Five checkups to consider while your business is still healthy

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It's common for successful businesses to experience growing pains. For multichannel merchants, symptoms can show up in any area of its business operations. Left undiagnosed or untreated, they can have long-term effects.

The good news for multichannel businesses is that thoughtfully implemented operations software is often the best medicine to prevent common ailments or cure them. So whether you've already diagnosed that your company has outgrown your technology, or feel symptoms coming on, here is the prescription for five periodic checkups.

It starts with flexible reporting. With robust and flexible reporting, managers can view critical operational areas and make effective decisions. Your solution should be packed with powerful reports to monitor areas from CSR activity, pricing adjustments, advertising campaigns, product performance, and warehouse operations.

Reports should display information via text and graphics, onscreen, in print, and even though special managerial views or dashboards. Growth and more complex requirements bring the need to access raw system data for custom reports.

Provide multiple channel support. Whether selling through one or more channel, your solution must be ready to expand. Ideally, your software maintains two-way connectivity with your branded online store and even connects with eBay, Amazon.com and other online marketplaces.

It should also be prepared to support bricks-and-mortar locations. Offer flexible payment options. Your software vendor should have established relationships with payment processing vendors and help negotiate the best rates with merchant banks, gateways and alternative online payment solutions. Make sure multiple payment methods are available, such as online checks, COD, terms, credit cards, PayPal and multiple payment methods on a single order should all be available. Simply put, flexible payment options increase sales.

Have a strategy for complex process handling. Even small businesses need to easily manage some level of complex operations to maintain their competitive edge. Whether you're drop shipping, kitting, running club membership programs, or shipping from regional warehouses, your system needs to be automated to help your business run efficiently.

Remember scalability. Invest in more of a solution than presently required. No matter how large your current customer base is, chances are you'll soon need extra functionality and capacity. Know future software costs for seats, add-ons, upgrades and service. Understand the solution's database capacity in relation to anticipated customer and order volume.

Also make sure that your solution has a proven track record of success handling large files of such data. These steps will ensure that you don't have to purchase a new system, convert data, or retrain your staff when your business reaches a new plateau.

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