October 14, 2014

Marketing and physical operations may seem worlds apart in terms of function, but when it comes to end objectives they’re more closely aligned than you might think.

A strong brand is fueled by effective marketing and advertising, but it is built on the reality of how well a company works and the service it delivers. The logistics process is an integral part of delivering that high level service, which makes developing a strong, efficient supply chain a central pillar of brand reputation.

When it comes down to it, supply chain development is not something that any brand can ignore without causing cracks to appear further down the line.

 

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Efficient Stocking, Effective Delivery

Business is built on trust. For any brand with a major stake in delivering products and providing a service that feels seamless to customers, bringing more than just operational minds into the supply chain planning process is an ambitious but potentially lucrative way to earn that trust. This happens by driving efficiency and playing to your brand strengths.

A supply chain understood and developed, in part, by those outside the daily processes that run it, will help distinct functional activities to become more deeply integrated. When buyers, marketers and sales teams see the complexity of what goes on behind the scenes to get their product to a customer, or how many moving parts a service takes to deliver effectively, they’re more likely to make realistic decisions.

In addition to fostering greater understanding, a closely knit supply chain allows a business to manage inventory more efficiently.

Real-time data can be shared across business functions to create more effective reporting. Where real-time data is available it can be processed more quickly and used to inform order priorities, as well as flag wasteful activities in the system. If something seems to be taking too long on a regular basis, or is impacting one of the business functions further down the line, it will be hunted down and remedied much more quickly if multiple stakeholders are involved in the process.

 

Better Branding Through Supply Chain Development

package assembly lineBuilding brand reputation through supply chain integration starts with bringing more stakeholders into the existing process, but to take this to the next level requires a commitment to actually develop and improve upon activities across the supply chain.

This means regular reviews and a desire to adapt not only departmentally, but organizationally.

Consider some of the following questions as you aim to expand your supply chain development from integration to improvement:

  • Do you have monthly or quarterly reviews in place with representatives of every department impacted by supply chain activities? Fresh eyes often make the most vibrant development suggestions for the supply chain.
  • What supply chain capabilities are being stretched? Are there any not being used to their fullest? What changes could be made to reduce the burden or get more from these respective areas?
  • Where does your service fall down most frequently and who can be brought in to diagnose any challenges?
  • What are your organization’s overarching strategic goals? Where does the supply chain contribute most to making them happen?

By aligning the core value proposition of your brand with the supply chain activities that enable its delivery, it’s possible to drive both efficiency and customer satisfaction improvements throughout your organization. The key is to convince stakeholders at every level that the exercise is not only worthwhile, but that their roles and the service they deliver will become that much easier when an integrated, flexible supply chain is in action.

 

September 11, 2014
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Next stop: Buy Me on Twitter? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of focus on one-click buying in order fulfillment circles, and with good reason.

Established online retailers like Amazon and eBay have embraced the impulsive allure of quick click purchases for some time, but it’s the more recent roll outs by social networks, first Facebook and now Twitter, that offer the most promising area for expansion.

Retailers already do plenty of work within their own digital walls to up sell and cross sell existing customers. Outside of their own ecosystem the focus has been to attract new customers through advertising and optimizing their sites for search engines.

Social networks, until now, have been an sandpit in which companies can talk to their customers and perhaps raise awareness of their products, but rarely are they seen as a source of direct sales.

Integrating easy-to-use buy buttons within the walls of popular social media sites could change all that, expanding the reach of ecommerce operators exponentially.

one click buying button

One of the main challenges to both retailer and social site to date has been losing control of the customer.

For the retailer, it’s a balancing act between showcasing products on a social network without selling too heavily and driving customers away from the brand in general. For the social network, sending users to another site for another activity has to be balanced with the desire to keep them on site, enjoying the entertainment element that brought them there in the first place.

If immediate buy buttons become a common enough element of social sites both of these problems could be addressed with one solution. Customers can spot a product they like, quickly process the transaction within the walls of Facebook, and get back to catching up with friends, commenting on a cat meme, or playing the latest Facebook game fad (and unwittingly inviting the rest of us to do so). Sale for retailer, easy purchase for customer, increased stickiness for social network, a win-win-win scenario for all involved, no?

The answer to that will slowly be revealed as Facebook and Twitter test their buy buttons, but there are certainly some obstacles.

For one, social sites aren’t currently considered as the online malls that retailers and tech startups might like them to be. Although some transactions are carried out already, such as in-app purchases and buying advertising, the general act of social media shopping is in its infancy. As such, there are plenty of bumps in the road to navigate before brands convince customers to not just like or follow them there, but also buy what they’re selling. And that selling is also somewhat at odds with the general consensus that social media marketing is based on being informative and entertaining, not yet another sales space. The former could limit the latter, even when simple sales functions are put in place.

The other aspect that still worries many customers is just who they can trust with their details online. The biggest brand names online and off – Target, Apple, Home Depot and many more – have been dragged through the mud this year thanks to digital hacker attacks, making customer leary of expanding their purchase activity outside of the providers they already trust. Overcoming these security concerns will be just as important as convincing customers that social sites are a place they want to shop in the first place.

Even against these pronounced challenges, social network shopping holds so much potential that retailers will be pulling out all the stops to build a foundation for its future.

If they’re successful, those of us providing ecommerce order fulfillment services must be ready to meet the resulting rise in demand.