"At first, I thought most of our customers would want a hybrid cloud design," David Potts explained as he outlined the architecture of his Saleswarp retail automation software.
But soon Potts, CEO and founder of Saleswarp, found that everyone preferred a version that ran entirely in the cloud. It turns out that by going to the cloud only, Saleswarp was able to offer customers a level of service that many retailers can't readily obtain from other sources.
I met with Potts and his team in the offices of the ETC Baltimore technology incubator located in a former factory that once made beer and soft drink cans. The neighborhood with its post-industrial grime and heavy traffic headed to Baltimore's port didn't seem promising. But inside, the offices were cool, sleek and satisfyingly informal. Saleswarp was growing with the help of the city's investment in technology startups.
Founded in 2009, Saleswarp has developed what it describes as a fully integrated retail automation application that is capable of handling every facet of retail operations. Saleswarp will handle every step of the sales, fulfillment and logistics of a retail operation, including brick and mortar sales, e-commerce, warehousing and shipping.
We stepped our way through each phase of the retail process from the most basic–buying goods in a store through the resulting logistics chain. When an item is purchased, a store's point-of-sale system records the sale in a database maintained by Saleswarp. When that happens, the software checks inventory levels to confirm that there was still enough of the item in stock and meanwhile decrements the stock on hand by the amount bought.
As sales continue, the stock on hand diminishes and at a set point, the Saleswarp software will generate a purchase order to replenish inventory. It will then track the new stock as it arrives and update the stock on hand.
Meanwhile, over in the e-commerce part of the business, the same thing is happening. Sales can come in from the retailer's Website, from an affiliate's site or through a link with Amazon.com.
Purchases are reflected in the inventory database in the same way that they are from store point-of-sale terminals. The process includes the ability to order stock to be drop-shipped where appropriate, for payments to be processed, and for the accounting and ERP packages to reflect the sales.
The cloud-based inventory tracking works so well that one of Saleswarp's major customers, clothing retailer Zumiez, was able to close its warehouses and keep all inventory in its stores.