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With the technology landscape changing swiftly and environmental factors demanding digital transformation more quickly than ever, now is the time to get on board with eCommerce for manufacturers.

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce or electronic commerce refers to any business conducted by two parties in an online setting. eCommerce generally occurs through an online sales portal.

Some of the most well-known examples of online marketplaces are Amazon and Alibaba. However, more and more businesses are creating eCommerce portals within their own websites.

There are two main types of eCommerce: Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B).

The Difference Between B2B and B2C eCommerce

The first example, B2C, can been seen in online marketplaces like Alibaba and Amazon. Even a small manufacturer can create their own eCommerce framework to sell directly to consumers, thus avoiding a marketplace middleman, like Amazon.

The second example, B2B, is a bit more complex. The relationships shared between of manufacturers, partners, and suppliers involve more moving parts. We are talking about systems comprised of complicated workflows, customer-specific pricing structures, multiple buyer personas and multi-site instances.

B2B eCommerce goes beyond a website of products and a customer’s shopping cart.

B2B eCommerce has the power to digitally transform a traditional manufacturing business into a modern enterprise.

Why Should Manufacturers Invest in eCommerce?

2020 saw perhaps the most dramatic increase in eCommerce activity ever. This was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses had to find a way to conduct sales and deliver their products to customers in a safe and convenient way. The adoption of eCommerce was a clear choice for many. However, according to eCommerce thought leaders at Digital Commerce 360, “80% of companies still depend primarily on their internal sales force to drive revenue, and that nearly three-fourths of manufacturers—70%—don’t have a comprehensive digital commerce strategy in place.”

For some manufacturers, digital transformation may be met with resistance for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common excuses include:

  • We do not need more software/technology.
  • We do not sell direct to consumers, so what is the point?
  • The business is not prepared for that level of change.
  • We are doing fine without it.
  • We already tried that and were unsuccessful.
  • The price is a barrier to entry.
  • We have salespeople for that.
  • We are unique, it will not work us.
  • We’re a people company and eCommerce is too impersonal.

These reasons and many more are provided by executives and managers who do not acknowledge that the writing is on the wall. Unfortunately for them, businesses that fail to adopt new technology have a tendency to fall out of favor with customers.

As more young talent joins the workforce, the need to incorporate modern technology and tools increases, too. Companies that are open to adopting technology to increase business performance are innovators and employees respond to tech-literate companies.

Businesses that are slow to adopt or flat-out reject digital transformation fail to remain competitive in terms of performance and in attracting new talent.

If not for convenience, new revenue streams, or attracting young talent to an organization, manufacturers should consider eCommerce for the insight it provides.

As customers make those online purchases, data is recorded. Companies can then use this data to understand their customer habits in more detail. Knowing who buys what at what time and in what quantity can enable more efficient sales practices and better customer satisfaction.

eCommerce Growth

According to Digital Commerce 360, “eCommerce sales will reach $839.02 billion by the end of 2020 with an incredible 40.3% growth from 2019, Digital Commerce 360 estimates. That’s the highest annual U.S. eCommerce growth in at least two decades.” By Q3 alone, US eCommerce sales rose nearly 40%.

This amount of growth is simply too big to ignore. The rise in eCommerce adoption is only increasing as manufacturers acknowledge customers’ need to access products and services on their own terms.

The Benefits of eCommerce for Manufacturers

Beyond making the buyer’s journey more convenient, eCommerce adoption offers three key benefits:

  • Efficiency
  • Engagement
  • Revenue

We will break these key benefits down to show you how eCommerce solutions can enable your manufacturing business with a whole new dimension.

Efficiency Through eCommerce

Efficiency through eCommerce adoption can be achieved in several ways.

First, your sales staff can be freed to pursue higher-value sales and relationship-building. With expansive tools and capabilities at their disposal, your team is more effective in the sales cycle and the company’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is reduced.

Cost savings also come in the form of cost of acquisition. That is, bringing in new customers costs you less. By leveraging digital marketing advancements, your business can identify, attract, and convert new customers far more easily when the gateway to their next purchase is accessed by a few clicks or taps on their digital device.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to talk to a rep to place a PO. By giving customers the ability to serve themselves through an eCommerce portal, they are empowered to control their buying journey. Access to relevant data like buying history, order status, quoting, and point of sale (POS), ensures your customers can make that next purchase regardless of your sales reps’ availability.

