the challenge and proved especially detrimental for companies using on-premises technology systems. In fact, these slow, bulky, siloed systems quickly became competitive disadvantages for the companies that had relied on them for decades. At the same time, online giants like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart found themselves in the enviable position of already having their ecommerce infrastructures in place and ready to serve. Everyone else—and particularly those brands running on QuickBooks, Sage, spreadsheets, and/or manual processes—had to gear up quickly to meet the demands of the direct to consumer (D2C) marketplace.
- More consumers are buying direct. Traditionally, manufacturers sold their products through retail, wholesale, or direct channels. The latter made up a smaller percentage of sales, with brands working hard to develop and cultivate their distribution networks. That’s been slowly changing over the last decade, thanks mainly to a massive uptick in D2C sales that’s forcing manufacturers to engage directly with their end-user customers.
- Brick and mortar fall out of favor. Even as total worldwide retail sales declined by 3.0%, ecommerce performed above pre-pandemic expectations in 2020. To offset this shift, the computer hardware manufacturer that once sold only via wholesalers and to retail outlets like Best Buy is probably now also working directly with consumers. Changes in the brick-and-mortar retail environment are also impacting the selling environment. Forced to shut down its physical stores during the pandemic and sell more products online, for example, a retailer also needs robust technology tools to help it efficiently meet its customers’ needs.
Cloud ERP to the Rescue
As ecommerce continues its march to dominance in the D2C sector, brands operating in this world will need integrated technology tools that help them automate everything from the point of order to the point of delivery—and all steps in between. In the absence of an automated system, these companies won’t be able to efficiently connect, manage, and track orders across multiple marketplaces.
ERP systems provide a single source of data for key business processes including financials, customer relationship management, supply chain and order management, ecommerce and more. Cloud-based systems like NetSuite provide anytime, anywhere access to key business information – especially important during a remote work environment.
CloudConnect, a leading solution provider of NetSuite, works with brands to replace their existing disjointed systems – like QuickBooks, Sage, and Microsoft Excel sheets – with NetSuite cloud ERP. CloudConnect has decades of experience working with brands to connect their ERP systems with third-party marketplaces to manage and automate their online listings, content, inventory, pricing, purchases, orders, fulfillment, and reporting.