Digital Sales Tools are the Key to Making Your Network Smarter, More Streamlined, and More Scalable
The franchising business is booming: globally, according to the World Franchise Council, franchised businesses account for over 19 million jobs and generate annual revenues of more than $1.75 trillion. In the United States, four-fifths of franchisors planned to expand their operations last year, and 11% opened 25 or more new units.
That breakneck growth means that the franchise space is growing more competitive, with networks vying not only for sales but also fighting to attract the best and brightest young entrepreneurs to their networks. Increasingly, that means franchisors are looking to incorporate new technologies into their businesses — at both franchise and corporate levels — to streamline operations, enable smarter decision-making, and create more scalable, tech-forward operations aligned with the needs of a new generation of franchisees.
Of course, many franchises already rely on various types of franchise management software, POS systems, and marketing tools to improve productivity and grow sales. With the popularity of omnichannel retail and B2B e-commerce on the rise, though, digital commerce systems are also quickly becoming a must-have for franchising. Such platforms can enable franchisors to provide effective communication and procurement tools to their franchisees — and provide the intelligent, streamlined, and tech-forward experiences that young entrepreneurs are looking for as they find opportunities in the franchising space.
Here are five ways that franchisors can use B2B digital commerce technologies to future-proof their networks and boost franchisee recruitment in 2022:
A Smarter Organization
Franchises are complex organizations: many franchisors operate multiple divisions, sub-brands, and business units, and franchisees often have hierarchies of their own, too. That doesn’t mean a unified e-commerce solution can’t work for franchise networks, though — it just means you have to make sure you’re implementing a solution that’s designed with the needs of B2B enterprises and franchise networks in mind.
Done right, an e-commerce system can support and streamline your organization, with clear account management tools to enable franchisors to define the websites, products, and prices available to franchisees. Franchisees, in turn, can manage employees independently, and assign unique permissions to them to make sure everyone can access what they need to do their jobs. This sort of complexity is exactly what B2B e-commerce platforms do well: by design, they’re intended to support complex procurement, purchasing, and approval relationships, and to streamline and automate tasks to deliver a simple and hassle-free experience for end-users at all levels of the organization.
No More Procurement Headaches
Procurement can be a headache for franchise operators: many franchisees are obligated to procure, use, and sell products and services dictated by the franchisor, and franchisors often provide owners with approved suppliers from which to purchase. This is, of course, precisely the kind of situation that a well-designed B2B e-commerce platform is made to handle: by adding third-party vendors, franchise networks can essentially create a custom marketplace for their franchisees.
This setup gives suppliers control over product listings and prices while providing franchisors with much-needed visibility into vendor activity. But it also makes the procurement experience frictionless for franchisees, effortlessly connecting them to the right suppliers based on their accounts, business units, or location. The result: hassle-free compliance with franchise procurement rules, and far fewer headaches for everyone.
A key challenge for franchisors is operating at scale, while still meeting the varying needs of franchisees (and customers!) across all the different locales. The best B2B e-commerce tools are designed to help brands play in multiple markets and jurisdictions, with support for personalized and location-specific websites, landing pages, and customer portals.
Robust e-commerce tools can also help franchisors support local offices, which can operate as independent units with their own organizational structure, franchisees, product catalogs, taxes, price rules, suppliers, and so forth. At the same time, the e-commerce system gives the head office complete visibility into its subsidiaries, delivering a predictable and productive experience for employees and driving growth by ensuring a consistent customer experience at the local level.
E-commerce tools can serve as a powerful connective tissue, linking together back-end operations that many franchises already seek to provide, in all or in part, for their franchisees. Warehouse management systems can synchronize inventory data with a B2B e-commerce platform in real-time, for instance, providing full visibility into inventory management and on-time shipping and delivery rates. Other candidates for integration include product information management, punchout, eProcurement, payment gateways, and accounting systems.
Every franchise network is structured differently, so integration strategies will vary from one operator to the next. One franchise might use real-time API integration with their ERP to deliver accurate inventory numbers to every franchisee, but use a scheduled SFTP data sync with financial systems for invoicing, for instance. The point is that a flexible and fully-featured e-commerce platform gives you the power to decide what you need, then rapidly create the integrations you need to realize that vision as you grow your network
E-commerce platforms are designed to automate as much of the end-to-end digital commerce pipeline as possible, and that applies to franchise applications too. Pricing rules and purchase paths, for instance, often vary from one franchise location to another — and with the right e-commerce platform, you can create rule-based solutions that automate the process of managing prices and even changing prices dynamically, depending on who is buying.
Automation doesn’t begin and end with pricing, either. The right solution will enable you to automatically display additional checkout steps for large orders, identify high or low-stocked products, automate quote approvals, send notifications, and much more. That adds up to less time spent on complex chores, less scope for human error, and more time for franchisees to focus on serving customers and driving success.
E-Commerce is Everywhere
There’s no escaping the fact that e-commerce is changing every aspect of our businesses. Whether you’re running a restaurant chain or a retail business, digital selling is changing customers’ expectations, reshaping the employee experience, and creating new challenges and opportunities for franchisors and franchisees.
For franchisors, the key is to view this transformation as an opportunity. By partnering with the right B2B-oriented e-commerce provider, it’s possible to rapidly build out a digital infrastructure that can support your network, fuel franchise growth, and position your brand as the kind of innovator that a new generation of young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are seeking as they prepare for careers in the franchise space.