New Articles

Fashion Retailers & Brands will need to Adapt As the Industry Emerges from the Pandemic 

retailers

Fashion Retailers & Brands will need to Adapt As the Industry Emerges from the Pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the entire industry into crisis. Beyond its tragic human cost, the disruption inflicted on businesses has been unprecedented. Footfall has disappeared from the high street as people practice social distancing, while demand for non-essential products such as fashion has dwindled.

With international flights grounded and much of Europe and the United States on lockdown, boutiques are concerned about how they will shift this season’s summer dresses and beachwear. Likewise, small independent fashion brands are apprehensive about retail sell-through and how their stockist partners will be able to pay their invoices.

For many businesses, innovation will be key to getting through this extremely challenging time. The government has laid out plans to help businesses with schemes such as loans and grants. However, this type of aid will only stretch so far.

Some boutiques are taking drastic measures to reach their customers. Several closed their bricks-and-mortar stores early on, deciding to concentrate on their online offering to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, those retailers without an online presence have been thinking outside of the box. Some have locked their doors for one-to-one appointments while others are conducting telephone consultations on FaceTime and personal shopping sessions via WhatsApp.

But selling to customers is just one part of retailing. Buying for the store and its shoppers is just as critical for sustaining a profitable business. Trade shows, buying trips and fashion shows are a fundamental part of the chain – and we have already seen many cancellations since the outbreak began to take hold. Will the pandemic be over when brands re-open their order books for SS21?

Forward ordering is another concern for many small independent retailers right now. With sales of SS20 season stock now under threat, many are worried about AW20 orders written just weeks ago arriving in July and August. If they decide to cancel now, what happens if sales begin to pick up and they’re left with empty rails? Likewise, if they don’t cancel, will they end up with surplus stock that they can’t pay for?

For many, using budgets to buy in-season offers a straightforward solution. Because when the panic subsides and sales begin to pick up – which they inevitably will – ensuring that stores have the right stock in place for shoppers will once again be paramount.

B2B fashion marketplaces such as TradeGala will become increasingly important for retailers. Effectively removing the need to travel or visit trade shows and showrooms, buyers can browse multiple brands online and place orders directly. The brands on the site offer in-season delivery, meaning retailers can order what they need as and when they need it. Plus, it’s easy to check live stock at a glance so buyers can see exactly what’s available with just a few clicks – minimizing any concern surrounding supply chains.

For brands, TradeGala is offering free registration during this crisis period to offer time to prepare for when the market revives. The marketplace is also building its international following of buyers, allowing labels to reach buyers in markets that are less affected by the crisis to help minimize the drop in sales.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and the retail sector needs to adapt in order to survive. There is a challenging time ahead, but retailers and brands are working together in new and effective ways. More than ever before, it’s time to support each other. And if there’s one thing this industry is good at it’s triumphing over adversity.

AR

How to Create an Enduring Workflow for AR

Please note: Vocabulary in the payment automation world varies. While customers (i.e., clients, buyers) and their suppliers (i.e., vendors, beneficiaries, sellers) are both considered customers to payment automation companies like Nvoicepay, this article will use the terms “customer” and “supplier” to distinguish between them.

Imagine having to switch out old railroad tracks while a rusted steam engine thunders across. Adopting modern electronic payments runs about as smoothly for banks.

When you think about how old banks are in the U.S., it’s an understandable plight. They’ve been running on the same tracks since the first bank’s founding. Additional features, like wire payments and credit cards, were added over time as a complement to the old system. But the rise of nimbler financial technology (fintech) companies has lit a fire under them. Now they face the challenge of converting their processes to electronic means without disturbing their clients’ day-to-day business.

In a way, fintechs have it easy. Their very nature makes competing against banks a breeze, primarily because banks were built to last, and fintechs were built to adapt. They can easily shift gears to meet demand and immediate needs. Meanwhile, banks are frequently caught up in bureaucratic processes that make it virtually impossible to react quickly to problems.

Financial and fintech industries feel the contrast most often when tackling payment security—specifically when it comes to cards. Even though check payments incur 25% more fraud instances than card payments, according to the 2019 AFP Payment Fraud and Control Survey, many companies hesitate to make the switch to more electronic means.

Kim Lockett—the Director of Supplier Services at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company—offers a glimpse into why companies are hesitating to shift gears: “Fraud is not a new issue to companies,” she states. “But what we’ve learned is that fear of change overrides the fear of potential fraud loss, even among companies who have already incurred those losses.”

