Wholesale commerce is all about large volume and big profits, but as with all business, can come with the risk of big losses. Changes in consumer preferences, supply chain operating factors, and increasingly aggressive competition make it necessary for wholesalers to stay on top of their game.
Integrating software to organize their success should be the first thing that any wholesaler thinks of. The challenge is that there are many wholesaling software solutions with similar features available on the market. So how do you choose the ideal software that helps you manage and scale your wholesaling business?
To answer this question, experts at Cin7 have curated an extensive list of 21 must-have wholesale management software features. This 21-point list will help you make the right decision for your business so let’s get started.
Our experts have divided these 21 aspects into seven categories to keep things simple for you:
- Inventory management
- Order management
- Warehouse management
- Order fulfillment
- Reports and forecasting
- Documentation management
- Third-party integrations
In this section, we will cover wholesale selling features that will help you manage your inventory in a smarter and more efficient way.
#1 Inventory control
Any software you adopt should enable you to maintain the quantity of inventory you deem necessary and provide you with real-time stock visibility. It should help you meet customer demand at all times with minimum inventory holding costs and mitigate any delays in order fulfillment.
Make sure the solution automates processes like reordering and stock taking to help eliminate the risks associated with decision-making. In a nutshell, it should help you control your inventory flow in the most financially and business-wise manner.
#2 Inventory tracking
This feature revolves around providing you with real-time visibility of your inventory throughout your organization and across partner organizations. Every step needs to be tracked from when you purchase stock from your vendor, pick-up by your logistics partner to customer delivery.
You should be aware of the five Ws (who, when, where, why) and H (how) at all times, as it is instrumental in helping you make the right decisions. Also, you should be able to get details in terms of all batches and lots since this information will help trace any recalls.
#3 Barcode support
It is inevitable that you will require a full-scale barcoding solution that allows you to generate barcodes for all stored items. This includes items that are temporarily waiting to have barcodes printed for order pickup, packaging, stock transfers, and cross-docking.
The software either needs to provide in-built barcode generation capabilities or support it via a third party integration. However, it is preferable to have it built in natively as barcoding will be an integral part of your operations with many company-specific references like SKUs.
#4 Product bundling
As a wholesaler, you may need to sell products in bundles, but this complicates the accounting and other operational aspects. Your inventory management solution should support product bundling (also known as inventory kitting) so that you can sell confidently.
The platform should allow you to combine prices, select product combinations, and calculate margins and taxes. It should be able to consider your current stock levels, how long stock has been sitting in the warehouse, expiration dates of perishable goods, and offer compatible products for upselling/cross-selling.
In this section, we will learn about the features that will help you manage wholesale orders.
#5 Automating order processing
Automating order processing with the help of robust EDI solutions has become a bare minimum feature for wholesale selling as customers today expect instant confirmation and other post-order communications. Your software should natively integrate through EDI with all your selling channels and facilitate a two-way transfer of information so that your customers are aware of stock availability and make purchases hassle-free.
Customers should also have visibility into shipping fees, terms, and conditions, along with your return policy, making the entire order processing experience coordinate with the customer journey, and your business model.
Real-time inputs for all orders saves valuable time spent on order processing and boosts your organization’s productivity. This would also streamline their workflow management while enhancing the customer experience.
#6 Managing order history
As a wholesaler, order history management becomes essential from two perspectives: firstly, it aids in demand forecasting and secondly, it helps you increase the average lifetime value of a customer resulting in repeat business.
Ideally, your solution should go far beyond merely allowing you to manage order history. It should help make sense out of purchase decisions and generate insights that help you shape future strategies and campaigns. It should be a valuable addition to your client relationship management and overall personalization efforts.
#7 Shipment tracking
The wholesale sector has recently adopted digitization as a part of its business strategy, and shipment tracking has become a standard demand for wholesaling businesses giving clients important shipping updates.
This could be in the form of dashboards and self-service portals where your customers can access the latest updates regarding their shipment and directly communicate with shippers. It should also provide you with the shipping status of the goods sold and detailed information regarding any delays.
Here are ways that a warehouse management module can improve internal logistics.
