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Accounts Payable Automation for Retail Industries

By Athena Rebello

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Updated on: Apr 8th, 2024

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10 min read

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Operating a retail enterprise presents unique difficulties, among which managing an extensive volume of invoices stands out significantly. Maintaining supplier relationships is essential to ensure inventory availability and potentially secure advantageous terms in the future. Implementing automation in accounts payable emerges as a critical solution for retailers, streamlining their financial operations and enhancing efficiency.

Let's talk more about how this works and why it's helpful.

What is the Accounts Payable Process in the Retail Industry?

In the retail sector, the accounts payable process is an essential operation that involves managing the business's financial commitments to its suppliers for the procurement of goods and services. This procedure entails the reception, processing, and validation of invoices against purchase orders and delivery documentation, followed by the execution of payments within agreed-upon terms.

It plays a pivotal role in maintaining accurate financial records, ensuring fiscal discipline by preventing overpayments or duplications, and fostering strong vendor relations through timely payments. 

Handling invoices involves four simple steps:

  • Getting the invoice from the supplier or service provider.
  • Checking the invoice to make sure the order matches what was received.
  • Getting the approval from the respective authority to pay the invoice.
  • Paying the supplier or service provider.

Challenges of accounts payable in the retail industry

The Accounts Payable (AP) process in the retail industry faces several challenges:

1. A large number of invoices

In retail, where business moves quickly and there are lots of transactions, dealing with many vendors leads to handling a huge pile of invoices. This manual process is prone to mistakes like making the same payment more than once. Automating these tasks can help avoid such issues, making managing finances smoother and more reliable.

Hence, a system that ensures that these processes are automated is really important.

2. Processing errors

While dealing with such a large number of invoices, there is a possibility that a business may face errors, especially when handling these invoices manually or through partially-automated processes. These errors can also cause loss of money, incorrect amounts of money being paid, or some invoices being lost. 

3. Global supply chains

Retailers who supply and source products around the globe face a lot of challenges in handling invoices, as different currencies might have different invoice formats. This complexity requires a system for management to automate, ensuring smooth operations.

How to Improve the Accounts Payable Process in the Retail Industry?

Automation

Automation involves the use of software to execute routine tasks within the AP process, including invoice processing, payment execution, and data entry. This technology significantly reduces manual intervention, minimising human errors and accelerating the processing time. 

By automating repetitive tasks, organisations can allocate human resources to more strategic roles, thus improving productivity and operational efficiency. Automation also facilitates better compliance and control by standardising processes according to predefined rules and regulations.

E-Invoicing

E-invoicing transitions from paper-based to electronic invoicing, enhancing invoice processing's efficiency and accuracy. This immediate electronic submission mitigates the risks of invoice misplacement or delays, supporting environmental sustainability by minimising paper consumption. 

It also improves data quality with standardised formats, facilitating smoother integration with AP systems and streamlining both reconciliation and reporting processes.

Centralised Systems

Centralised systems amalgamate all AP-related functions and data into a single platform, offering a comprehensive overview of an organisation's financial responsibilities. This approach not only boosts data accuracy and visibility into the AP workflow but also simplifies information access, aiding in informed decision-making and process refinement. Moreover, it strengthens financial security and fraud prevention by standardising workflows and centralising payment authorization controls.

Vendor Portals

Vendor portals provide a digital platform for vendors for onboarding as well as to submit invoices, monitor payment statuses, and manage their details. These portals enhance the AP process's transparency and efficiency by granting vendors immediate access to relevant information. It also helps enterprises monitor vendor compliance. Automating invoice submissions and payment inquiries through vendor portals alleviates the AP department's workload, fostering improved vendor satisfaction and stronger relationships.

How Accounts Payable Automation Transforms the Retail Industry

Automating the accounts payable can really redefine the entire AP process to be more efficient, cost-effective, and strategic. 

Here's how AP automation is making an impact:

Efficiency and reduced manual work: By implementing accounts payable automation, operational efficiency improves. The reason being the reduction of manual work, which is time-consuming as well, as well as the elimination of human errors.  

Increased oversight and management capability: These systems offer businesses instant access to their financial metrics, improving cash management decisions. Managers have the tools to oversee invoice and payment statuses, track AP metrics, and comply with both internal and external regulations, ensuring thorough financial oversight.

Strengthening of supplier relations: Ensuring invoices are settled quickly and accurately is essential for good supplier relationships. Automation in AP processes aids in achieving timely payments, which can lead to better negotiation leverage for terms and discounts.

Safeguarding against fraud: AP automation technologies are equipped with compliance and regulatory adherence features. They bolster fraud prevention through comprehensive audit trails, two-factor authentication, and sophisticated algorithms designed to flag unusual activity.

Insights through data analytics: When we use technology to automate the accounts payable process, it provides business leaders with data analytics and insights. This data can be beneficial for enterprises to gain insights into past business trends, that can be used to optimise future business operations.

Cost savings: Automating accounts payable helps save money by cutting down on expenses related to processing invoices. Moving away from manual systems reduces costs for paper, postage, and storing documents. It also decreases labour costs by minimising manual data handling. These savings are particularly beneficial for businesses with a lot of transactions, making their operations more cost-efficient.

Using this automated technology for our accounts payable can really be a game changer for the retail industry. It helps businesses focus on the important things rather than staying stuck in the complexities of processing invoices and payments.

Also Read
Accounts Payable Automation for Manufacturing Industries

About the Author

A Chartered Accountant by profession and a writer by passion, my expertise extends to creating insightful content on topics such as GST, accounts payable, and invoice discounting.. Read more

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