Consumer Omnichannel Expectations Are Shaping Fashion and Soft Goods Technology Needs

Consumer Omnichannel Expectations Are Shaping Fashion and Soft Goods Technology Needs

Customer experience drives fashion and soft goods sales. Whether shopping online, on mobile devices, by phone, or in a brick and mortar store, today’s consumer expects you to know who they are and what they like across every sales channel.

What is driving the need for an omnichannel customer experience? Today’s consumers crave authenticity, personalization, and convenience. They want to engage with your brand and products on a level that feels personal including product recommendations based on their styles and preferences. They also expect that same highly personal and satisfying customer experience to extend across every channel they use to interact with your brand.

What Should an Omnichannel Experience Look Like?

When fashion and soft goods retailers execute a well-designed omnichannel marketing strategy, consumers should enjoy a consistent experience across any channel they use to interact with the company. Ideally, that experience should be personalized to their:
Shopping preferences—some consumers like to view and touch things in a brick and mortar store but prefer to make selections and place orders online. Some like to shop on their phones, but make returns to a physical location. Whatever combination of mobile, physical, online, and telephone channels a customer uses, the experience should remain the same.
Product and style preferences—When making product suggestions, if a customer has always purchased geometric, modern patterned fabrics, the suggestion generator shouldn’t be push florals or antiques. That is why It’s important to gather as much information about each customer’s style from both shopping and purchasing history.
Garment size—if shopping for fashions, nothing would be more frustrating than seeing the perfect pair of jeans suggested but discovering they only come in petites while you wear plus sizes. In an online experience, it would have been better to shop by size and avoid the confusion.
Purchasing decision drivers—over time and with proper data collection, brands can identify what types of offers drive a consumer’s decision to purchase. Does a discount offer bring a customer onto the web or into the store? Or is she more inclined to respond to exclusivity—for example a “sneak peek” of the new season’s line up for “top customers. Maybe offers with very short availability help her make a quick buying decision, for example a product that will only be offered during a one-day flash sale.
Marketing media—some customers respond to email offers while others like receiving information in the mail or by text. Many shoppers rely on social media for a visual tour of all the latest styles and fashions. Finely-tuned omnichannel strategy reaches out to consumers using a personalized mixture of marketing formats.

Try, Buy and Return through Bricks or Clicks

Consumers should be able to try out products, buy them and, if necessary, return them across any combination of channels they prefer. When they do so, they expect any automated system or employee of your brand to have access to the same customer and order information. For example, if a shopper purchases clothing at the store but wants to return it by phone, the call center should be able to quickly access information about the purchase using a purchase number from the receipt or a customer loyalty number.

Industry-Specific ERP Is the Technology Hub that Helps Brands Power the Omnichannel Experience

A true omnichannel customer experience requires brands and retailers to know an awful lot about their customers. Consumer data is the hard currency of successful omnichannel strategy.

Select each business system with an eye to leveraging real-time consumer data for the benefit of the customer experience. Business systems must be able to share data easily with a single source of organizational truth—the ERP system. ERP serves as the central hub for all customer, sales, and financial information.

It’s easy to see why an industry-specific ERP is a must for fashion and soft goods. The same customer and order data must be available to the e-commerce web/mobile stores, point of sale (POS) software, and the call center. Inventory information must update immediately as orders get placed. Inventory counts must be aggregated across all warehouses. A generic ERP would lack fashion and home goods specific industry language and might not capture enough data to power your personalization tools or make meaningful analysis with predictive analytics.

Next-generation Exenta ERP was purpose-built for the fashion and apparel industry, with 700 years of combined experience and apparel-specific expertise supporting its continuous development. It enables brands to utilize the fashion industry size matrix—including style, color, label, dimensional sizes, and pre-pack information such as tickets, tags, and labels.

Exenta ERP helps brands engage with new channels rapidly, thanks to built-in EDI, real-time inventory visibility across in-house and third-party warehouses, comprehensive e-commerce and omnichannel integration, and consignment inventory capabilities. Schedule an Exenta ERP demo to see how an end-to-end solution designed for fashion and soft goods brands is essential technology in an effective omnichannel strategy.