#8 Managing inventory location and available storage space
Your software should provide you with both the real-time location of any item and its historical storage data. This will help you make decisions involving stock transfers like changing the location of inventory with respect to the consumption patterns and making space for incoming shipments.
This will help you direct your warehouse staff regarding pickups and material handling while also ensuring that your storage space is utilized optimally. It should also help you with storage space allocation and insights regarding the availability of space based on incoming inventory. Also, you should keep in mind that keeping track of inventory location will require you to use barcoding solutions and perform inventory counts periodically.
#9 Internal and external stock transfer
As a wholesaler, stock transfers are part and parcel of your business. Therefore, this is an important feature as it will allow you to perform internal and external stock transfers with accuracy and efficiency. It should allow you to print barcode labels for individual stock items, pallets, and entire consignments to help coordinate with internal and external stakeholders.
The solution should also help streamline accounting and record-keeping with templates that capture all vital information like the person in charge at both ends, details regarding transferred items, schedule, and cost of the entire process. It should also facilitate a reverse supply chain in case the goods are unfit for use. The goal is to keep stock levels accurate despite inventory movement.
#10 Generating pickup and packaging slips
Pickup slips enable your staff to swiftly find and fetch ready-to-ship products from their respective locations in your storage facility. Depending on your requirements, a warehouse management system should support various picking systems such as batch picking, cluster picking, wave picking, zone picking, and hybrid picking.
Packaging slips need to support specific requirements like adding special handling instructions and product bundling instructions alongside regular customer details. You may be required to provide additional documents like the bill of lading (BOL.) Its format should be in line with the expectations of your shippers and provide them with all the required information upfront.
Order fulfillment for wholesalers differs significantly from retail sellers. We’ve targeted these specific functionalities for the wholesale sector.
#11 Sharing order details with the customer
This is one of the important wholesale order fulfillment features that will allow you to send an order confirmation email with order status and other details. You will also need to integrate your wholesaling software with an email marketing platform in order to send and revert to transactional emails requiring data from within your organization.
Other email communications include delays in order fulfillment, shipping, order cancellation, returns, or refund processing. You should also check out the information-sharing capabilities across multiple channels.
#12 Customer self-service portal
Many software providers offer a customer self-service portal. It can be a great addition to your customer experience enhancement efforts and significantly reduce the workload for your customer service team. Customers can refer to the portal to answer questions that the customer service team would otherwise need to reply to manually. Customers can access shipment or product return status directly in the portal or VIA automated emails that serve the same purpose.
You can also look for additional features like a FAQ zone, community forums, and guides that will help serve your customers’ needs. It will also give you a chance to understand their content needs better and optimize accordingly.
#13 Returns processing
Statistically, 30% of online orders are returned, and hence, returns processing is an undesirable yet significant part of your operations. As we discussed earlier, a self-service portal comes in handy, but you will need other features too. Make sure your solution can print return labels, helping to automate return merchandise processing.
Because you’ve chosen a warehouse management solution that connects bi-directionally to your accounting software, you will also benefit from the visibility of the returning inventory and control of its costs. Also, you can choose to store the returning goods at a local fulfillment center and redirect them for resale if the items are fit for use. Automated returns processing will also let you know about the issues faced by your customers and even come up with educational material in case you find that returns are caused due to a lack of product knowledge.
Reports and forecasting
Here’s a list of business intelligence oriented features you should look for when considering wholesale inventory management software.
#14 Report building
Accessing data insights from your solution’s reporting capabilities should be a priority when considering software. It should pull real-time data in easy-to-understand formats so that you can make business decisions without investing too much time. It should be able to identify any irregularities in your processes and point out the exact reason behind any lag in the functioning of your organization.
The solution should have reports to empower each of your business functions, including purchasing, warehousing, inventory management, inbound and outbound shipping, demand forecasting, and manpower planning. Thus, the software should keep you well informed and provide you with crucial real-time inputs to keep your wholesale business running at optimal levels of efficiency.
#15 Demand forecasting
Demand forecasting is the process of estimating the market demand for your products during a given time period with accurate details such as the volume, demand centers, trends, and reasons such as festivals, holidays, and customer affinity.