With almost 30 years of experience in payments and financial services, Lockett possesses a holistic perspective on supplier expectations for seamlessly receiving payments, with payment fraud protection listed as one of the highest priorities. She’s heard all the horror stories, from a small business whose checks were stolen out of their mailbox and cashed, to a company whose employee tried to use business deposit information to clear her personal checks.

That’s not to say that errors and fraud don’t occur for card payments as well. But they occur significantly less and are much easier and faster to resolve than check, ACH, and wire payment issues.

What’s the Holdup?

In the last decade, fintech companies have improved the tracks on which many accounts receivable (AR) teams function. From providing lower processing costs for card payments to offering user-friendly portals for reliable payment retrieval, fintechs transform painful AR workflows into a functional process.

Meanwhile, banks have just begun to offer pseudo-solutions that appear to be tech-friendly but still run on old tracks. An excellent example of this is lockbox technology, where banks mitigate the processing of check payments and their data for their larger customers by taking on the work themselves. This sort of offering likely extended the life of check payments. Still, it didn’t eradicate the underlying problem: that even though work has been lifted directly from their customer’s shoulders, someone at the bank still has to process checks and submit data for manual reconciliation. The process is hardly automated, and the advent of payment processing technology has all but made the entire process impractical.

Embracing the Future

Of course, the best way to avoid check issues is to avoid checks. These days, electronic payment methods offer higher levels of security. But if electronic options like virtual card numbers are such a fantastic option, why are so many companies avoiding them?

Lockett states: “In general, I think companies are afraid of handling credit card numbers because they feel there is risk involved.”

It’s not the dangers of check payments, but misconceptions about electronic payments that cause companies to refrain from accepting them. Many AR teams rationalize that they’d rather respond to the inevitable check fraud cases they understand than walk unprepared into the relatively unknown territory of card fraud.

When checks are stolen and cashed, there’s very little that can be done. At the end of the day, someone will be out that money. Other electronic payment types like ACH and wire are significantly safer, but can still experience fraud, especially internal instances, such as when a company’s employee submits their personal bank account information to receive company payments. Whether these issues are reversible is dependent on each unique scenario.

Card payments, particularly the virtual card numbers provided by fintech companies, are typically protected by two-factor authentication. Whether this means that AR is supplied with a login to access secure details or a portion of a card number, the information is much more difficult for bad actors to access, securing the payment process and reducing the risk of fraud.

In the end, not every company will have the capacity to accept card payments, so leaving alternate options open like check and ACH truly boils down to how much individual payment providers value customer service.

Taking Suppliers Along for the Automation Journey

In many cases, banks have rushed to cater to customer’s needs, leaving suppliers in the dust when it comes to follow-through on electronic payments. Despite these efforts to change, most larger banks still follow their old tracks, and their customers and suppliers experience the same lack of customer service they always did.

With over 10 years of support development behind them, fintechs have expanded their offerings to suppliers, catering to their specific needs, whether they require something as simple as customizable file formats or a more significant request like payment aggregation. Fintechs that follow through with supplier support are truly delivering on their promise of offering an end-to-end solution. They are building tracks that support the advanced bullet trains that companies have become.

“Ten years ago, companies were reluctant to add virtual card payments to their list of accepted payment types,” says Lockett. “Education, experience, and word-of-mouth have established virtual card payments as a mainstream and relevant way to conduct business.”

______________________________________________________

Alyssa Callahan is the Content Strategist at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR company. She has five years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

technology

The Surprisingly Long Life of Wire Technology

Those of us in dynamic, fast-paced industries have gotten used to keeping our eyes trained forward. We’re always exploring innovations—ways to evolve our processes and make them as efficient as possible. Technology grows at such break-neck speed that adults of any age can look back and marvel at the changes they’ve witnessed in their lifetimes. But surprisingly, many of these technologies aren’t actually new. In fact, most of our modern financial workflows have evolved from processes that are older than living memory. Cool, right?

As we ring in the new year, let’s take a step back and reflect on the origins of a very familiar process to many of us: wire payments, and the subsequent introduction of electronic funds transfers.

Humble Beginnings

Wires, direct deposits, and electronic funds transfers (EFT) have roots in the invention of the telegraph; a tool used in the United States from 1844 until 2013 (some areas of the world still communicate by telegram today).

