Blur the lines between traditional channels.
By Sam Levy
When an American jazz musician and Latvian recording engineer founded Westlake, Calif.-based Blue Microphones in 1995, they did so with the intention to design and manufacture microphones for professional musicians such as themselves. But it was a willingness to take on the consumer market with the launch of the “Snowball” USB microphone for use with Apple’s Garage Band recording software that incited rapid growth to the consistent tune of 35 percent annually.
As its product lines and reach grew, so did the ways in which its different types of customers wanted to access those products, prompting Blue Microphones to innovate across traditional industry lines and deliver capabilities not only of a manufacturer, but also as a retailer and wholesale distributor.
Blue Microphones’ story resembles that of so many manufacturers with a wildly successful product who are empowered by consumers to become retailers in their own right. That paradigm shift – driven by increased consumer expectations – extends to retailers, manufacturers and wholesale distributors alike.
As a result, companies must blur the lines between traditional retail, wholesale distribution, and manufacturing operations and weave seamless buying experiences for their customers across all these channels. Emerging companies like Blue Microphones are leveraging technology to become a crossover business with multidimensional capabilities.
Unification is Key
At first glance, businesses may think acquiring multidimensional capabilities involves bolting together best-of-breed systems to accomplish industry-specific processes. But to support a truly integrated crossover business, a single core system needs to be able to handle the key required functionality across all three types of businesses (retail, wholesale, and manufacturing). However, synchronizing master data across customers, suppliers, products, parts, and other sources can be a big challenge. The same is true of synchronizing transactional data or trying to consolidate spend. These things happen automatically and are much easier when there is a unified system with a single database, providing a single version of truth across the entire firm.
As a company’s mix of products, services, delivery and payment models becomes more diverse, it requires a much more flexible and unified financial system that can support a single invoice and revenue recognition across the goods, services, subscriptions, as-a-service, financing payments and everything else the company bills for. Nobody wants to receive several different invoices from the same company; one for products bought, another for subscriptions, and different ones for various services.
With a unified platform for financials, fixed assets, demand planning, inventory management, bill of materials, work orders and assemblies, warehouse management, CRM, HR and multi-currency transactions, Blue Microphones now has a single source of the truth across its entire business. This enables unique experiences such as the ability to setup a virtual warehouse for its marketing group, which sequesters key products for product reviews and key influencers like artists and producers. Blue Microphones is also able to capture customer feedback directly in the system, which can be shared directly with engineering and overseas manufacturers to improve products.
Leveling the Playing Field
As a growing business, automating back-end processes on a unified platform has increased efficiency and allowed Blue Microphones to deliver customer experiences once privy to only the largest companies. In today’s world, even small companies need many of the same systems and operational capabilities of their larger competitors. When selecting a system, companies should look for one that provides a full breadth of capabilities that can start in a small footprint and expand as the company grows. With multidimensional capabilities, Blue Microphones is on the path to sustained and even accelerated growth – it expects to double or triple revenue over the next five years.
As Blue Microphones has demonstrated, a unified platform can empower companies with the functionality and agility to become a successful crossover business and drive industry – and even cross-industry-leadership within their product categories. And, with a platform that can scale, these companies don’t need to worry about replacing aging systems built for smaller companies. They just need to worry about managing growth and delivering great customer experiences.
Sam Levy is vice president, manufacturing and wholesale distribution for Oracle NetSuite, a leading provider of cloud-based omnichannel software that helps retailers transform commerce by seamlessly connecting every step of the business including e-commerce, POS, CRM, order management, inventory, merchandising, marketing, financials and customer service.