Finally, eCommerce ensures your customers are introduced to your latest offerings. This can be an improved product, promoted item, or components on which you make the greatest margin. eCommerce gives you the ability to put your targeted products front and center to an audience looking to buy here and now.

Engaging Customers Through eCommerce

Above, we touched on delivering the right product at the right time to your customers. eCommerce makes that process easier and more organic. By delivering an intuitive and familiar online experience, your customers will return, rather than see what your competitors are offering.

More customers are researching and buying online than ever. To ignore this trend is negligent at best and self-destructive at worst. Being where your customers are and giving them the means to direct their buying journey ensures they remain engaged with your company and inform your services alongside their needs.

More data may seem like a headache for the traditionally aligned manufacturer. However, with more data, you are better equipped to make informed decisions that benefit your business.

eCommerce sales data can be an invaluable resource in directing your efforts. Product configurations that do not sell can be scrapped, reworked, or remarketed to satisfy the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you are looking at when making business decisions. That’s visibility for you and your business. What about the customer?

eCommerce solutions allow customers to configure products online, view and access your entire catalogue of products and match part availability based on specific needs.

How Manufacturers Increase Revenue With eCommerce

When it comes to manufacturers’ c-suite, sometimes all that matters is the bottom line. If revenue is the only means of steering your company one way or the other, eCommerce makes a compelling case.

The fact of the matter is that customers, whether individuals or businesses, are online. According to one eCommerce software provider, as many as 75% of all B2B product purchase are now made online. Not only that but surveys revealed “1 in 3 buyers confess that they would choose a vendor, solely based on the ability to place, pay for, track and return orders online.”

Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer.

You read that right. Manufacturers need to be looking at an eCommerce arm for their marketing and sales activities. In doing so, manufacturers will not only be able to serve existing customers but also retain them at higher rates.

As new customer introduction and acquisition increases alongside eCommerce, manufacturers can increase their market share. The result is a more consistent recurring revenue stream.

By making purchasing easier and improving the overall customer experience, manufacturers can increase revenue per customer by intelligently marketing to them based on eCommerce activity. These personalized buying experiences offer ample opportunities for reorders, cross-selling, and upselling with ease.

Getting started with eCommerce

There are many options available for manufacturers interested in integrating eCommerce tools into their tech stack. Unfortunately, it can be as much of a burden as it is a blessing to be so spoiled for choice.

On the other hand, evaluating eCommerce solutions based on the larger needs of your company can be a sound business decision.

That is why manufacturers should consider Epicor ERP and its available eCommerce functionality. This simple addition can make the process of entering the realm of eCommerce quick and painless. Not only this, but Epicor ERP serves to support your business with a single source of truth that serves as the foundation for all your business operations and decision making.

Epicor ERP has designed their eCommerce solution, Epicor Commerce Connect (ECC), to be live on your website in as few as 5 days.

Epicor Commerce Connect

Epicor Commerce Connect is a comprehensive eCommerce solution that works with Magento and is tightly integrated with the Epicor ERP.

A key capability for manufacturers to modernize their business, Epicor Commerce Connect offers productivity of a cloud-based, fully-integrated digital commerce system. With ECC, manufacturers can communicate their brand value, make available unique product offerings, and compete in today’s online digital marketplace.

Fully integrated with Epicor ERP, ECC avoids multiple databases while delivering streamlined ordering, marketing, SEO, visibility, rich information, and customer service – all in real time, for a highly competitive price. ECC also provides added operational savings with a one-stop-shop ECC solution with flexible Cloud-based deployment, rapid implementation, and high scalability for rapid ROI.

ECC provides responsive mobile eCommerce adapting to different screen sizes on smart devices at a time and place of the buyer’s choosing. ECC can be your basis for continued business growth and a compelling, productive future.

Your customers will experience a modern eCommerce website with convenience, ease-of-use and easy repeat purchasing.

Want to know more? Download this ECC Fact Sheet, Rainier Industries Success Story or contact the experts Encompass today.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

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ERP for start-ups may seem like a bit of an oxymoron. The nature of ERP is to connect several departments  in a unified information system. This allows you to leverage crucial data to make informed decisions that drive the success of your business. When most people hear those three little letters, they tend to think large scale enterprise, multi-national conglomerate, or global entities. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Small And Medium-Sized Businesses Include Start-Ups

The modern enterprise isn’t a fortune 500 company. It isn’t even a fortune 5,000 company.