The telegraph is the catalyst for all modern means of communication. It’s arguably one of the most pivotal inventions of Anno Domini, and it forever changed the speed at which critical information could circulate in and among developed countries. Instead of waiting weeks for mail to arrive by ship, train, and pony express, messages would take only hours to arrive. It was as pivotal to its contemporaries as the Internet is to us.

The invention of the telegraph came just after the first Industrial Revolution, in 1844, when Samuel Morse sent the first telegram from Washington, D.C. to his partner, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland. The message: “What hath God wrought?”

Just over a decade later, preparations began to lay the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable across the seafloor—but the project took several years to complete. The first two attempts failed after the cable—made of copper wire wrapped in tar, hemp, and steel—snapped and was lost irretrievably lost at sea. The third attempt, completed in 1858, finally connected the two continents from Newfoundland, Canada, to Valentia Island in Ireland.

After a test message (“Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good-will towards men!”) successfully transmitted between the engineers, Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchanged lengthy congratulations. The Queen’s message—the less flowery of the two, comprised of 99 words with 509 letters—took an exhausting 17 hours and 40 minutes to transmit by Morse code. This may seem lengthy by today’s standards, but at the time, the fastest means of overseas communication was by ship. Eighteen hours was staggeringly fast.

Success was short-lived. The power used to send the first messages was too much for the cable to withstand, and it corroded and fell silent within the first three months. Intercontinental silence ensued until 1866—two years after the American Civil War ended—when efforts to replace the cable began.

Despite the many initial setbacks, the telegraph became a beacon for human invention. It transformed not only the means but also how we spoke to each other. Telegrams were very expensive and usually reserved for affluent patrons and emergencies. Because of the high cost, telegraph companies encouraged senders to ditch the elaborate salutations of the day for succinct (cheap) messages.

For example:

-Sending a ten-word message in 1860 from New York to New Orleans cost $2.70—about $76 in 2018.

-Sending a ten-word message to England around the opening of the Transatlantic Telegraphic Cable would have cost around $100—just over $2,930 in 2018.

Because the prices were out of reach for most middle- and lower-class families of the day, physical mail remained the primary means of communication. This resonates with today’s concerns about the potential expense of newer technologies. The inventions of the telephone and the radio also likely contributed to the telegraph never becoming a common household item. Even so, it still had more to give to society—businesses found another use for this groundbreaking technology.

Incorporating the Telegraph into Bank Processes

The first funds moved via wire in 1872 when the Western Union opened a system to transfer up to $100 (about $2,120 in 2018) at a time. According to Tom Standage in his book The Victorian Internet: “The system worked by dividing the company’s network into twenty districts […]. A telegram from the sender’s office […] confirmed that the money had been deposited; the superintendent would then send another telegram to the recipient’s office authorizing the payment.”

This was a rudimentary, time-consuming process, but still similar to modern operations. It took a while for the concept of non-physical fund exchanges to catch on. Standage writes: “One [person] went into a telegraph office to wire the sum of $11.76 to someone and then changed the amount to $12 because [they] said [they were] afraid that the loose change ‘might get lost traveling over the wire.’”

Stepping into the Modern Age

The transition from telegraphic methods to EFT is somewhat obscured. The first mentions of direct deposit appeared in 1974, just over 100 years after the first wire payments transmitted via telegraph. Newspaper ads like this one in Florida’s Ocala Star-Banner promoted services for “Direct Deposit for Social Security,” which deposited Social Security checks from the government to individuals.

Even EFT payments initially met with some trepidation. In a 1976 article in the Ocala Star-Banner entitled “Computer Money System… Would You Bank On It?”, Louise Cook writes that the banks favored electronic means in order to limit the expensive manual paperwork they had to maintain.

Sound familiar?

When reading through old articles about initial EFT processes, I was struck by how many of the same arguments exist today against switching entirely to electronic procedures.

In Cook’s article, she broke down the cost for banks to maintain physical processes at the time. Banks were processing around 27 billion checks annually for 32 cents a check ($1.45 in 2019). They stressed that EFT was crucial to sustaining their businesses.

A separate 1977 article by Sylvia Porter in The Southeast Missourian entitled “Checkless society,” discussed her concerns about EFT payments. Some of the concerns are very dated. For example, Porter argued that disputes over electronic transactions at restaurants would require lawsuits to resolve. These days, banks frequently handle disputes on behalf of their clients and refund them up front. Other arguments, such as the value of float for companies, remain valid today and are resolved by fintechs.

