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How nutraceutical firms benefit from business management software.
By David Boos, CEO, Cornerstone Consulting Inc.
Technology gives natural product e-retailers opportunities to provide customers with valuable online shopping assistance through detailed product descriptions, video demonstrations, and consumer success stories-all to educate shoppers and guide them to the best product for their needs. But e-commerce comes with many challenges, and even the basics alone can overwhelm a company, big or small. Case in point: placing an order, managing inventory, providing customer service. These business basics seem simple enough, but if not handled correctly, they immediately turn off the customer and ultimately result in lost business or consumer loyalty.
Nutraceutical retailers need to utilize automated systems to consistently provide their customers with great service, accurate orders, and competitive pricing. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can help firms streamline order processing and inventory management, eliminating mistakes and handling increased order volume efficiently. Companies are then able to simplify day-to-day operations and spend more time developing new products and connecting with customers.
The Benefits of ERP Software
Gone are the days when business managers had to contact IT departments to generate analytic reports. ERP systems provide busy executives and sales representatives with personalized dashboards and analytic tools, giving them all the information they need at their fingertips and in real-time. Running an integrated ERP solution streamlines all business processes such as financials, operations, customer relations, inventory and warehouse management. ERP systems can also link with e-commerce sites and mobile devices, providing instant order processing and improved customer satisfaction. Natural product companies that have adopted ERP systems report their success.
Plum Organics, a leading organic child-nutrition company located in California, faced challenges familiar to many nutraceutical firms: its data was spread across multiple spreadsheets, e-mails, and manual processes. The company understood the value of integrating all of its information in one platform and decided to make the change. By recently implementing ERP software to automate many processes, the staff says it can now work more closely with existing suppliers and retailers and invest more time in product development and strategic initiatives. Michael Meyer, COO of Plum Inc., said that ERP software also helps increase team collaboration and more-timely execution.
Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., a company based in Utah that develops and distributes skin care products and nutritional supplements, said it also benefited by implementing an ERP system, with Nu Skin president and CEO Truman Hunt stating that “we knew it was time to get serious about replacing our old system.”
In-Memory Technology, Social Media, and More
Nutraceutical firms can benefit from other software advances, as well. In-memory technology is a new concept taking the industry by storm. For instance, traditional material requirements planning (MRP) data reports that used to take hours to run overnight can now be completed in a couple of minutes. The ability to run reports against real-time data instead of taking the time to transfer the information between databases allows manufacturers to make better planning decisions and to reinvent how they conduct their business. This trend will likely continue reshaping the current ERP software industry over the next couple of years.
Many ERP software systems are now also integrated with social media platforms to make it easier for companies to interact with their customers. Marketing campaigns can be sent out from within the software to select target groups. Communications are tracked, and companies have a 360 degree view of all of their contacts. And this feature couldn’t be more timely. Inbound marketing sales software leader HubSpot recently asked 569 consumers about how social media changes the way they buy and interact with brands. The results were astonishing. Ninety-five percent said they expect brands to have a Facebook presence, while 73% said that they are more likely to buy from a brand that responds on social media.
Something to keep in mind, too: Mobility is a huge trend driving all markets, so if your customers can't order from their smartphone or tablet, your company could be missing out on high-level sales. According to a 2014 report by Juniper Research, annual retail payments on mobile handsets and tablets are expected to reach $707 billion by 2018-more than three times the amount spent in 2013. It is also important for sales professionals to be able to place an order and access inventory data when on-site with clients. Using an ERP system that includes an mobile app allows for everyone to be connected at all times, greatly improving accuracy and customer service.
Now Is the Time to Invest in Technology
Technology market researcher BCC Research’s November 2014 report estimates that the global nutraceutical market, valued at $171.8 billion in 2014, will reach $241.1 billion by 2019, at an annual growth rate of 7%. Now more than ever, it is important for companies to maintain a competitive edge, so whatever changes you make to improve your business in the upcoming year, make sure technology is on the list.
Online nutraceutical marketplaces and efficient ERP systems are two necessary tools that businesses need to distinguish themselves from their competitors, get new products to market faster, and better serve their customers. While managing an e-commerce platform and implementing a new system can be intimidating at first, the growth that companies are seeing as a result makes the decision more than worthwhile.
As nutraceutical CEOs think about how to improve the bottom line this year, part of the plan must include investing in up-to-date business management software for serving customers, vendors, and employees.
Cornerstone Consulting Inc. is a Gold Partner reseller of SAP Business One software. The company also specializes in business consulting, e-commerce development, search engine optimization (SEO), website design, mobile commerce, online and social media marketing, custom programming, cloud computing, and hosting services. For more information, please call 813/321-1300 or visit www.CornerstoneConsultingInc.com
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Petrovich9
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