These days more than ever before, the most important goal of your supply chain is creating an outstanding customer experience. Customers have extremely high expectations. They want products delivered quickly when they order online, and they want consistent updates during shipping. When shopping at brick and mortar locations, they expect items to be in stock. Adding to that the increasingly tight windows for on-time in-full policies, as well as the penalties for missing them, and you’ve got a real need to increase efficiency and communication in your supply chain. That level of efficiency is achievable through the power of digitization.
What Customers Want
The modern consumer is demanding, but they don’t really know it. They want fast, free deliveries, and they want to be updated on delivery progress every step of the way. They want very little action their end, they simply want to get their deliveries when they expect to get them. What they don’t realize, is what it takes to provide them with that information. Companies like Amazon have risen the bar with eCommerce. They’ve made it seem simple to meet these demands, and now the modern consumer won’t accept anything less than the Amazon experience.
Customers also expect retail locations to be stocked with the items they want. Brick and mortar retail still comprises the vast majority of retail sales, but it’s in decline. 2017 saw more store closures than any year before it, and that number doesn’t appear to be slowing. Brick and mortar is a battlefield right now, and companies who want to stay in business need to focus on providing the best experience possible for shoppers, in-store and omnichannel. That means keeping things in stock, and being able to acquire stock as quickly and efficiently as possible.
While these are two different issues—high expectations on home delivery, and the demand for a better brick and mortar experiences—they have the same solution. That solution is supply chain digitization. Using modern technology like APIs to digitize your supply chain allows you to send and receive information in real-time across Less-than-Truckload, Volume LTL/Partial Truckload, Full Truckload, and Rail, and it allows you to connect with a large carrier network through a single integration point. The best part is that it allows you to deliver an experience just like Amazon’s no matter what size your company is.
Your Supply Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link
The term collaboration is being used more and more in this industry. Logistics has always been a collaborative effort, but with the increased adoption of new technologies, and the capabilities these technologies provide, the need for supply chain stakeholders to get and remain on the same page is more important.
The benefits of digitization are vast. The only way to truly achieve visibility is by leveraging the real-time, normalized data that digitization provides. The catch is that the best results are achieved when all supply chain stakeholders are using the same digitization tools like automation technology. That’s called information symmetry, and it’s achieved when everyone in the supply chain is sending and receiving the same data. Digitization, specifically automation, facilitates the transfer of that information, but also normalizes it so that it’s in the same format for everyone to utilize the same way.
Unfortunately, if you or one of your supply chain partners is still on legacy technology like EDI, or using manual processes that should be automated, information symmetry is drastically more difficult to achieve. It slows down the entire process, and with batched EDI there’s no way to ensure the most recent data you’ve received is accurate and up to date. This makes it more difficult to provide customers with a timely flow of information, it slows down the shipping process, and it can lead to your supply chain partners and carriers choosing to work with your competitors who are utilizing digitization solutions. Conversely, if you are using modern technology to digitize your supply chain, you’re more likely to become a preferred vendor (think “shipper of choice”), you’re going to get better capacity, and you’re going to receive better rates and assured capacity.
The time has come to go “all in” on the customer experience, and that means it’s time for you and your supply chain partners to go “all in” on digitization.