Posted on 10/04/15, filed under 3PL, Pick and Pack, Supply Chain Logistics, Warehousing | No Comments
Multi-channel retailing was all about managing each channel – physical store, mail order catalogue and so on – separately. Forecasts regarding demand, or even decisions about pricing, might differ depending on the channel.
But now multi-channel has become omni-channel. Technology gives companies more information about their supply chain, and they make more informed decisions as a result, using data and trends from across the business. Crucially, every component of the business works together – from purchasing to planning to restock – to reduce costs and produce a seamless customer experience.
What do the changes mean for third-party logistics (3PL) providers and how must they adapt?
- The expectations of 3PL customers are greater than ever. When it comes to choosing a logistics partner, online retailers and other ecommerce businesses are more aware of what is available in the marketplace and are more demanding as a result – driven by the desire of their own customers to shop and order at any time of day and use the technology that most suits them.
- Flexibility is important. The pace of change makes predicting what will happen next rather difficult. Logistics providers have to be ready to face whatever the future holds. For instance, will they have the capacity to deliver on their promises if the client’s business trebles in size in a short space of time or if the business wants to deliver overseas? Will they still be able to provide a cost-effective service?
- 3PLs are increasingly judged on how they will improve their client’s performance, not just on their efficiency in moving goods from A to B. This deeper involvement in meeting corporate targets inevitably means discussions about solutions will take longer and involve more people (see point 4 below), but this collaborative approach adds a valuable ingredient – the logistics provider’s specialist skillset – to the mix.
- 3PLs need to adapt to being part of the front-end solution and not just a ‘back office’ operation. The supply chain is now, in many cases, integral to the company’s ‘offer’ – for instance, providing next day or even same day delivery to a customer’s home, or giving the customer the facility to customise their own product (and 3D printing takes manufacture-on-demand to a whole new level). 3PLs are doing much more than ‘delivering’ – they are working closely with their clients to look at the whole supply chain. This inevitably means more people from both parties need to liaise than in ‘simpler’ days, with warehousing, transport planning and more entering the equation.
Omni-channel is complex for retailers – but the logistics provider is there to help them towards the solution. By calling on the expertise of the right 3PL partner, an ecommerce business can speed up delivery, reduce waste and costs, and concentrate on its core concerns – such as growing its business.
With over 50 years’ experience in logistics, RT Page has the expertise to help you face the challenges of the future. Contact us on 01903 736300 to find out how we can handle your supply chain process for you.
Posted on 26/03/15, filed under 3PL, Supply Chain Logistics | No Comments
Excellent customer service is impossible without effective management of the entire supply chain.
A supply chain problem will take the shine off a customer’s experience and possibly gift your competitors a new customer. At any rate, it could dent the hard-won reputation of your brand.
Here’s seven supply chain shortcomings that could be losing you customers:
1. Not displaying the customer service phone line and email address clearly. Some companies only put their phone number on their home page, forgetting that the customer may land straight on one of the internal pages.
2. Failing to keep in touch. Set a target response time for email enquiries – and stick to it. This is as much a marketing strategy as an administrative chore: it can win you loyal customers.
3. Not flagging up your after-sales support. You may well provide a great after-sales service, but the customer has to know you do.
4. Not streamlining your supply chain. These days a ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach is expected. The more complex your operations, the more you need to find a logistics partner who will carry out a range of functions from the beginning to the end of the supply chain. Choose a reputable partner who takes the time to understand your business and marketplace.
5. Not keeping tabs on customer orders. An ecommerce business must have the facility to track the status of each order sent, whether fulfilment is dealt with in-house, via ‘drop ship’ (see below) or by a logistics firm. There needs to be a method of spotting delayed orders, or those which are only partially shipped.
6. Insufficient focus on reliability. Robust inventory management matters, if your goods are going to be in stock when your customer wants them. Engineer your logistics systems to ensure fast turnaround times: today’s shoppers are less prepared to wait.
This doesn’t mean you have to stock the goods yourself, of course. Drop shipping is becoming more common, a reflection of the increased complexity of supply chains. The business splits the shopper’s basket into separate orders, each one relayed to the relevant product supplier who ships the item straight to the customer. As a retailer you are relieved of the costs and risks involved in having the items in stock: it also gives you the ability to offer a greater range of products. Better still, turn to a third party logistics (3PL) firm who will manage the entire supply chain process – from warehousing the goods to picking and packing them.
7. The wrong packaging. When an order arrives with tears in the packaging, the customer’s first thought is often ‘will the item inside be in good working order?’ Not an auspicious beginning to a relationship. But customers dislike excessive packaging almost as much as too little. Fortunately, smart packaging innovations are offering plenty of alternatives to unwieldy wrapping.
RT Page has a highly knowledgeable logistics team ready to help you achieve excellent customer service. Call us today on 01903 736300.
Posted on 12/03/15, filed under 3PL, eCommerce tips | No Comments
A sobering statistic for any owner of an ecommerce business appeared recently. Apparently 40% of online customers ditched their baskets before they had completed their purchases during the peak Christmas shopping period.
This finding, from research by courier company Hermes, echoes that of similar surveys conducted over the last couple of years. So what is causing online shoppers to spend time filling up their baskets only to abandon them at the checkout? Top of the list of shoppers’ complaints were delivery charges that were only revealed at the checkout stage and frustration using the website.
