Inbound Logistics | January 2024

“Honestly, SMBs are drowning in having to congure all these technologies,” says Mikel Lindsaar, founder and CEO of StoreConnect, an Australian ecommerce solutions provider with U.S. headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. Lindsaar has encountered SMBs with a 25-year history that still work this way. “These companies have traditionally installed the next-best software solution that came along and never consolidated their operations,” he says. In these instances, employees may have to log into as many as seven different systems to complete tasks. This all-too-common approach brings about what is known as technical debt: the implied cost of future software upgrades or new systems required when an organization chooses an easy but limited solution instead of a better approach that could take more time. “Competitively, SMBs need to look at their technical debt because it sties their ability to expand quickly and to create and grasp new opportunities,” says Lindsaar. And similar to how a bank loan must be serviced with interest payments, in the software world, companies often end up servicing technical debt with staff time and customer dissatisfaction. LEANER AND MEANER Pro-Ma Systems knows a thing or two about technical debt. As one of Australia’s largest, privately owned and family-operated direct-sales companies, its stock in trade is aloe-based cosmetics, cleansers, and body care products. Over the course of 40 years in business, the company, whose agship brand is Grace Cosmetics, has expanded into the UK and Canada as well as the U.S. market. Pro-Ma embraced tech solutions early on due to the complexity of its operations. “Because we’re a direct- sales company, a commission structure underlies the business,” explains Rob Hill, a senior manager at the 50-employee company, who notes that Pro-Ma began working with a software developer just a few years after the business launched.

The right 3PL will work with an SMB to find an optimal transport solution, taking price and service into consideration. For its SMB clients, for example, ODW Logistics often recommends using consolidators instead of shipping LTL.

“In the 1980s, we were creating bespoke software; there weren’t any off- the-shelf solutions back then,” he says of the core software that was written as the company’s commission structure engine. The company also needed a customer relationship management (CRM) tool and an enterprise resource planning system (ERP), both of which were plugged into Pro-Ma’s core software by an in-house developer. When Pro-Ma began selling via ecommerce in the early 2000s, the back end became even more complicated. “It all became unwieldy over time,” says Hill. This mashed-together setup caused increased risk and complexity as well as system bugs. “With all the recurring downtime for system changes, the cost to us was also increasing,” he explains. Pro-Ma rst considered outsourcing its ERP solution, then later its CRM solution, which led the company to Salesforce, a cloud-based software company. Shortly after, Pro-Ma was introduced to StoreConnect, a Salesforce preferred partner. SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH StoreConnect’s credo is that SMBs don’t need multiple Software as a Service (SaaS) systems connected by plug-ins to manage their online, in-store point-of- sale, and in-person customer commerce business systems. Instead, SMBs should have easy access to purchase

history and account and contact information as well as supply chain and logistics data—that’s the goal behind StoreConnect’s solutions. “The only way we found to accomplish our goal was to build our platform on top of Salesforce,” Lindsaar explains. “Doing so has allowed us to offer a complete, centralized, single- source-of-truth data position.” Salesforce also offers a customer commerce solution, but its product is targeted at mid-market and enterprise customers. StoreConnect offers a more affordable product that is tailor-made for SMBs. STICKING TO THE CORE The StoreConnect platform has worked well for Pro-Ma Systems. As it grew, the company hit the proverbial brick wall in terms of scalability and extensibility, and needed a streamlined solution. “Managing our ever-growing software ourselves was turning us into a software development company,” says Hill, underscoring how important it is for an SMB to be able to focus on its core competencies. Sold on both Salesforce and StoreConnect, Pro-Ma Systems took the plunge. From an onboarding point of view, it was a huge step to move software systems but the company was able to launch all the systems at the same time.

January 2024 • Inbound Logistics 153

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