In the US There are roughly 17 million businesses with fewer than 500 employees. This number represents 99.7% of all US businesses and almost half of total private sector employment.

With that in mind, it would make sense the market for ERP that speaks to the small and medium sized enterprise is ripe for development. In the last 40 years it has done just that with tremendous effect.

Among businesses surveyed in a 2017 Deloitte report commissioned by Google, the top 20% of the most digitally advanced companies:

  • Earned 2 times as much revenue per employee
  • Experienced revenue growth over the previous year that was nearly 4 times as high
  • Were almost 3 times as likely to be creating jobs over the previous year
  • Had an average employment growth rate that was more than 6 times as high
  • Were also 3 times as likely to have exported over the previous year

Those stats can’t be ignored. However, what were the digital advancements these successful companies used to gain their edge in the market? Here’s how the levels of digital transformation of business is represented among those surveyed:

  • Basic – An email address
  • Intermediate – Website, basic marketing tools, online directories, and third-party marketplaces
  • High – Advanced website, mobile or e-commerce capability, engagement on multiple social media platforms, online marketing channels
  • Advanced – Advanced data analytics and applications for business management and customer interactions

It’s clear a business using advanced digital tools to help their business will perform better than those businesses using only basic or intermediate tools. But what does advanced really mean?

In this case, advanced digital tools includes:

  • Data analytics used to examine characteristics of customers, to inform business decisions such as online marketing strategies or products offered.
  • The ability for customers to make bookings and purchases through online channels, such as enabling payments through the business’ website or use of third-party e-commerce platforms.
  • Digital technologies and tools utilized internally in order to improve business processes or worker productivity (e.g. cloud-based software, video conferencing, corporate social networks).

Epicor ERP For Start-Ups Facilitate Sales Excellence

Let’s start with the first benefit of ERP for start-ups. It’s no secret that sales are top of mind of a start-up.

Whether you are in it for the long-haul or just long enough for get an offer, proving viability through sales is key in attracting investors and securing longevity.

Epicor ERP CRM and Sales Management tools drive intelligent marketing and provide insightful data about what products are and are not moving. Add to this the ability to collaborate with internal teams as well as customers externally through one unified system and you have a recipe for success.

With Epcior Sales Management tools Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team. By giving your sales teams the ability to manage their opportunities and automating administrative tasks, you free up their time to focus on building lasting, profitable relationships. It also enables your sales team to:

  • Produce accurate estimates
  • Streamline your order-to-cash cycle
  • Fulfill perfect orders and ensure high customer satisfaction

Components of the sales management module include:

Estimate and Quote Management – Easily generate and track all customer or prospect requests for quotation (RFQs)—from the time of receipt until an order is placed. Create estimates and get quotes out more quickly with more accurate pricing and lead times with a wide range of powerful tools.

  • Generate accurate and timely estimates and quotes
  • Import data from a variety of customer and system sources
  • Check inventory availability during quote entry
  • Manage the sales cycle with dynamic task lists that ensure the right people are working on the quote at the right time
  • Automatically cross reference customer part numbers to your part numbers during the quoting process

Order Management – Order Management drives the Epicor system. From the time an order is entered, its progress is tracked through final shipment—producing perfect order fulfillment on demand for maximum customer satisfaction.

  • With the Order Job Wizard, generate appropriate jobs for new orders in a single step
  • Check customer credit status online at quote entry, order entry, and shipment entry
  • Using blanket orders, establish multiple releases for each sales order line and pull parts directly from inventory
  • Link sales orders, jobs, purchase orders, field service calls, cases, tasks, milestones, and budget information to manage projects

EDI/Demand ManagementEntrust EDI/Demand Management secures your competitive edge by incorporating electronic data interchange (EDI) with demand scheduling.

  • Get full flexibility and control for setting up customer contracts and handling their schedules in the Epicor ERP system
  • Reduce lead time and effort for planning and procurement
  • With Demand Management, set up contracts per customer with such agreed-upon parameters as pricing, initial demand schedule, and contract end date

Point of Sale – Epicor Point of Sale (POS) extends the power of your Epicor ERP to a customer-facing sales environment—regardless if you need a single POS station or if you’re a multinational chain.

  • Feature-rich system that empowers store personnel to deliver an enhanced customer experience
  • Comprehensive functionality includes electronic gift cards, gift receipting, customized receipt per transaction type, coupon redemption/issuance, layaways, special orders, suspend and resume, item marking for various functions, additional input fields, multicurrency, start/end of day functions, cash management, and more.