Same Song, Different Decade

It’s the 21st century, and electronic payment options are already aging—wire transfers are almost 150 years old! Yet companies still struggle to get fully automated processes off the ground. Where is the disconnect?

There are several possible contributors, which include:

Perceived cost. Sending funds electronically is cheaper than ever, but checks now cost around $3.00 each. This equates to roughly 65 cents in 1976—a 106% increase from the original 32 cents (without even accounting for inflation). Despite the reduced cost of electronic payments, the transition, training, and scaling concerns are enough to make most companies too nervous to act. Payment solution providers ease this concern by offering fast implementation, logical user interfaces, andskilled support teams.

Smaller vendors still ask for checks. Checks won’t become obsolete until companies stop requesting them, which is unlikely—at least for now. Many smaller companies typically run their businesses on familiar, outdated processes. Vendors know everyone at their bank, and frequently pay their employees through paper processes. Even so, their business choices don’t need to affect the way your company handles AP. Fintechs like Nvoicepay offer pay file submissions, which enable AP teams to issue payments electronically. Then Nvoicepay disburses the funds in the vendor’s preferred format (credit card, ACH, or print check) without you having to chase down a single check-signer.

Security concerns. Payment fraud instances are more common than ever. Handing some control to a payment partner can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure that partner is taking fully protective measures for your company. During the research process, be sure to ask prospective payment solution providers whether they will cover you for any issues that occur.

Looking Forward

What can we learn by looking back? Aside from gaining a healthy appreciation for our roots, reflection offers a great perspective on the future of modern AP processes. It highlights the fact that we haven’t changed all that much. Rather than introduce new concepts these past 150 years, we have refined and modernized existing operations.

If you’re researching ways to economize your back-office processes, but all the new-fangled technology sets you on edge, take heart! You may be surprised at how familiar this new technology feels because it isn’t really new at all—it’s evolved.

 ______________________________________________________________

 Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay. She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

B2B

Keys to Success for B2B Relationships

In my 25-year career in business, I have serviced a wide range of industries, professionals, and businesses. I have operated in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and ‘business-to-business’ (B2B) spaces, and have learned much about how to engage with different types of clients and their various needs.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that being in a B2B industry is less complicated than a B2C, because your client intrinsically understands general business principles. However, I find B2B can often be more complicated than B2C, because each organization you serve has a highly variable set of needs, values, and processes.

Below are six questions you should ask when assessing a new B2B client that will help you understand how you can best serve them.

 What are their core values and mission statement?

The core values and mission statement of an organization create their guiding principles; their ‘north star.’ It is as important to understand this information when you are making a B2B sale as it is when you enter a business relationship with any of your clientele. Understanding your clients’ core values and mission statement will allow you to relate your services to what is important to them; and it will help your client more easily see the value you bring to their organization.

How are they funded?

Are they self-funded? Do business decisions have to run through a private equity firm? Understanding how your client is funded will help you better understand their internal processes, and will also help you understand how to most effectively communicate with them. Understanding their source of funding can also reveal an abundance of information about the internal dynamics of the organization.

What regulatory pressures are they facing?

This may seem out of left field, but understanding the regulatory burdens of the company or industry you are working with will help you gain an understanding of the outside pressures and complications of running their business. It is also important to know how your client stays updated on any regulatory changes. Many companies subscribe to association or lobbying groups to address and/or advocate for positions and policies on the company or industry’s behalf.

What are the relationship dynamics between the company and its leadership?

This may seem like a sensitive area, but it will help you better serve your clientele in the long run. For companies with medium-to-large sized workforces, find out what the employees’ views of company leadership are. Has leadership been promoted from within, or hired from outside? For smaller companies, find out whether the business owner hired has friends and family. How invested are the employees in the success of the organization, and what drives that investment?

How many employees does my client have?

While this seems like a relatively simple question, this can tell you more about a client than you think. A large employer, for example, will likely have more infrastructure to support a B2B relationship than a company with only a few employees whose culture is more ‘all hands on deck.’

When considering this factor, you can also elaborate and understand better who you should be communicating with, who should receive important documents, and how their internal processes work.

How can my services or product help them grow?

