As technology increases in the retail wine and spirits space, so can offer-integrated-solutions for ordering products. A long debate has been brewing on the balance of salespeople interaction versus the ease of electronic ordering. Luckily, there are some great features with many platforms that allow distributors to get the best out of both worlds.
First, let’s address common misconceptions and terminology of electronic ordering:
EDI versus Electronic Orders
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is most often used to standardize information between typically large chains and their vendors. EDI uses standardized transmission protocols to communicate often to a VAN (Value-Added Network) that acts as a post office to receive and send information to a vendor from a customer. During this process, communication is sent back and forth from the VAN and endpoint to deliver this information. Utilizing the base PO (order for the distributor), the information can then be used to communicate back shipment confirmation and/or invoices to make a full electronic circle in the customer’s ordering system.
Sometimes EDI software can communicate peer-to-peer without a VAN in the middle. EDI software and VAN’s have a cost, and often the cost is relative to the size of files and the number of transmissions that are exchanged.
Electronic orders can also be standardized from a customer but might be different than a standard EDI format. The customer typically has an internal team that works with each vendor to set up the interface. Functionally, it works very similarly to the peer to peer EDI option. Most software vendors do not require additional software to achieve this integration, but there might be more set-up or changes from the distributors’ ERP provider to achieve automation. The best part of this process is that there are typically no on-going fees to utilize direct electronic ordering.
Both methods will require adjustments from a distributors’ ERP provider and interaction from the distributor to test and identify problems.
Balancing the Debate with Process Improvement
Adding features into the process, such as notifying sales reps automatically when an order has come in or putting the order on hold for review in the back office, allows for interaction with the sales rep without adding additional data entry from the sales rep or back-office personnel.
Inventiv also offers features that include delivering electronic orders to Pocket Delivery for approval and is working on ways for sales reps to edit orders and then deliver through the sending process in Pocket Advantage. Make sure to check with Inventiv on features that might be helpful for your electronic order process.
Changing the interaction with customers is a natural evolution in this age of technology, but balancing it with the right software and processes can help you achieve the right fit for your different customers.
If you are an Infuzion customer and are interested in interfacing with a customer in your market in one of these ways, please give us a call or email Jami@infuzion.com.