Risky Resource Planning: Dangers of Using an ERP Not Specific to Your Industry

Risky Resource Planning: Dangers of Using an ERP Not Specific to Your Industry

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) enables manufacturing organizations to gain greater visibility into operations, increase productivity and efficiency, and make critical business decisions that can lead to improved profitability.

But does it really matter whether the ERP your organization uses was designed specifically for your industry? For fashion and home goods brands, the answer is YES.

When your ERP lacks specific functionality and configurability for your industry, you’ll find you must constantly adapt your business to work within the confines of the ERP system, as opposed to having a system that can seamlessly configure to your current processes. Instead of enhancing your organization’s efficiency, the wrong ERP might actually slow you down as you struggle to keep track of some types of data manually, outside the ERP system.

Kick the Spreadsheet Habit with Industry-Specific ERP

Historically, the fashion industry is not very tech savvy. Many brands that do not yet use an ERP are instead creating multiple spreadsheets to track different products. They use multiple spreadsheets to track production and Work in Progress.

Spreadsheets are notoriously inaccurate for a variety of reasons. Typographical errors are common, in spite of the best intention of employees. Usually, multiple copies of the spreadsheet end up proliferating around the organization and it is a challenge to identify which is the most current. In fact, different employees may be updating different copies of the same spreadsheet, meaning no copy is entirely accurate.

In contrast, an ERP system offers one centralized point for all data to reside. All appropriate employees and managers are able to access the system at any time for the more up-to-date information. ERP offers accurate reporting that displays real-time information.

Real-time visibility is the key to ensuring both customer satisfaction and profitability. At the end of the season, your ultimate goal is to have the least amount of inventory in your warehouse while having reliably serviced your customers and delivered products to them in a timely manner.

General ERP Lacks Industry-Specific Language and Standards

Having the ability to use your ERP as the one and only source of truth in your organization is a huge benefit. But that benefit requires you to keep all of your information in the ERP.

An industry-specific ERP for fashion and apparel will enable your brand to utilize the fashion industry size matrix—so your resource planning captures industry-specific language and standards, including style, color, label, dimensional sizes, and pre-pack information such as tickets, tags, and labels. If you fail to get this data into the system, your ERP reporting will be worthless and your employees will likely fall back to spreadsheets for tracking.

Death by a Million SKUs or Easy Multi-Level Configuration?

In a typical generic ERP, employees have to set up different SKUs for every iteration of size, color, style, and more. In a fashion industry ERP, they can set up one style and enjoy multi-level configuration to attach different attributes. This significantly reduces the data entry burden and ensures the information in your ERP is comprehensive. Real-time inventory reports in an industry-specific ERP have a level of precision and accuracy that is difficult to achieve in a traditional system.

Fashion-Specific ERP Offers a More Intuitive User Experience

If you adopt a generic ERP, it will contain all sorts of functionality that isn’t useful to your employees and lack key features they need. This results in confusion and a substandard user experience. On the other hand, if you choose an ERP designed for your industry, it will capture the right information, accommodate the right business processes, and produce reports with meaningful information.

Next-generation Exenta ERP was purpose-built for the fashion and apparel industry, with 700 years of combined experience and apparel-specific expertise supporting its continuous development. It’s a centralized, fully integrated system that enables manufacturers to customize for industry-specific workflows and criteria such as style, color, label, pre-pack and size. Exenta ERP delivers real time visibility across manufacturing operations—from concept to delivery—empowering leaders to make better informed decisions that result in reduced cycle times, and improved efficiency and profitability.

Schedule an Exenta ERP demo today and see the difference it makes to have an ERP designed exclusively for fashion and soft goods manufacturers.

How EDI Streamlines Supply Chain and Opens New Opportunities

How EDI Streamlines Supply Chain and Opens New Opportunities

The fashion and home goods industries operate global supply chains that must move quickly to deliver on trend products at the speed of consumer demand. Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, enables two companies to exchange information instantly about orders, payments, inventory, shipments, production orders, and more.