It is of chief importance to learn the customer’s business or industry so you can clearly articulate your business’ value proposition and how your product or services can help them grow. Learning more about their business and the life cycle of when your product or services will best serve their needs and how they can articulate it to their team.

Overall, there are many questions you must ask when entering into a B2B business arrangement. Taking steps to enhance your own understanding of the complexities of B2B clientele relationships and asking the right questions at the right time can and will lead to a successful and mutually beneficial business relationship.

______________________________________________________________

Vincent Ney is the Founder and President of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has connected over 12,000 small businesses nationwide to approximately $350 million in capital.

Asendia to Utilize Tigers Logistics for Oceania Launch

As expansion takes shape for Asendia, Tigers will maintain local logistics for the soon-to-be launched Asendia Oceania subsidiary throughout Australia. The international shipping and distribution company released information this week confirming Tigers is the provider of choice and will utilize its robust warehousing network to support efforts in B2C and omnichannel fulfillment.

“E-commerce fulfillment and international cross-border products continue to be a major focus for Tigers across the Asia-Pacific region, and builds on our cooperation across the USA into Europe, Russia, and Asia,” said Andrew Jillings, Chief Executive Officer, Tigers.

“Partnering with Asendia as it launches Asendia Oceania across Australia and New Zealand is an exciting moment that reflects Tigers’ ongoing global growth, and our support for the logistics and supply chain industry as it evolves through digitization and e-commerce.”

The companies announced the collaborative efforts will ultimately support increasing demand within the B2C cross-border e-commerce market, while focusing on strategies in supply chain optimizations in the near future. The Oceania launch is representative of Asendia’s global expansion plan and how the company will meet demand while offering fresh digital, logistics, and delivery services.

“The launch of Asendia Oceania is an exciting new milestone for Asendia in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lionel Berthe, Head of Asia-Pacific, Asendia.

“It’s another sign of our commitment to growth in the region, and partnering with a global logistics player with strong capacities and experience in Australia such as Tigers is a key differentiator for cross border end-to-end services.“

Uncertainty Over Brexit Leaves the B2B World in Suspense

When talk turns to Brexit, much of the discussion revolves around what will happen once the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland leaves the European Union. While the United Kingdom Parliament hashes out a withdrawal agreement, with Prime Minister Theresa May at the helm, the economy is already shifting in anticipation of… what? The trouble is, no one is quite sure. Even experts can only make educated guesses since their research hinges on the type of withdrawal the United Kingdom and European Union ultimately consent to.

Where Brexit currently stands – A high-level view

The European Union recently approved a second extension of the Brexit deadline to allow May additional time to forge a deal in Parliament and finalize the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union. While the new October 31, 2019 deadline offers some breathing room, it leaves the United Kingdom and European Union in an uncertain economic limbo for most of this year.

The spiderweb of potential events that lay ahead for the United Kingdom stem from two of the most likely outcomes:

-May passes her withdrawal agreement in Parliament by October 31st. If she succeeds, the United Kingdom can hammer out future trade deals with the European Union, to be expanded upon after the separation is finalized.

-May does not pass her withdrawal agreement by October 31st. This would mean the United Kingdom leaves with no trade deals in place, and very little room to negotiate ideal terms in the future. A “no-deal” situation has the potential to create lingering consequences, particularly at the border between Northern Ireland – which is part of the United Kingdom – and the Republic of Ireland, with the European Union.

While those in favor of Brexit are eager for a more economically independent United Kingdom, others hope that the withdrawal agreement will come with lenient tariffs, not just at the Irish border, but for trade across the United Kingdom and European Union. Unfortunately, only time (and an approved withdrawal agreement) will tell how the trade relationship between the United Kingdom and Europe continues.

What Brexit means for businesses in the United Kingdom

Politics aside, the United Kingdom has already seen changes to their market and businesses since the original Brexit vote in late 2016. The pound sterling (GBP), which dropped drastically after the majority of United Kingdom citizens voted to leave the European Union, remains weakened in comparison to the United States Dollar (USD). The approach of each Brexit deadline has triggered a slight drop in the market, followed by a recovery a few days after the granted extensions.

The GBP and Euro (EUR) have become tied to shifts in the political sphere, rather than the market. Companies are making financial decisions in anticipation of a plummeting currency values caused by Brexit.  Many banks have already moved their home offices  from London to various European cities. Healthcare facilities are stockpiling life-saving medicines in the event of a shortage. United Kingdom-based businesses are reducing their investments and employment opportunities. 