These reports will help you implement a lean operating model where market conditions dictate action, and value is delivered at each node in the supply chain. Also, you can minimize inventory holding levels and make timely purchasing decisions. This, in turn, saves you from facing stock-outs or missing sales due to the unavailability of products.
#16 Capacity planning and estimation
As a wholesaler, you will need to understand the availability of your staff and their ability to complete work against business requirements. Reporting should also include availability of the assets and tools required for them to do their jobs, such as the material handling trolleys and trays used to transfer items.
The reporting should give you more accuracy around work delegation and estimated time for completion of tasks. The system uses inputs to determine how many employees are present, what assets are available for use (trolleys, trays), and the execution strategy to be employed (e.g., batch pickup, wave pickup, hybrid pickup combined with LIFO/FIFO). The result of the final computation is reflected in the pickup/packaging slips. This feature saves your team from having to make last-minute adjustments. You will also get an idea regarding the right number of resources required to run your organization and reduce attrition levels.
#17 Financial and accounting reports generation
Reports like inventory audits, inventory reconciliation, ABC analysis, inventory evaluation, inventory shrinkage, and inventory holding costs are among the basic requirements you should have in mind. Your software should also provide you with the accounting data that can be directly fed to your accounting system to eliminate work duplication and reduce any manual errors.
These reporting capabilities will help you understand your organization’s financial health so you can make timely adjustments to maintain your profitability. Reports like inventory turn days, inventory turnover ratio, fill rate, average spend per customer, and repeat order rate help you connect with the financial aspect of your operations.
#18 Sales quoting
Your wholesale inventory management software should help you with building sales quotes as it contains all the required data, including product availability, fulfillment lead time, discount grids, and payment terms.
This can be especially useful when considering the nature of bulk orders as there are many push and pull factors that contribute to a sale. Having a bird’s eye view of the pricing factors regarding the sale size can provide you with the much-needed leverage when considering special discounts, offers and each sales representatives’ performance.
As a wholesaler, it is important to maintain a documented track record of your operations. You will also need to be able to transfer documents within and outside your organization.
#19 Built-in EDI
EDI technology allows you to transfer business documents across multiple verticals in a standardized format so your employees can coordinate orders and collaborate effectively. EDI technology optimizes and automates the workflows across departments and even beyond your organization without compromising your business interests.
Having a solution with built-in EDI connections will help you reduce costs and increase your staff’s productivity as the software bears a significant portion of their administrative workload. Built-in EDI will help reduce errors, aid in the auditing process, and secure your organizational data.
Lastly, we will have a quick look over the third-party application integrations that are necessary for the smooth running of your wholesaling business.
#20 B2B ecommerce marketplaces
It goes without saying that your wholesale inventory software should support integration with all leading marketplaces, including Amazon Seller, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, and other leading platforms. A complete multichannel selling suite will help scale your business without any operational bottlenecks.
Wholesale inventory software plays an important role in pulling data from a single catalog and making products available according to the platform-native fields and functionalities. However, you need to look out for cases where your shipper and marketplace platform don’t display full interoperability. For example, one of the shippers may not support product bundling while the marketplace may support it. In such cases, your software should be able to fulfill the gap by coordinating with the shipper and ensuring that your products are delivered as per the displayed offer within due time.
#21 Third-party logistics companies
3PL integration is a must-have feature as it provides the required visibility into goods in transit and shipped orders. It allows you to pull data from your 3PL provider’s portal to your portal and website so that your customers and employees can track shipments.
This feature enables you to display carrier charges in real-time so that your customers can make a choice depending on their budget and preferences. Thus, this feature allows you to streamline your backend processes to a great extent.
Towards the end of this list, we can say that a lot of these features are interlinked and hence the ideal solution for your brand needs to have most of them in order to provide you with an excellent user experience. On top of these functionalities, we would like to advise you to look for excellent customer support since every solution will have a learning curve and you must be able to access help in a timely fashion for a successful transition. If you have any queries regarding the selection of an ideal wholesale software solution for your small business, get in touch with Cin7 experts today!