woman searches rack of clothing at a retail store
woman searches rack of clothing at a retail store
March 14, 2024

Revolutionizing Accounts Payable Management in the Retail Industry

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

In the fast-paced world of accounts payable (AP) automation in retail, every transaction counts, whether it’s on the front lines or in the back office. That’s why it’s not only important to have the right point-of-sale (POS) software at the cashwrap — you also need the right systems in place to manage cash flow behind the scenes.

Accounts payable (AP) is a key part of any finance team’s work. It includes the systems and workflows responsible for processing invoices and making payments to vendors and suppliers. 

Efficient AP management is especially critical for retail success, and AI-powered automation has emerged as a game-changing way to level up your AP process. Traditional, manual AP processes — characterized by paper-based invoices, manual data entry, and cumbersome approval workflows — are increasingly being replaced by automated solutions that promise greater efficiency, accuracy, and security

6 Benefits of AP Automation in Retail

There are several benefits of AP automation in the retail industry:

1. Better Operational Efficiency

In retail operations, managing accounts payable across multiple locations, systems, and vendors can be a logistical nightmare. Manual processes are not only time-consuming but also prone to errors, delays, and inefficiencies. 

AP automation streamlines operations and creates efficiencies across various platforms, including your ERP or accounting systems and inventory management software.

By automating the end-to-end AP process — from invoice capture to final payment — retailers can eliminate physical paperwork, reduce costs, and accelerate processes. With less manual input, retailers can reallocate resources to focus on other tasks and strategic initiatives, driving overall productivity and competitiveness in the market.

This not only helps your overall business goals, but also helps your AP team do its job faster and more efficiently by taking heavy workloads off their plates — helping them focus on other, equally important work.

2. Data-driven Decisions

In today’s data-driven retail landscape, access to real-time financial insights is key when it comes to informed decision-making. AP automation provides retailers with greater visibility into their finances, enabling them to analyze cash flow trends, strengthen vendor relationships, and easily identify opportunities for cost savings. 

And with automated approval workflows and customizable reporting features, retail finance pros can make data-driven decisions that drive profitability and sustainable growth.

Automating your AP provides an accurate, actionable look at your overall financial picture in real time. And by combining AP insights with financial data from your ERP or POS systems, you’ll be able to easily spot trends, patterns, and inconsistencies that may impact decision-making and planning.

3. Less Risk of Errors

Manually processing invoices opens you up to the risk of human error — which can lead to inaccuracies and discrepancies in financial records. With Ottimate and similar AP automation solutions, AI and machine learning are used to maintain accuracy throughout the invoice lifecycle.  

This is especially important in the retail industry, where goods and services are quickly coming in and out of your inventory, meaning invoices need to be processed and paid in a timely manner in order to restock popular items. 

AP automation takes the time-consuming task of manually entering invoices off your plate, so that each line item is automatically cataloged and coded quickly and accurately. The best AP solutions will also match each invoice to its corresponding purchase order (PO). With Ottimate’s two- and three-way PO matching, for example, you can verify invoices against purchase orders and receipts with the click of a button — minimizing the likelihood of errors.

By reducing the risk of errors and discrepancies, AP automation enhances the reliability and accuracy of financial reporting, so you can make informed decisions based on trustworthy data. And when errors do arise, you’ll have the ability to quickly identify and fix them — keeping your financial data accurate and up to date at all times.

4. Enhanced Security

Keeping sensitive financial information safe is critical for retailers of all types and sizes. AP automation offers enhanced security features that protect against fraud, unauthorized access, and data breaches. Solutions like Ottimate do this by providing you with complete visibility into the AP process, offering customized approval workflows to better control cash flow, and syncing everything with your ERP or accounting software with ease. This creates a centralized process that not only streamlines your data flow but also protects your information.

The best AP automation tools also let you put comprehensive security measures in place, such as multi-factor authentication, role-based access controls, and data encryption, to safeguard sensitive financial information from unauthorized access or malicious attacks. And with secure payment processing and audit trails, your financial transactions are always protected, ensuring that all stakeholders — from your customers and employees to your vendors and suppliers — feel secure doing business with you. 

5. Stronger Vendor Relationships

Vendors and suppliers play a crucial role in the success of retail operations, and nurturing strong relationships with them is essential for long-term sustainability. AP automation tools, such as Ottimate, make vendor management easier by offering vendors a dedicated portal to submit invoices and track payments.  

By making timely payments and promoting more transparent communication, retailers can foster trust and boost collaboration with their vendors — helping reduce supply-chain disruptions and boost overall operational efficiency. 

6. Better Compliance for Multi-Location Entities

Most retailers own and operate locations across city or state lines, meaning they have to do more than simply manage the flow of invoices in and out of multiple locations — they also have to stay on top of each location’s local tax laws and regulatory requirements. AP automation helps retailers maintain compliance by implementing robust controls, audit trails, and documentation management features. 

With a centralized, automated system, retailers can make sure they’re meeting all regulatory requirements across city and state lines — or even globally.

AP automation also simplifies the audit process, by offering easy access to comprehensive audit trails, electronic records, and real-time reporting capabilities. With detailed insights into transaction histories, approval workflows, and payment activities, AP teams can perform audits more efficiently and effectively — saving time, reducing audit-related costs, and minimizing errors in the process. 

Choosing an AP Automation Solution

A quality automation software solution will not only improve your overall AP workflows, but will also offer other benefits that can help your retail business grow.

How to Choose an AP Automation Software

Consider the following when choosing the best AP automation software for your needs:

End-to-End Automation
Find solutions that offer features that streamline the entire invoice lifecycle, from invoice processing to payments.
ERP Integration
Ensure compatibility with existing ERP systems and software platforms to facilitate seamless data exchange and workflow integration.
User-Friendly Interface
Choose a solution with an intuitive interface and mobile accessibility to enhance user adoption and productivity.
Customization Options
Look for flexibility and scalability to tailor the solution to your specific business needs and accommodate future growth.
Look for solutions that can accommodate growth and changing business needs.
Security Features
Prioritize solutions with robust security measures, including encryption and multi-factor authentication.
Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including licensing fees, implementation costs, and ongoing maintenance, to ensure a favorable return on investment.

When evaluating AP automation software, you should consider factors such as seamless integration with existing systems, advanced matching capabilities, robust security measures, user-friendly interfaces, scalability, customized workflows, and cost-effectiveness.

By choosing a comprehensive AP automation solution that aligns with your specific needs, you can unlock the full potential of automation and drive sustainable growth in the retail industry. And with the right AP automation solution in place, you’ll not only streamline your financial processes, but you’ll also reduce costs, drive profitability, and position your retail business for success.

Ready to revolutionize your retail operations AP workflows? Ottimate can help. Learn how by scheduling a demo today!

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