How will Brexit affect U.S. business with the United Kingdom?

With a diminished value for pound sterling, currency exchanges between USD, GBP, and EUR won’t be very attractive for a while, especially when considering the added per-payment fees charged by banks to transmit funds across international borders. Global businesses depend on stable markets to keep exchange rates as uniform as possible; someone will always be paying the difference, whether it’s the buyer purchasing more currency, or the supplier receiving a reduced amount.

Companies whose accounts payable teams have adopted payment automation into their processes can use their rebates to mitigate irregular exchange rates. Payment solutions that lower the cost of electronic payments through exchange rate transparency ultimately improve the buyer’s relationships with their suppliers.

Only one thing left to do

The United Kingdom and European Union are in a transitory stage – and that is an enormous understatement. The Brexit experience is genuinely frustrating because it has no precedent, so no one’s sure what will ultimately happen. Economic growth may stagnate for a while, but as with any market, where there are ebbs, there will be flows. The only thing left to do is what the United Kingdom already does best: “Keep calm and carry on.”

Alyssa Callahan is a Technical Marketing Writer at Nvoicepay.  She has four years of experience in the B2B payment industry, specializing in cross-border B2B payment processes.

Supply Chain Professionals: Boxzooka International Ecommerce & Fulfillment

Located on the east coast, Boxzooka Fulfillment and Global Ecommerce provider takes managing client requests to the next level through a one-of-a-kind tailored approach offering back office operations for online retailers, order fulfilment for both direct consumer and direct B2B wholesale order fulfilment, while providing automated, customized solutions. Through this approach, Boxzooka not only creates and maintains competitive advantage as a leader in managing the flow of goods, the company boasts an impressive volume of loyal clients who don’t have to seek outside sources to get their needs met. By taking the extra step out of the process, Boxzooka provides an all-in-one solution. The company isn’t afraid of investing more into their customer needs, as they look at the long-term impact it has on their customer base. In other words, customers always come first.

“We’ve accomplished building and maintaining a business with near 100 percent client satisfaction rate,” Founder Brendan Heegan said. “Most warehouse 3PL operations have an 80/20 rule where 80 percent of the revenue is coming from 20 percent of the clients – those are the ones that get the VIP treatment, if you will, and the other 80 percent of their clients get scattered support where some days are good, and some days are bad. They get a lot of client complaints and we don’t have that because everybody’s getting an equal amount of support and attention, just what they need and more. We don’t lose clients.”

Boasting their very own technology, the integrated game-changing capabilities built into their platforms provide customers with an unmatched global reach, eliminating the need for assistance from an outside source or 3PL. The company’s custom technology platform serves as a major differentiator among competitors and as a significant driver behind their robust customer base and retention strategy.

“We own our own technology and we developed everything in-house. Our systems are comprised of a warehouse management system that handles inventory management movements, receiving and shipping out orders. We’ve also built-in a transportation management system (TMS) – companies might use ShipStation or Stamps.com, but we have all that built in to our warehouse management system so there’s no need for a secondary system in order to perform that function,” Heegan explained. “The platform also enables retailers to open the doors to the global market with the turnkey solution that we provide. “

Beyond automation, Boxzooka fosters an environment where employees aren’t limited to one silo. By fully integrating the ins and outs of operational processes, the company fully utilizes the talents and abilities of each employee.

“We cross train everybody, all the time, on every function so that all of our people can do anything at our warehouse. They’re constantly being thrown at different things. That probably decreases our efficiency and increases internal costs a little bit, but we look at it through the perspective that if we lose a team member, then that function doesn’t break and it allows us to shift labor around, making us operationally very competitive. We have a great service because everyone can do everything in our warehouse.”

5 Trends Changing Business Payments in 2019

Suddenly, business payments are hot. 

I’d say there’s a growing level of understanding of the space and a feeling that B2B payments are starting to come of age. That is good news for customers, considering decades have passed since there was innovation in this space.

Here are 5 trends for business payments in 2019:

B2B payments innovation has begun

Many of the people who wanted to meet me were venture capitalists and private equity partners. B2B payments is a very, very large market—36 trillion in payment volume—versus about three billion for consumer payments. Most business customers are still paying with paper checks. This has always been an interesting category because it’s so big, and so far behind in digitization. Now, as the consumer payments technology market is becoming saturated, B2B payments have captured the attention of the investment community. There are a lot of new investments happening, so look for offerings related to B2B payments in the next few years.