In today’s global business world, EDI has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have tool for facilitating rapid commerce. The benefits of using EDI in your business are many, and include:

• Improved order accuracy
• Reduced order processing times
• Increased global supply chain visibility
• Greater operational efficiency
• Faster communication with vendors and customers

EDI Keeps Global Supply Chain Data Flowing
EDI enhances information exchange between apparel and home goods brands and their suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, third-party manufacturers (3PM) and third-party logistics providers (3PL). Brands gain excellent visibility into the status of Work in Progress (WIP) and order fulfillment as each new job or order works its way through the global supply chain.

EDI helps rapidly growing businesses scale more quickly, without becoming bogged down waiting for information. Everything can be automated and scheduled, so your employees no longer need to prepare information and transmit it manually to supply chain partners.

Only EDI can ensure that you are sending and receiving up-to-the-minute information about orders and fulfillment with your trading partners. Customers place orders and you receive the data instantly. Likewise, if you need to place new production orders to 3PMs halfway around the world, they will have the information needed to get to work ASAP. Your warehouse or 3PL will receive the information about shipments arriving from manufacturing or shipments that need to be picked and shipped to retailers.

EDI Increases Order Accuracy and Speeds Fulfillment
With EDI, it’s easy to receive thousands of purchase orders per day and process them in minutes. You can create a catalog with item numbers, price list, sizes and options that customers can receive instantly, at any time, and use to create accurate orders.

EDI can help reduce payment risk and improve cash flow. When an order comes in, EDI can automatically request confirmation of the customer’s credit line with their Factor [ex., Wells Fargo or other institutions]. When orders are filled and shipped, EDI can automatically send invoices to the Factor and the customer.

Manual data entry is prone to error. When your EDI is built into your ERP system, the information flows seamlessly without the possibility of typographical errors that arise when your employees have to rekey data into a separate system.

Improved Visibility Strengthens Customer Relationships
With EDI, brands enjoy unsurpassed visibility into the status of production, inventory, logistics, and order processing. No more having to send employees to Asia or South America to iron out the status of work in progress. No more wondering if you’ll be able to fulfill your biggest orders.

With EDI, you can stay on top of every production order, shipment and sale. And you can extend that enhanced visibility to your customers. Without hiring more employees or spending extra time creating reports, you will be able to deliver better informed customer service that strengthens long-term business relationships.

EDI Opens New Sales Opportunities
Strong relationships with smaller customers may still be built on relationships alone. But without the proper systems in place to provide efficiency and visibility, larger customers simply cannot do business with fashion and home goods brands. Brands that leverage EDI position themselves to do business with the world’s largest retailers and e-commerce platforms, many of whom require EDI as their standard for information exchange. Getting your products into a giant retailer like Walmart, Target or Macy’s can generate business-transforming sales volume and revenue potential.

Exenta ERP Delivers Built-in EDI
If modernizing your business with EDI sounds intimidating—you can relax with Exenta EDI. Part of our next-generation Exenta ERP, everything you need for flawless EDI is built in to the system. Our EDI was designed to be extremely easy use—once you set it up, it works every time. Our technology takes care of data file translation and transmission behind the scenes. No matter the complexity, Exenta EDI puts the information you need at your fingertips.

Every task is completed in once place—no need to go into multiple systems to set up new trading partners. There is no third-party translator to cause technical glitches. Our Customer Support team walks each customer through the process of setting up their first trading partner from start to finish.

Exenta EDI can be a game-changer for brands seeking greater visibility and more sophisticated trading partners. Exenta ERP also provides seamless data handling across multiple channels, including pre-built integration into e-commerce heavyweights such as Shopify, Magento, and Amazon. Schedule an Exenta ERP demo today and ask to see how easy it is to streamline your supply chain with EDI.

Best Defense is a Good Offense: How to Arm Your Manufacturing Organization against Costly Chargebacks

Best Defense is a Good Offense: How to Arm Your Manufacturing Organization against Costly Chargebacks

In the fashion and home goods industry, retailer chargebacks to wholesalers and manufacturers are disruptive to operations and negatively impact the bottom line. Generally, chargebacks are the result of mistakes—a failure to adhere to the retailers performance standards in terms of order accuracy, order timeliness, or product labeling. The result is a fine levied back against the manufacturer or wholesaler—a chargeback.

