Inventory management for manufacturers in the eCommerce environment is uniquely challenging due to the product-type(s) they sell; namely ‘assembled’ products. To maintain flexibility in order fulfillment, a manufacturer will often ‘assemble-to-order’ using the required child components. With demand for related products with common components constantly changing, it becomes near-impossible for the business to indicate how many of each assembled item are actually available for sale.
FrontAccounting appears to be a relative ‘sleeper’ in the realm of open-source cloud-based accounting with tremendous up-side potential. Minus the modern marketing and flashy UI of more widely known commercial accounting products such as FreshBooks or Xero, FrontAccounting offers the same basic functionality (and more) for businesses to effectively manage their operations…at no cost.
Cold hard facts, we all respect them. When they are against us, they are hard to argue. When they are on our side, they give us confidence in our decision making. Such benefits with regard to eCommerce integrations are widely touted, but factual support in the form of ‘cold hard facts’ are almost always conspicuously absent. If you have been contemplating the integration of your web store with your QuickBooks or Sage 50 accounting system, here is a hard statistic that should help:
Perhaps the stickiest obstacle in successfully migrating from a legacy ‘Bricks-n-Mortar’ business to operating an online store is the creation of new customer IDs/Names. Over the course of time, customer IDs may have been created without utilizing any standard naming convention. When the prospect of integration is delved into more deeply, the process of reconciling the automatic creation of new customer master records with the potentially 1000’s of bespoke customer IDs can appear intractable.
Jeff Lipton, owner of Bobalu Cigar Co., states “When my business first started 10+ years ago, we did not anticipate the technology of today.” The technology Lipton is referring to is essentially the eCommerce platforms of today that readily enable most any business to sell online. So, Lipton, and other likeminded business people, would simply create a slightly different customer ID for the 2nd “John Smith” that called to order their product. The problem manifests itself deeply when subsequent IDs are created as “John Smith 2”, or “John Smith-3”, or “John A. Smith” …you get the point.
I often get the question, or some variant of, “Which shopping cart works best with CartSpan,” or “Which shopping cart works best with XYZ accounting system?” To which I always reply, “It depends…” A ‘squishy’ response to a question that, for most people stepping into eCommerce for the first time, would appreciate a more affirmative answer.
This is where, at a minimum, I encourage people to take a step back and consider their own business processes; where current and future requirements might be matched to an appropriate eCommerce platform. And if possible, take two steps back and consider the end-to-end business system that they envision themselves operating within. This is important as the decisions that are made can involve considerable investment, possibly limit an organizations capability, and be costly to undo.
If you are just getting started, to the point where you have no legacy accounting system or eCommerce platform, then the world is your oyster. The key consideration in this circumstance is to fully understand how all products function within a given architecture before committing to any individual component. As a biased advocate of the CartSpan eCommerce integration, this blog content assumes that you are (or intend to be) a user of either QuickBooks or Sage 50 accounting.
Suppose you have a group of items you think will sell better together, like a SHOP THIS LOOK deal. Maybe, you have a hat, scarf and gloves that all look great together and you want to offer them to your customers as a group. They get a great look; you sell more items.
Luckily, QuickBooks accounting supports the creation of an item with a product type of ‘Grouped.’ One may then associate multiple child products, with individual quantities, to the grouped parent item. Thus, when the individual parent is selected on the QuickBooks invoice, like all of the associated child items are automatically added to the order. This feature of QuickBooks has been a tremendous time-saver for organizations utilizing such marketing-oriented groupings.
“When customers come to our site, they typically buy more than one item. As an on-line retailer, I need to make sure I make it easy for them to add more items,” says Lisa Foster, who runs two eCommerce carts, www.1bagatatime.com and www.snapsac.com.
The problem for Foster, and many online vendors, is that her accounting and shopping cart capabilities were out-of-sync. Her Magento cart wasn’t configured to offer group items,, so keeping track of inventory, getting accurate data on what was paid for what, offering a group deal to encourage more spending, became messy. The Magento eCommerce platform natively supports the concept ‘grouping’ to improve the customers’ buying experience, but carts of lesser complexity (and there are many) may never offer such functionality.