Payments as a backbone

Vendor payments are tied to a lot of other processes. Once you digitize payments, it opens up opportunities with procure to pay, dynamic discounting, supply chain financing, and lending to name a few. For example, we’ve already seen Uber experiment with making auto loans to its drivers and taking the loan payments directly out of their pay. Companies should look to digitize payments with an eye to efficiency and cost savings now, and as a springboard into other innovation opportunities down the road.

Full payments automation

The first wave of new entrants in B2B payments has already hit the market, and many of their value propositions sound the same—cloud, simple, automated. But, not all of them are really in the cloud, simple, or automating the whole process. B2B payments have long been plagued by partial automation, and that’s a big reason why so many businesses are still stuck on checks. Cards and ACH make the transfer of funds electronic, but they also introduce new manual processes for file preparation, reconciliation, and vendor enablement. New, truly automated solutions can handle every part of the process. The person in accounts payable should only have to select the bills they want to pay and click the “pay” button. Buyers need to look past the marketing language and check under the hood.

Banks embrace fintechs

Five years ago, the relationship between fintechs and banks was adversarial. There was a lot of talk about fintechs using technology to take over different aspects of banking and to do it faster, cheaper and better. Over the past 18 months or so, we’ve seen the conversation shift. There is a growing recognition that banks and fintechs have very different strengths and that they will be stronger together. Bank and fintech relationships are now starting to form. Examples include Bill.com’s relationship with JPMorgan Chase. The idea is to bring Bill.com’s solution to small businesses through the bank channel. Chase’s recent acquisition of WePay provides an application for three-party payments for platforms such as ConstantContact and GoFundMe. This is just the tip of the iceberg; we will see many more partnerships and acquisitions in 2019.

Blockchain is still a technology to watch

Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin, is still very much part of the conversation. This is the only technology that truly has the potential to change banking and finance as we know it, providing a new set of instantaneous, decentralized, global payment rails. Banks and fintechs such as Ripple and Earthport are collaborating and getting traction, demonstrating they have a value proposition. But, if banks find ways to control it, it may end up being a better experience, but it won’t be any less expensive than current options.

All of these developments are great news for customers because the market is picking up speed and companies will have a lot more choices than in the past. B2B payments are far more complex than consumer payments, and there’s next to no technological innovation applied to them until very recently. Companies have lived with the status quo for decades. That is all about to change.

As fintechs encroach on core bank activities like lending and payments, banks are going to step up their game by either improving their own services or teaming up with the innovators. 

Karla is Chief Executive Officer, Co-founder, and member of the Board of Directors at Nvoicepay. She has 20 years of experience in management, finance, and marketing roles in both large and early stage companies. Along with the founding team, she has grown Nvoicepay into a leading B2B payment network

Apparel Textile Sourcing Miami 2019 to Set Stage for New Era in Retail Ecosystem

From May 28-30, US and Latin American apparel industry professionals — from buyers to sellers throughout the B2B and B2C supply chain — will converge at the Mana Wynwood Conference Center in Miami for the industry leading Apparel Textile Sourcing Miami (ATSM) show.

The event — originally scheduled to take place a week earlier — has revised its dates to take place alongside North America’s No. 2 fashion event, Miami Fashion Week, bringing to Miami an unprecedented opportunity for industry professionals to benefit first-hand from the latest developments transforming the fashion industry from design to production.

Launched in 2018, ATSM is returning to Miami double in size, connecting attendees with a wider variety of sourcing partners, product categories and service providers, and delivering a world-class seminar speaker roster. With ATSM and Miami Fashion Week now occurring on the same dates just a few blocks away from each other, it is expected that more than 12,000 industry professionals will be in South Florida during this time.

“The overwhelming response of the show is a reflection of the success of last year’s event as well as a market need for apparel and textile professionals to adapt to changing trade realities and keep up with the future of the industry,” said Jason Prescott, CEO of JP Communications, producer of the show and publisher of North America’s leading of business to business trade platforms TopTenWholesale.com and Manufacturer.com.

Apparel and textile trends

In addition to experiencing the latest fashion production trends first hand, ATSM visitors will learn about the key role cyberspace is now playing in the sourcing ecosystem and how eCommerce, which was once a topic confined to retail businesses, must now be understood and implemented by suppliers and SAAS businesses throughout the entire sourcing supply, show organizers said.

