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Digital has transformed every facet of the economy. And even though it may not be as visible as other areas undergoing disruption, the supply chain is undergoing massive change. Customers are buying products on a host of channels, seeking personalization, transparency, control and options. And these days, they’re doing it from all over the world. The result? Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have the opportunity to satisfy customers from more channels, but to do so, they must overcome a host of new supply chain challenges.
Sellers are asking more of manufacturers today, which makes sense, given that global buyers are asking more of them. Many sellers now expect manufacturers to pick, pack and ship orders for customers on their behalf. Customers and sellers alike, benefit from cutting out the middleman of a store, storage or distribution center. Similarly, manufacturers often find themselves being asked to handle returns on behalf of sellers.
As e-commerce evolves, manufacturers often have to shoulder the load that comes with meeting customer demands to remain competitive. Other businesses along the chain are adding new capabilities to accommodate new customer expectations. Customers get frustrated when they put the time in to find the right item at the right price from the right seller through the right channel, only to learn later that the product is out of stock. Meeting these inventory management challenges is an integral part of meeting the expectations of today’s savvy customer. The customer expects what he or she sees online, on location, on apps, or on social media platforms, to be available. Being told later that the item is actually out of stock does not go over well.
Rapid replenishment techniques can combat this. Sellers that have a clear picture of what goods are coming in and which are leaving can optimize and prioritize what they need in order to serve their customers. That’s important, since having the right inventory can save a sale or generate a new one. The most successful merchants, knowing this well, use data to position relevant product offerings for customers, especially if their first choice is unavailable.
The supply chain is changing to suit the sweeping changes in buyer behavior. People search for and purchase goods differently than they used to. Businesses have to adapt, and that can be a challenge and a cost. But more than that, it is an opportunity. A more efficient, more visible supply chain is better for business and customers alike.
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