Could a good software system which fully ties into robust ecommerce help to alleviate the problems associated with future peaks in demand and unprecedented trading uncertainty asks Phil Davies, commercial manager of Border Merchant Systems.

ALTHOUGH IT WILL not be a smooth recovery, the nation is coming through the Covid-19 crisis, so now is maybe a good time to reflect on what’s changed and whether these changes will be temporary or more lasting. Trends that were already established over recent years have accelerated in the last few months. The decline of the high street and a move towards on-line trading is one example of this. The peaks in supply and demand have been significant, and preparing for the future has never been more paramount.

As for merchants, companies that have multiple routes to market have been better insulated from the shock than those completely reliant on the traditional model of trading.

Border has been developing and supporting merchant software since 1990 – and we remain a leader in innovation. We view the web as a key component in how merchants will both trade and interact with their customers in the future, and are continually developing our software system, CounterAct, accordingly.

Independent merchants have a competitive advantage by being flexible and providing a personal service for their customers. Rather than being impersonal, trading online can be viewed as another way for merchants to interact with their existing customers, and find new ones. It’s about making it as easy as possible for customers to access and utilise your service. You don’t have to sell nationally

August 2020

or even have a huge on-line offering. Your website can be targeted at local markets and can sell a core range of products. Alternatively, you could concentrate on a niche range that you have some specialisation in. Websites can enhance your customer offering with useful tools like project calculators, specification sheets, questions & answers, ‘how to’ videos and blogs. To optimise efficiency and reduce paperwork, websites need to integrate into your back-office systems effectively. The aim is to take as much administration out of the process of fulfilling web orders as you can, whilst making sure it’s as flexible as possible. Considerations may include delivery and/or click & collect for

both trade and retail. Pre-ordering for click & collect can improve through checkout speeds at the counter if you have a refined process in place. When customers start to see that pre-ordering is a quick and easy option for them, they will start using it. Having an on-line account management portal is a great way of adding value for your existing customers. Using a Border account portal, customers can log in to their account, see invoices, statements, quotes, delivery & collection notes, proof of delivery, generate a statement, get copy documents, and pay their outstanding balance. The portal not only cuts down administration time and links into a merchant’s accounts department, it also makes it easy for the customer to deal with you. Recent events have

demonstrated that change can sometimes come a lot quicker than we expect. Having an on-line trading option isn’t a silver bullet, but anything that makes it easier for your customers to buy and interact with you is certainly worth considering.

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