Attendees will have opportunities for Q&A with speakers and panelists on the subjects of B2B omni-channel marketing, dropshipping, B2B2C software solutions, near-shoring and reshoring, cross-border eCommerce for factories and online retailers, and more to be announced.

New show sections announced

ATSM 2019 has announced the launch of a dedicated Footwear Pavilion, a Technical Textiles section and live demonstrations of state-of-the-art machinery. As robotic automation in manufacturing is increasingly adopted, the ability to produce merchandise at lower cost will allow microbrands to add more design seasons to their collections and new designers to enter the market.

ATSM is supported by manufacturers and industry partners across the globe, including the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel (CCCT), the largest textile and apparel trade agency in both China and the world.

Leveraging Visibility to Gain Control of Your Supply Chain

As an increasing number of business and consumer products are now being sourced globally, supply-chain visibility management has become an undeniably vital tool for any business to have at their disposal. Knowing where your product is at any stop along the supply chain not only keeps you aware of potential roadblocks that could arise, but it also allows you to adapt and make changes to your supply chain in real-time to avoid those roadblocks.

With so much global competition vying for your customer’s dollar, the last thing your business wants to do is drop the ball over poor visibility – but how do you give customers an inside view when so many parties are involved in the supply chain? The answer – according to Steve Williamson, Director, Solution Consulting at BluJay Solutions – is leveraging that visibility with the use of mobile technology. BluJay is a provider of supply chain software and services including MobileSTAR, an app that works with both Android and iOS mobile devices to provide real-time tracking, proof of delivery and last-mile routing solutions.

“When you look at a global supply chain or placing orders, you want to know the ‘immediates,’” says Williamson. “You want to know all the things going on with your order, but when you’re manufacturing globally there’s no way to get that kind of visibility on your own. There are a lot of different systems and parties involved, and no one company is in control of it all. Providers like us are in the marketplace to bring all of those pieces together.”

But getting those pieces to fit together neatly is no small task. While BluJay offers a single technology platform with a constant flow of new features and solutions, many companies still manage supply chain execution with point solutions or manual processes.

“The challenge is, does one tool do it all? The quick answer is no. There’s no perfect recipe. Vendors are looking to pull all these technologies together and try to get the visibility from say, an RFID provider or get the visibility of an ocean container, and it’s that ‘try to get’ that is always challenging,” says Williamson.

And that challenge can be just as frustrating for end-consumers and business-to-business (B2B) customers, too.

“As a solution provider, we’re always looking at that – what would our customer’s customers experience be? Depending on what you’re moving within your supply chain, the importance of that could be tenfold – it could be that someone’s waiting on that part to do something else, so subsequently that little piece could be a domino that knocks down all the other dominoes in a bad way or in a good way.”

And that’s where apps like MobileSTAR really prove their worth. To be able to view where a shipment is at any stage in the supply chain – right from your mobile device – can really save the day for that ‘customer’s customer.’  Delayed shipments can be re-routed, or re-sourced, damaged shipments can be re-ordered, and if lost shipments cannot be found, your customer can easily notify their customer about potential delays – all from the information provided by one easy-to-use app. It’s not a perfect solution – but it’s pretty close.

“When you look at visibility, the question really comes down to ‘what kind of business are you?’ Are you a proactive business or a reactive business? Are you waiting for something to happen in your supply chain… or are you monitoring your supply chain and see a disruption and reacting to it?”

According to Williamson, the reactive provider – while still most-likely reacting appropriately to the problem – is inefficient. A proactive provider could have potentially stopped the problem earlier along in the supply chain and avoided a lot of subsequent problems along the way. Thankfully, mobile apps like BluJay’s MobileSTAR are designed to do the proactivity legwork for you. So even if you fall into the reactive category, you can be proactive with minimal effort, before the problem has a chance to get worse.

The solution, according to Williamson is called Control Tower. Control Tower monitoring allows your business to be able to “drive and react” to problems along the way by providing visibility and connectivity to supply chain partners, from origin to delivery. Information you once had to hunt down from multiple sources, and at a great cost to your time, is now streamlined and available from one platform that connects many participants.

“Solution providers like ourselves are really partners. And I think that’s the way that the supply chain will ultimately be solved. There will be strong partnerships with all the potential parties involved in a supply chain movement to be able to give the companies themselves – and then their end users – visibility.”