Epicor Commerce Connect – B2B and B2C eCommerce are the new norm. Epicor Commerce Connect (ECC) provides your buyers and sales channels with a simple online shopping experience that encourages repeat purchases and sets your brand apart.

  • Launch an attractive, simple-to-use eCommerce site with your own branding in less time
  • Manage only one product database with tight integration into Epicor ERP
  • Simplify channel support by letting your partners make payments on accounts, access pricelists, and place quick re-orders

Epicor Customer Connect – Today’s customers want new access to information. Epicor Customer Connect helps you improve customer loyalty and online commerce.

  • Special promotions and pricelists
  • Enable your customers to make repeat purchases

Startup Growth And Innovation With Advanced Digital Tools At An Affordable Price

Epicor technology is powered by industry-leading innovation and expertise. The software empowers businesses of every size and is modular to fit the needs of a start-ups, no matter their stage of growth. Epicor solutions feature seamless integration with thousands of existing software applications, web-enabled platforms, and fully configurable interfaces and reporting systems.

Utilize the components of Epicor ERP your start-up needs here and now. Add more functionality as you scale, customize the framework to fit your unique business components, and take as much control of your technology as you like with on-premise, cloud, and hybrid deployment options. Mobile solutions can further be utilized to access the system from Windows, iOS, and Android devices.

Epicor ERP for start-ups is designed to be both accessible and affordable for the small business and start-up. Financing, subscription models, and even tax write offs are available for Epicor ERP software purchases.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

With so much news and industry coverage concerning information security challenges, the topic is one that is never far from people’s minds. This is especially true when sensitive financial information is being exchanged between systems. Maintaining the latest version of security tools in conjunction with these actions is essential not only for your customers’ peace of mind, but your company’s ability to maintain their confidence. TLS is one of the defining security protocols that make secure data transfer, and by proxy internet commerce, possible. Here’s a bit more background on the subject and why you should be considering making the latest upgrades to your system in order to be in compliance.

Transport Layer Security (TLS)

Transport Layer Security and HTTPS both work in tandem to encrypt the data being sent back and forth between customers and payment service providers such as credit card companies and digital wallets like PayPal.

Experiencing issues with payment processing? Upgrade your POS/PMS solution today and ensure you meet today’s Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) using TLS, and are able to process credit card payment without interruption. Not sure how to go about it? Contact Encompass Solutions experts to get your system up-to-date.

Using PayPal as an example, the payment service provider made a service-wide upgrade to TLS 1.2 just last month. The upgrade made it mandatory for businesses using the service maintain the same version to enact payment transactions through their business. This means support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 has been discontinued and businesses maintaining those versions will find their ability to use PayPal for payments and order processing no longer in effect.

On the client side, all it takes is a properly updated browser to ensure the latest TLS protocols are in place. Here is a breakdown of which browsers and their versions are following the latest TLS protocols:

On the provider-side things get trickier. Encompass works with many manufacturers utilizing Epicor ERP software, so we’ll use this as an example. However, any similar software or ERP platforms your business operates on will likely utilize the same protocols to protect electronic data exchanges. Therefore, the practical application remains the same. Businesses operating on legacy versions of the Epicor ERP platform, primarily those on 8.3 and prior, are most significantly impacted. With many of these businesses so far behind on technology, they’re quickly realizing the true cost of waiting until the problem is upon them, rather than staying ahead of the curve with regular updates. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a recent version of Epicor, and any other ERP product, for that very reason.

You may think that a current SSL certificate is enough, but this only addresses security when it comes to incoming web traffic to your server. You need an up-to-date protocol in place that addresses the connections your server is making to other services, such as credit card and other payment services providers.

Get Up To Speed And Avoid Downtime

To begin, take a good look at your Epicor ERP system. Is it version 10.X or above? That’s a tremendous step when it comes to ensuring you’re following alongside modern security standards. Maintaining the most up-to-date version of Epicor will ensure your operations are never compromised by changing industry standards. You’ll always be caught up with industry standards as long as you’ve got your business running on the latest version of Epicor.

If that’s not the case and you’re on an older version of Epicor, you may find your business quickly being outpaced by an industry in line with every effort to maintain the most modern standards of technology and security. Because industry and commerce are constantly at odds with malicious activity in a digital landscape, it’s important to maintain a framework that addresses those potential risks and places adequate security to obstruct their path.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Platinum Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.