There’s a new swarm of buzzwords in apparel business software — big data, analytics, and optimization are being discussed in boardrooms worldwide, and for good reason. New technology is making it possible to gather data like never before, enabling you to turn that data into meaningful insights that will help you run your business more efficiently.

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Here’s how your apparel business software can help you turn data into sales:

1.) Get your implementation right. There’s an old saying in computer programming – “garbage in, garbage out.” If your apparel business software was set up incorrectly or incompletely implemented, any information you pull from it will be compromised. Make sure to work with your software provider, and take advantage of any onsite setup services they may offer.

If your apparel business software is hosted in the cloud, put the system through a few test transactions similar to the ones you execute most frequently to ensure that things are running properly. A botched setup can have long-lasting consequences, so get it right from the start. If you’re not sure how to properly implement your apparel business software, it might make sense to call in an outside consultant who can guide you through the process.

It’s also important to ensure that employees at every level of your organization get on board with the new software. Even if it’s implemented flawlessly, the best apparel business software is only as good as the people using it. If your accounting, sales or warehouse employees are poorly trained or just unwilling to use the software properly, it can undercut any benefits the new system should deliver. This is also another good reason to take advantage of any implementation and training services your software provider offers.

2.) Pull the right reports. Once your system is set up properly, it’s time to start accessing all that data. Pulling the right reports is just as important as implementing your software — reports are the first step to turning your data into improved sales. Most apparel business software solutions offer a huge variety of reporting options, and it can be a bit overwhelming when you’re first getting started.

Here are some of the crucial reports that you should be looking at on a regular basis:

  • Management Information System (MIS) reports. MIS reports let you look at productivity and efficiency in every aspect of your business, from sourcing to production and shipping. They help you locate and fix bottlenecks in your supply chain.
  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports. KPI reports let you see a snapshot of your business’s vital signs. This includes orders shipped, net revenue for the past seven days and whatever other numbers you need to stay on top of — all of which you can create KPI reports for.
  • Financial reports and re-useable forms. Most apparel business software comes with a financial module to let you print invoices, contracts and other frequently used forms, as well as track the status of payments and revenue from sales.
  • Real-time reports. As the name implies, real-time reports let you look at the results of your management decisions as they go into effect. They allow you to test different strategies simultaneously and see what works best without waiting.

3.) Turn those reports into insights. When you’re comfortable pulling the reports you need and understand what they’re telling you, you’re ready to start analyzing them. Your MIS and KPI reports will be the most useful in diagnosing any problems that are holding up your process. For instance, if your MIS report suggests that there is one cotton supplier that is consistently taking three days longer than they should, it might be time to talk to some of your other textile suppliers and make a switch. But make sure to pull out and look at the bigger picture – using your KPI report, you can see if the price of cotton from that supplier makes it worth the wait.

Many apparel businesses find that their products are getting held up in the warehouse before distribution — the extreme granularity of MIS reports lets you track how long it takes each individual product to make its way out the door. Some apparel business software solutions even support comprehensive RF tagging, which lets you track every object in your facility, from the products to the forklifts and employees who carry them around. When there’s a slowdown, these features can help you discover whether the problem is a systemic one that requires a total overhaul, or an just an underperforming warehouse employee.

4.) Make strategic changes based on your insights. This is the most difficult step. Even when armed with the best data, making sweeping changes based on one or two reports can have far-reaching consequences for your business. The best way to try out new strategies and processes is to use the scientific method: set up experiments testing one strategy against another, and see which delivers the best results. If something looks too good to be true, run another test.

This is where real-time reports can be extremely useful. By dividing your operations into two segments and allowing one to run as your “control” group and another as your “experimental” group for new strategies and ideas, you can make sure you don’t grind operations to a halt with hastily implemented changes.

Many companies with large warehouses have seen success through setting up these types of experiments in what’s called a “warehouse within a warehouse” — they group the 20% of their items that make up 80% of their warehouse transactions together, and put the less frequently shipped items in a different area. You can run your processes in a way you know will work on the 20% of items that move most frequently, and experiment with different options on the remaining 80% of your inventory.

However you decide to apply the insights you get from your system, don’t fix what’s not broken — at least until you do enough experiments to know exactly how much better the change will make your business.

If you’re still struggling to figure out what your reports are telling you or finding that your apparel business software doesn’t meet your needs, ABS can help! Our apparel software is purpose-built to help you track every aspect of your operation and understand how to make it work more efficiently. Contact us today for more information.