For decades, apparel and home goods manufacturers had to accept a high number of chargebacks from retailer customers as a cost of doing business. As Supply Chain Digest editor-in-chief Dan Gilmore once recalled, “in the 1990s, Kmart used to just take 2% off the invoice just on the assumption every supplier would have violations and the automatic deduction was just the easiest approach.” Today, fashion manufacturers would like their customers to be more precise than that when it comes to chargebacks. Fortunately, technology exists to avoid costly chargebacks and greatly reduce the total number that need to be processed.

The Cost of Chargebacks in the Fashion Industry

All major retailers have vendor compliance scorecards with the goal of encouraging their suppliers to improve order accuracy. When orders don’t arrive on time, retail shelves may go empty or the retailer has to overstock other inventory in order to avoid it. When orders are processed incorrectly, the wrong products or sizes may be received. Mislabeling or mistakes on Advanced Shipping Notices (ASN) can create havoc in Receiving.

Out-of-compliance shipments from manufacturers lower retailer productivity and sales revenue. Chargebacks are the mechanism by which retailers recover lost revenue and wasted time. According to Zipline Logistics, chargeback fines can equal up to 20% of an invoice. On a large order, chargebacks can potentially cost manufacturers thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

Chargebacks have another hidden cost; they often cause mistrust and resentment between vendors and retailers. Many fashion brands are convinced retailers run their chargeback department as a profit center—and some might. Usually retailers deduct the chargeback fees from the vendor’s invoice, so there is little the manufacturer can do to protest, since the money is on the retailer’s side of the table. From the retailer perspective, retailers—especially giants like Walmart, Target and Amazon, must shore up the reliability of their supply chain in a world of just-in-time inventory, fast fashion, and consumer expectations to receive any product within a matter of hours or days.

Even though chargebacks are one of the most negative aspects of vendor/retailer relationships, they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. A 2017 Supply Chain Digest study found 43% of retailers and 58% of vendors expect increased chargeback activity over the next few years.

How Shop Floor Control and EDI Help Proactively Defend against Chargebacks

Because most retailers simply subtract chargebacks from the amount they pay on manufacturers’ invoices, the best defense is a good offense. Avoid mistakes using superior business processes and technology.

Shop Floor Control solutions allow a manufacturer, or even a vendor who works with manufacturers, to see every aspect of work in process, in real time. This can help you avoid the chargebacks associated with late delivery of orders to retailers. Not only can you see when each order should be ready for fulfillment, you can also monitor the quality of the products in real time and see the labor that’s being used to produce it.

If an important order is slipping behind on production deadlines, brands can monitor what’s happening on the production floor, even from thousands of miles away. In an instant, you could offer employees incentive pay to speed up production or choose a different shipping method to shave time off delivery. You could also reprioritize upcoming production orders ensure you’ll meet your deadlines for your most important customers.

Our customers typically experience between 20-30% improvement in productivity or cost savings using Exenta Shop Floor Control — all while enjoying real-time visibility and control needed to reduce costly chargebacks.

Sign up for a Shop Floor Control demo and learn what it could do to improve timely and accurate deliveries to your retail partners.

EDI mistakes can be a prominent source of chargebacks if you lack true automation, integration with critical supply chain systems like ERP, and key functionality to scan transactions for mistakes prior to delivery. Generally the mistakes for chargebacks come from an EDI transaction that goes out unchecked. In other words, you don’t have the ability to see that the transaction is missing key data such as a product size, weight, quantity, etc. As soon as you send out the ASN without all of the fields filled in properly, you’ve probably incurred an immediate chargeback from the retailer.

With the proper EDI automation in place, you’ll be notified that there’s something missing automatically and you will be able to proactively review the EDI transactions and correct mistakes before electronic paperwork goes to your customers. Exenta EDI is built into our next-generation Exenta ERP, and it was designed to be extremely easy to set up and to use. Every task is completed in one place without any need for third-party translators or other apps.

Schedule an Exenta ERP demo today and see how our EDI’s automatic checks and notifications can help your team produce flawless paperwork for your trading partners, including POs, ASNs, invoices and much more.

Could Your Legacy ERP Be THE One Thing Standing Between Your Organization and Your Goals?

Could Your Legacy ERP Be THE One Thing Standing Between Your Organization and Your Goals?