Here’s some advice on how to ensure your customers enjoy a straightforward shopping experience and don’t become lost opportunities:
Make your delivery costs and timescales clear at an early stage
You needn’t worry about putting customers off: the Hermes survey found that online shoppers are quite happy paying for delivery, proof that they value the convenience factor over high street shopping or collecting orders in person.
Address technical issues to make sure your web pages load quickly
More than a few seconds and it may be too late – the shopper will have vanished.
Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and works on all screen sizes
Shoppers are increasingly turning to their smaller devices for researching and buying presents, and a sizeable proportion complain that retail sites are fiddly to use.
Make the payment process as simple as possible
Don’t make forms too long or ask for extensive personal details, or force the customer to register before buying. Remember that not every web shopper is web savvy. Ensure it is easy to edit the shopping basket too.
Consider offering a price guarantee
Shoppers often get cold feet when they start wondering whether the item might be cheaper on another site.
Send personalised emails to the basket-droppers
You will normally have secured an email address from the customer who abandoned their basket at the payment stage. So fire off an email a little while later: as well as using the customer’s first name you should go further by adding some details about the products they left in their baskets, perhaps with some reviews and testimonials.
Follow the actions above and you should have fewer abandoned baskets – or, if the customer does give up, you may still be able to win them back.
It is important to maintain a streamlined operation across the whole business, including supply chain and logistics: this will go a long way towards delivering the service your key customers demand. To find out more about how we can help you with this, contact RT Page on 01903 736300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on 24/02/15, filed under 3PL | No Comments
As more and more consumers shop online, so the demands they make on retailers have grown too. Today’s consumers now expect speed and convenience unimaginable to pre-internet generations. And they want the delivery to be just as smooth as the ordering.
In response to these demanding customers, forward-thinking businesses now offer locker systems for convenient delivery. These come in a number of guises, but the best-known scheme sends the customer details of their nearest locker along with a locker code for picking up their purchase.
New variations are emerging. Waitrose has trialled deliveries to a locker box with refrigerated compartments. Another concept, formulated for clothes rather than food shopping, combines elements of ‘click and collect’ with lockers: the customer goes to a staffed ‘locker bank’, which has a changing room nearby for trying on the clothing ordered. If not satisfied the customer can return the item without delay.
Like a click-and-collect system, locker collection means that even if they still have to go to their nearest store, customers can pick up their purchases without the bother of queuing. Online retailers with no physical stores can set up lockers at some form of dedicated collection point, forge a partnership with an independent store, or even arrange with London Underground to use station car parks.
The locker system removes the problem of how to deliver parcels when the buyer is at work. Bad experiences of companies which fail to deliver when they say they will (the buyer often has to take time off work to wait at home) perhaps explain why, contrary to expectations, shoppers have been happy to forgo home deliveries for collecting. Customer collection comes with the added bonus that it makes same-day order fulfilment possible.
Impact on retail and logistics
For the retail and third party logistics (3PL) industries a locker system is easier to manage than a home delivery and can be built into the existing supply chain infrastructure.
As delivery options grow, retailers are having to ensure their back-office processes are robust enough to manage the end-to-end product lifecycle and satisfy customers. People are quick to turn to social media to share their annoyance about slow delivery.
Inevitably, the growth of online shopping is putting pressure on retailers’ ability to process the high number of orders and manage all the delivery requirements. This is where specialists come in. Turning to a third party to manage the logistics of delivery enables a business to concentrate on its core, day-to-day activities. This is especially important for smaller, newer businesses. Customers want to know about availability from the very start: via the sophisticated inventories of third party logistic companies, retailers have valuable up-to-date information on stock levels.
RT Page brings over 50 years’ experience to managing supply chain logistics. Contact us on 01903 736300 to find out how we can handle the supply chain process from you.
Posted on 06/02/15, filed under eCommerce tips, Storage Space, Warehousing | No Comments
What to do about merchandise that has not proved as popular as anticipated is a quandary all online retailers in every sector face from time-to-time.
We’ve put together some of the top tricks to help you shift your slower-selling stock.
Withdraw items from sale, keeping them for a later date (especially if they are seasonal). This way, instead of having to reduce the price for ‘sales’ purposes, you can reintroduce the product to the market a year later – still at the original price.
Attach the item to another, faster-moving product, with the slow-moving item effectively offered at a discount if bought with the more popular one. Customers will find this bundled package a good deal, even if the second item isn’t something they were setting out to buy. Similarly, you could bundle two or more of the slow-moving items together and offer them at a discount.
Run a one-day only or similar short-term sale. Hesitant customers will realise they have to buy now, rather than wait and miss the promotion.
Use eBay to target a different, and perhaps larger, market. It can be done anonymously, so that it does not intrude on your main business, or as an eBay shop. A larger market can be reached whatever your online retail platform by being prepared to try something differing and make a product that is not selling very well in the UK available internationally.
Reconsider how you present the product. Are the images right? Is the language used in the description convincing? Use your bestselling item as a point of comparison, and also have a look at how a competitor describes a similar product. Make sure your shipping information is clear, as uncertainty about delivery can deter even the keenest customer.
Add some product reviews and testimonials, if there aren’t any already.
Adjust the price, though not too soon: it is better to do this only if the other steps have proved unsuccessful. If your competitor is charging less for the item, you should consider following suit. If you do lower the price by a sizeable margin you should take the opportunity to promote this. You can do so on your website, via an email promotion or through social media.
With a little ingenuity, and the tips we’ve given above, sales will pick up and you can clear some precious warehouse space, making it available for one of your more profitable product lines.
For more help with making your stock management more efficient, call RT Page on 01903 736300.