Select the right software for your merchant business

There are many influencing factors which cause merchants to review their computer system. It may be that the existing system has no development strategy or perhaps there are concerns about the supplier’s security. Retrieving information, particularly when serving customers, could be a time consuming and frustrating process. Or perhaps, slow and cumbersome management tools mean that the system is not doing much for effective decision-making and business planning.  The acid test – is the incumbent system fit for purpose, or is there a risk that the business is being left behind? All these arguments are fine, but perhaps a little vague. Is it possible to simplify the expectations of a modern, fully integrated system? And then to assess how existing systems are performing.


With its 35 years of delivering class-leading distribution software, Kerridge Commercial Systems has defined four key areas to help sweep away some of the hype. The essential areas, says the company, are purchasing, stock control, sales and customer service. As benchmark groups these headings should help to compare one alternative system from another. And make it easier to judge the best one to suit the business.

Purchasing requires total control. Essential tools include being able to predict and forecast demands and place orders at the right time and on the right terms. With profitability being under pressure, the ability to control rebates is increasingly important. The system should be flexible enough to enable a choice of suppliers, national or international. It goes almost without saying that accurate, up to date management information should be available, and at the press of a button.

Stock control is all about being as efficient as possible. The key is to have a system that will help to optimise stock levels, ideally on a just in time basis. Facilities to support single and multiple locations, branches and central warehouses, means that there is a much better chance of being able to match customers’ needs.   

Nowadays, systems really need to be effective selling machines. First and foremost, there are new sales channels to support – the internet being the most significant arrival which enables trading to take place 24/7. Integrated ecommerce tools are becoming a must-have capability and customers also expect ‘fast food’ style responses when they make an enquiry by phone, or in person.

Which brings us on to profitability. The importance of having facilities that enable a constant and careful watch on the margin, of each transaction, has never been greater. Customers shop around and if deals are to be done, having the tools that can give instant warnings if minima are being breached is immensely useful. If the information is there, the right decisions can be made.
 
The end game of course is to look after customers better than the competition. More to the point, how can the system make the job easier. If its facilities are being used well to support purchasing, stock control and sales process, chances are a better customer service will result naturally. The business will know more about what the customer wants and information will be there instantly to respond to their enquiries. By being able to do all those things more efficiently and more effectively, there will be more time to develop customer relationships. And that you’re the best company to trade with.

Duncan Smillie, sales director, “From our experience the process of evaluating systems can be quite complex and sometimes it is all too easy to get bogged down in detail. More often than not, decisions come down to ticking the basics – principally how effective is the system in handling day- to-day processes, with speed and efficiency being the key criteria. We believe that the headline requirements in purchasing, stock, sales and customer service cover most of what builders’ merchants look for in a system. We also believe that our customers chose us as because of our consistent industry focus, robust product strategy and demonstrable track record.”