With the company having celebrated its 30th anniversary last month, Border Merchant Systems’ Commercial Manager Phil Davies reflects on a year of unprecedented upheaval and considers the ways in which merchants can better utilise the technological tools at their disposal.
Marking 30 years in business on 1st December 2020, Border Merchant Systems has come a long way since its foundation by a group of independent merchants who set it as a support company after their existing software supplier withdrew from the market. Employing key staff from the former supplier, Border created its own intuitive merchant software, CounterAct, and has never looked back.
Updates and new features in the system regularly followed, typically via feedback from users, whilst in 2013 the business became part of the Hermitage Innovation Group. The security of being part of a bigger group has enabled CounterAct’s evolution in recent years and working in partnership with the other companies from within the group is said to have encouraged “cutting-edge developments” such as mobile apps, web trading and the account customer portals.
Arguably, the fact that Border was formed as a support company is key to the outlook and the culture of the business, with an ethos to work in real partnership with its users. Moreover, Border only deals with merchants, giving it a clear focus in the way that its software develops and maintaining the importance of reliability, ease of use and support.
Over 80 different merchant firms now use the system, from small single site businesses to large multi branch merchants operating all over the UK. CounterAct continues to evolve and some big enhancements are scheduled to come in 2021 including a continued emphasis on the development of further mobile and web options.
Indeed, online trading has been a key aspect of the merchant sector’s resurgence from the turmoil of the coronavirus crisis. Phil Davies, Border’s Commercial Manager, said: “Companies that have multiple routes to market have been better insulated from the shock than those completely reliant on the traditional model of trading. Online is a key component in how merchants will both trade and interact with their customers in the future and we are developing CounterAct, accordingly.”
Phil added: “It’s about making it as easy as possible for customers to deal with you. You certainly don’t have to sell nationally or even have a huge online offering. Your website can be targeted at your local market and sell a core range of products. Alternatively, concentrate on a niche range that you have some specialisation in.”
Furthermore, a merchant’s customer proposition can be further enhanced by additional online features with useful tools like project calculators, specification sheets, questions & answers, videos and blogs. Phil notes that having an online account management portal is also a great way of adding value for customers.
He said: “On the Border account portal for example, customers can log in to their account, see invoices, statements, quotes, delivery & collection notes, proof of delivery, generate a statement, get copy documents and pay their outstanding balance. The portal not only cuts down administration time and calls into the merchant’s accounts department, but it also makes life easier for the customer to deal with you.”
Integration between any ecommerce platform and the company’s trading ERP system can help to take as much administration out of the process of fulfilling web orders as possible whilst retaining maximum flexibility.
Phil also outlined the merits of click & collect for both trade and retail customers. He said: “Pre-ordering for click & collect can improve through put speeds at the counter if you have a nailed down process for dealing with it. When customers start to see that pre-ordering is a quick and easy option they will start using it.”
In recent months, Border has announced a major update to CounterAct with over 500 improvements. Significant highlights include a brand new lost margin review enquiry screen that will help identify where margin is being given away unnecessarily and a new feature in the 360 Overview allowing a user to view all notepads associated with all documents in the ‘chain’ in one screen. Also included are improvements to ‘Quick View’ to show tally information and with a quick way to see any linked documents.
There have also been enhancements to the delivery scheduling that will support a new electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) app to be released in the next update.
Phil said: “These are just some highlights of the issue which is due to be sent out in early 2021. Release 2-9B is a major upgrade with over 530 changes and improvements to the CounterAct system. All users receive system upgrades as part of their support contract.”
He concluded: “Recent events have demonstrated that change can sometimes come a lot quicker than we expect. It has been a difficult year for our clients and many of the improvements to the system include ways to support trading conditions during the Covid-I9 crisis. Having an online trading option isn’t a silver bullet, for example, but anything that makes it easier for your customers to buy and interact with you is certainly worth considering.”
For more information on Border Merchant Systems, head to: http://bordermerchantsystems.co.uk/support/on-going-support.html