In the ever-evolving world of commerce, improving customer experience through supply chain automation is pivotal for growth. In fact, a Forbes article on 2020 retail predictions said it’s thought that “in-store retail will be driven by an unexpected ally: e-Commerce growth.”
While the growth of eCommerce is nothing new, the fact that in-store growth is so tightly tied to online is a key component to any retail strategy. As eCommerce sales are set to represent 16% of all global sales this year, delivering the best possible on-and-offline shopping experience is absolutely critical.
Creating efficiencies with supply chain automation is a one-stop solution to creating a positive customer experience and keeping your buyers coming back for more.
Automating the Order Lifecycle for Supply Chain Automation
The first step in cleaning up your supply chain lies in implementing automation in the order lifecycle.
Since the 1990s when big box retailers, including Walmart, adopted it, EDI has been the industry-mandated communication method. Leveraging EDI ensures all purchase orders, invoices, tracking information, etc. are exchanged automatically. This eliminates the need for manual data entry, as all information flows between your shopping cart, 3rd party suppliers, and inventory management software.
Again, as all procurement information is exchanged in real-time, your pick, pack, ship process is expedited, meaning products can leave the warehouse and arrive at your customer’s doorstep sooner.
In addition, EDI inventory updates can be sent frequently to ensure stock quantities remain accurate and reduce the likelihood of selling out-of-stock items, leading to order cancellations or backorders.
Have you ever ordered an item for a specific event and had it arrive too late either because it was on backorder (unbeknownst to you) or backlogs in the warehouse? It’s small, frustrating incidents like this that give customers pause before shopping with the company that burned them.
Accuracy and efficiency are two key areas of supply chain automation that lead to happier customers, and hopefully fewer returns.
Room for Improvement
With your order lifecycle cleansed of manual processes, members of your team are now freed up to focus on other areas of your business.
Whether it be dedicating more employees to the warehouse floor to further expedite fulfillment, expanding your product catalog, or reworking your website – dedicating time and effort to improving the customer experience can now be your main concentration for supply chain automation.
In particular, Logicbroker sees a number of our customers utilize native reporting and our Microsoft BI reporting add-on to focus on merchandising. Based on reports, our customers are tracking their top sellers and using this information to seek out new vendor relationships with the intent on adding new like-products and keeping their top sellers in stock.
When an order leaves the warehouse, this doesn’t mean the order lifecycle is complete. In fact, the order isn’t even completed when it arrives at your customer’s doorstep.
For your customers, you want to provide as much visibility as to where the order is located. It’s also important that you have visibility.
With Parcel Movement, eCommerce retailers can track an order all the way through delivery. Events are pulled to update shipment status including:
- With Carrier
- Unable to Track
- In Transit
- Delivery Attempted
- Failed or Ignored
This is particularly useful if you utilize a drop ship model, as it fills in the gaps of relying on 3rd party vendors to ship out orders in a timely fashion. Additionally, you can leverage performance scorecards to ensure these partners are adhering to service level agreements (SLAs) so that your most reliable vendors can be sourced orders in the case of multiple vendors offering the same item.
Additionally, SLAs work to ensure that orders are shipping within your agreed upon timeframe, ensuring the order gets to your customer in a timely fashion, too.
A simplified returns process is another key-component to perfecting the post purchase experience. While returns are a pain-in-the-you-know-where, having a bad returns process can keep customers from returning. In fact, a great returns strategy can actually become a competitive advantage for your business. Below are a few supporting statistics:
- 62% of customers “would buy again” from a brand offering free returns or exchanges (Dotcom Distribution, 2018)
- 69% are deterred from buying online by having to pay for return shipping and 67% by restocking fees (Narvar, 2018)
At a minimum, offering free returns with pre-printed labels and shipping in reusable packaging (to further facilitate returns) makes the process easy, endearing customers to your brand. Additionally, be sure your returns policy is public and relatively easy to find. While the concern for returns scams is real, you do not want to deter potential customers either.
There is not much room for errors in the digital selling space. Creating supply chain efficiency through automation enables your team to focus on improving your storefront and product assortment, offering a major competitive advantage.
Additionally, with the time to tackle the nuisance (but necessary) returns process, you increase the pool of would-be customers and help to convert them. Studies show returns can make or break the likelihood to make a purchase, so capture as many sales as you can with a comprehensive returns policy.