The supply chain was once a part of business that stopped at the large swinging doors in the back of a retail outlet. And that is the same place that customer service began. Storefronts were the customer-centric side of the business, and the supply chain just part of a number of business processes that ensured merchandise reached the brick-and-mortar locations of the organizations selling it.
However, according to EBN, consumer interest in the supply chain is so high that it is now as large of an influence as enterprise technology and warehouse innovation. With the acceleration of e-commerce, an agile and resilient supply chain is as important as the in-store customer experience.
E-commerce changes many aspects of how business is done. Companies that once had little need for a website must now build one that is user-friendly and engaging. Organizations must also ramp up customer service in call centers and over the Internet to communicate with customers they will never engage in person. Perhaps most importantly, the onus is on enterprises to treat warehouse shelves just like those in the store.
Accurate Inventory in the Customer-Centric Supply Chain
Retail outlets learned long ago that an empty store shelf can mean the loss of a customer. Many consumers will simply visit a competitor if the item they are looking for is not on the shelf, as opposed to asking an employee to check the stockroom. This is particularly damaging to business if the store has advertised or promoted an item and promised it will be in stock. The same is true of online sales.
Consumers on a retailer’s website want real-time information on the availability of products online and in stores. With advanced data collection systems that connect numerous stores and warehouses together, businesses can give customers a clear view of what’s in stock. If they wish to pick an item at the store, they can rest assured that it will be there. And if consumers order online, they won’t have to deal with the frustration of completing their check-out only to learn the item won’t ship for weeks.
Providing this type of detailed information all begins with automated data collection that integrates with ERP systems. With barcode scanning software and technology, employees can capture tracking information at multiple points in the warehouse and with fewer errors. The information also populates other systems immediately and drastically improves inventory control.