May 17, 2016

The Evolution of Retail & Distribution Software

The Evolution of Retail & Distribution Software

In the 1980s and early 1990s, retail and distribution software was very basic. Personal computers were just hitting the mainstream, and many small businesses still kept their notes and inventory in a ledger. As the internet age merged, however, even local mom and pop shops needed to begin changing how they managed their inventory. Soon enough, brick and mortar locations became unnecessary for small ventures as eCommerce became a household term. Startups became easier to launch while inventory and distribution management became increasingly difficult as more people from around the globe began ordering products that business owners did not have on hand.


The 80s and early 90s: Slower and Simpler

At this point in time, when companies decided to create a digital inventory and distribution management system, many went the route of storing everything in a spreadsheet. This was possible because the pace of business was slower. Orders were placed in the store, by mail, or over the phone, which made for a slower and simpler method for making sales and ensuring inventory was sent out to the right place. For those that did use an inventory system (besides a spreadsheet), programs such as SMS QuickSell and Retail Pro helped keep everyone on track and informed.

The Late 90s and Early 2000s

In 1994, NetMarket processed an Internet sale where for the first time with the credit card encrypted.  This has started the “teenage years” for retail and distribution software. The internet had officially penetrated the mainstream, but executives and startups alike weren’t sure how to best use it to manage inventory. Passing around a spreadsheet via email became a nightmare because versioning often left end-users with incorrect data. Meanwhile, older systems died off, unable to keep up with the new pace of business. Retailers started to move their distribution centres to the cost-effective locations, meanwhile building their online presence with the first eCommerce stores. Those eCommerce sites had very little to manage their own products and shipping, and verifying payment and delivery became a major problem. 

Modern Retail and Distribution Software

From just a few choices pre-2000, retail and distribution software is now a booming market with plenty of options for users. A search of comes up with 81 pieces of software, and this is just for computers! Square, QuickBooks, Shopify, and PayPal all have their own built in inventory and distribution management systems, making it easier for users to stay up to date on orders and their current stock. With built-in POS systems, tracking, and inventory management, there are more options than ever for retailers.

What can be Done Today in Your Business?

  • One-day delivery and quick-as-lightning offers become the industry norm. Make sure that your software systems support this demand of your customers;
  • Personalization and predictive analytics giving insights into customer behaviour. Check our “Going Further than Hello, %FirstName%” to find out more about the newest developments in this field;
  • Contactless payments and security;
  • Omni-experience with original and functional solutions. By 2017, only customer experience will be the main competitive differentiation.

Where to Go from Here?

With all the newest trends, there is room to grow in this market, and those who plan on staying ahead of the game will need to innovate in their approach. Considering that millennials is the largest customer group at the moment. They value velocity, transparency, social responsibility and authenticity. Your technology partners have already prepared all the tools to be integrated into your business – cloud, analytics, data management tools, mobile technologies, as well as in-store and back office systems. If you think you can make a splash in the retail and distribution systems market, or you just need help with your data normalization for a merger, contact us today.