As the centralized system of record for sales, accounting, production, supply chain, workforce and business intelligence, everything your ERP system manages is mission critical. The right ERP should help your company drive business goals for growth, workforce productivity, profitability, and customer relationships—not impede those goals.
Apparel and soft goods manufacturers relying on legacy ERP face greater risks
It’s no secret that fashion is a rapidly moving and highly competitive industry. In a perfect world, with all of the business data you need and exceptional insight, you’d still have to work hard to read the marketplace and stay ahead of competitors. But with a legacy ERP system as the hub of business, the world is far from perfect. Many legacy ERP systems don’t deliver the necessary data and insight to optimize the business, leading to more business risks, including:

1. Lack of real-time data – Most legacy ERP systems can’t deliver real-time data, especially if your business has international operations or multiple locations. Instead of looking at what is going on in your business right now around the world, you will be presented with backward-looking monthly reports.

2. Isolated data streams – Integrating an application into a legacy ERP system requires extensive programming knowledge to build a proprietary link. Every time you have to install an updated version of your ERP, there’s a chance the integration will break. For this reason, many businesses operate their legacy ERP system without integration into essential applications such as Shop Floor Control (SFC), Warehouse Management (WM) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Isolated data streams prevent consolidated reporting that executives need.

3. Limited reporting for data analysis – The reporting tools inside legacy ERP systems are less robust and less easy to use than today’s business intelligence technology. Legacy database structures didn’t allow for slicing and dicing data as well as modern solutions, and the legacy tools weren’t designed to provide a 30,000 foot view while allowing you to rapidly drill down into granular detail.

4. Spreadsheets and manual data manipulation – Lacking the reporting needed from the legacy ERP system, many professionals turn to spreadsheets. There they try to integrate disparate data streams and manually manipulate the data into a more usable format for decision-making. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to make data entry errors, mistranslate data, or set up incorrect calculations.

5. Strategic gridlock – When executives don’t have enough information to confidently make decisions about the business, one possible outcome is strategic gridlock. The C-suite constantly needs to reach back out to sales, finance and accounting, and operations to request more information. Competitors move forward with strategic initiatives, while you’re stuck at the drawing board.

6. Less informed decision making – As a direct consequence of being frustrated by a lack of real-time information and analysis, some business leaders will simply try to make the best decision they can with the data they’ve got. That is not necessarily the wrong approach, but in today’s rapidly-changing business environment, going down the wrong road—even for a short time—can have disastrous business consequences.

With so many challenges, why do organizations hold onto their legacy systems?
People don’t like to change, and a big change to a mission-critical system like ERP causes more fear and indecision than smaller software adoptions. Even though spreadsheets and manual data manipulation are terribly inefficient and often lead to inaccurate information, it can be hard to let go of a process you have trusted.

Modern, fully-integrated ERP systems open new opportunities
Modernizing the ERP creates big opportunities for improvement within apparel and fashion organizations. Having real-time, reliable information at your fingertips enables your team to spend less time messing with spreadsheets and looking for emails. Instead, they can dive into timely data in order to:
• Discover new insights about demand patterns and customer preferences
• Become a better supply chain partner to suppliers, distributors and retailers
• Develop better products and bring them to market more quickly
• Identify workflow improvements that boost manufacturing efficiency
• Increase on-time order deliveries
• Control production costs and improve workforce utilization

Move legacy ERP out of the way and advance your business goals
Exenta can help you revolutionize your business by providing real time visibility across every aspect of your business—from design to delivery. From concept to cash, we give apparel and soft goods executives the tools to understand everything going on in the business, so they can make faster, better decisions that result in reduced cycle times, unprecedented efficiency gains, and increased profitability. This leads to better partnerships and happier employees—two keys to long-term business success.

Exenta ERP was purpose-built for the fashion and apparel industry, with 700 years of combined experience and apparel-specific expertise supporting its continuous development. Built on next-generation technology, Exenta ERP is a single fully integrated system that gives apparel manufacturers the ability to customize for industry-specific workflows and criteria such as style, color, label, pre-pack and size.

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To hear how Exenta ERP helped RG Barry Corporation increase productivity and profitability, watch this PLM video. Or, contact us today for a demo and learn how Exenta ERP can transform your manufacturing operations.