What is an ERP system anyway? (And why might your business benefit from using one?)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the process by which organisations (such as merchants, wholesalers or distributors) manage the operational and commercial functions of their business. ERP software is an integrated system to manage all those separate functions in one place. Simply put, it helps you buy, stock and sell, plus service and manage your business, seamlessly and simply.

ERP software helps business managers to track, manage and review business operations, providing the tools to facilitate stock management, purchasing, selling, logistics, accounting, administration and all the other processes that need to happen within a business.

They’re not always called ERP systems, though it’s increasingly common to hear that term. You may have also heard them called commercial systems, trading systems, business systems, merchant trading software, stock and inventory management software and so on. Some ERP software has evolved from single-function software (so, having separate systems for accounts, stock management, CRM, purchasing etc) to become an integrated business management system.

Why do you need one?

No two merchant businesses are exactly the same. Every business has its own unique history, and each will be at a different stage in its journey at any one time. Some merchant businesses still use manual and paper-based systems; others use sophisticated software that integrates all functions and operates across multiple sites. Connecting all the dots of your business and improving the communication between functions and processes is enormously beneficial for staff, customers, suppliers – and your profitability.

If you’re looking for the best ERP software for merchants, there will be many advantages of an integrated system - especially one which has been developed specifically for your industry. These include:

- Transparency and availability of information across your whole business, without having to dig around for it

- Advanced stock control across multiple branches, depots and warehouses to give you a clear and accurate view of your stockholding at any one time

- Greater efficiencies in every individual process, combining for even greater efficiency across the whole business

- Advanced and intelligent analytics that actively help you spot opportunities and gaps, improve forecasting and drive better availability

- Prepares your business operations for eCommerce platforms and future growth

- Business and function-specific KPIs to allow every user to track and monitor the information most relevant to them more easily

- The best ERP systems for merchants will provide industry-specific metrics and stock specifications which allow you to process, monitor, stock and trade materials and products exactly as you need to, without forcing you to fit into pre-defined categories or measures

Advantages of a cloud-based ERP system

We’ve looked at the many benefits that the best ERP systems for mechants can provide. But when you combine the seamless connectivity and integration of a merchant ERP system with the possibilities of Cloud computing, those advantages just scale up and up.

They include:

- Instant updating of information from anywhere to give real-time accuracy

- Electronic PoDs, despatch notes, invoices and more for faster, integrated service

- Accessible operations and reports from anywhere, at any time

- Always having the latest version of the system with automatic updates and features

- Remote training and implementation

- Accessible via any smart device (NB: some systems may require specific hardware but a true Cloud system should be as simple as logging in from a browser for the ultimate accessibility)

- Enabling of eCommerce platforms to be integrated more easily with your business

If you’re looking for the best ERP software for your specific type of business it’s important to shop around. There are lots of great systems available, but it’s important to choose one that is specifically built to cater to your industry, so you can unlock the most useful features and get the best value.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any queries about how an industry-specific ERP system could benefit your business – we’re here to help!

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