“Any supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A company can move a product from China to the United States, clear it through Customs, move it to a distribution center, and fulfill it in record time. But if it doesn’t deliver the product to consumers quickly enough, they are not happy, and the company’s supply chain has failed.” — Inbound Logistics Magazine
Retail success hinges on customer satisfaction, so it makes sense supply chain success is also closely tied to happy customers. Here are four customer-centric supply chain strategies that will help drive sales by keeping your customers top of mind.
1. Improve on-time delivery
Customers want what they want and they want it fast and on-time. Nothing proves this more than Amazon's announcement of one-day delivery earlier this year.
Customer loyalty is built on trust. One missed delivery can compromise that trust and cost you a customer for good. But, acquiring new customers is way more costly than keeping loyal ones. When it comes to your delivery promise, it is vital to meet that promise and the expectations you've set with your customers in order to build and maintain trust and encourage repeat business. Here are five ways companies are improving on-time delivery and consistently fulfilling delivery promises to their customers:
- Diversity in delivery options
- Proactive order management and recovery
- Capacity forecast sharing with carriers
- Carrier allocation management
- Online appointment scheduling
2. Use technology to enhance visibility and track inventory
Technology is important to automate warehouse activities and ultimately fulfill today’s consumer needs. Warehouse management systems (WMS) provide benefits beyond automation. A WMS speeds up processes and makes a warehouse less prone to errors, but it also offers greater visibility into facility management. And, increasing visibility across your supply chain is key to customer satisfaction.
Without a big picture view of your supply chain, it becomes nearly impossible to implement customer-focused strategies like just-in-time inventory replenishment. When delivery windows are tight, even minor missteps and miscalculations can have major service-level consequences.
Several years ago, the time between placing an order online and receiving the delivery was a black box for consumers. Now, it's almost table stakes to provide visibility into order status. Order tracking systems paired with your WMS create transparency and improve customer satisfaction and provides key data for businesses. Not only can consumers track their online orders, it also gives users valuable information about when items are ordered and when they're shipped.
3. Increase speed-to-delivery with on-demand fulfillment
Winning eCommerce customers starts with a great produce and user experience, but is strengthened by your delivery promise. Often times, that means fast, low-cost delivery, which ultimately requires getting your product closer to your end customers. Retailers that don’t have the capital to insource new distribution centers are turning to on-demand fulfillment as a way to augment their supply chain and scale without costly acquisitions. On-demand fulfillment enables businesses to pop-up fulfillment centers, when and where they're needed, so companies can more easily expand operations without significant investments.
Whether it's for peak seasons, temporary promotions, entering a new market, or ongoing operations, on-demand fulfillment helps businesses add to and scale their distribution networks. In doing so, fulfillment centers are placed closer to end consumers, reducing the last mile of transportation and improving customer satisfaction with shorter delivery times.
4. Satisfy customer demand with an agile inventory strategy
Inventory management is a constant struggle, but today’s consumers are powering a critical change in how inventory is handled. Meeting customer demands for fast, affordable delivery means putting inventory closer to your end consumers, yes, but the results is a more distributed network of warehousing and fulfillment centers. And that requires more variation in how inventory is allocated. It already was complicated, now it's even more so.
But, the alternative isn't any better. Missing the delivery timeframes that you've promised or have out-of-stocks doesn't incite customer loyalty. In fact...
Supply Chain 24/7 said it best, “Out-of-stock inventory kills customer loyalty. Not being able to fulfill quickly kills customer loyalty. But having lots of inventory doesn’t equate to efficient fulfillment. That requires having a modern, flexible supply chain. Without agility, retailers often lack the competence to satisfy customer demand, let alone fulfilling profitably.”
Retailers always struggle to find the optimal balance between excess inventory and out-of-stock inventory situations. Agility allows supply chain partners to work together to produce the amount of product that is needed daily, not based on quarterly, monthly, or yearly forecasts.
Get our latest supply chain tips! Check out On-demand warehousing 101: Top 10 locations for warehousing & eCommerce fulfillment
You might also be interested in:
- Blog: Expanding your fulfillment network: 4 experts weigh in
- Blog: On-Demand Warehousing 101: What is On-Demand Warehousing?
- Blog: On-Demand Warehousing 101: 7 Supply Chain Challenges Solved with On-Demand Warehousing
- Report: Gartner Supply Chain Brief: How Retailers Can Benefit from On-Demand Warehouse Marketplace