In the age of same-day and next-day delivery, it’s safe to say that the global supply chain challenges are putting online retailers in a very awkward position.
As manufacturers and suppliers are grappling with stock shortages, fulfillment delays, and backorders, businesses are struggling to get an accurate handle on:
- Inventory management
- Shipping costs
- Shipping speed
- Out-of-stock notifications
- Demand forecast
The headlines are dominated by the certainty that these supply chain bottlenecks will persist for the remainder of this year, and possibly carry over into 2022.
According to experts, this comes as a result of increasing customer spending on products and the sustained interest in buying online. But here’s the biggest challenge: customers know that there are supply chain issues affecting companies all over the world. But it doesn’t mean they’ll accept your shortcomings.
If you don’t deliver as expected because you’re experiencing some supply chain challenges, you’ll inadvertently make them super frustrated. And, some of your customers will not be afraid to vent their displeasure with your brand on social media or under your reviews section. That will negatively affect your reputation, and most likely have you losing customers to the competition. McKinsey explains that in times of crisis, especially, a customer’s interaction with a company “can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.”
We know that maintaining a strong customer experience in a crisis is a difficult thing to do. The growing customer expectations suggest that they always want smooth, pleasant, and fast shipping and delivery experiences. Online retailers and brands like yourself are challenged to reimagine how you meet customers’ needs and wants even in chaotic times. That starts with having a good supply chain strategy in place. But what does a good supply chain strategy look like?
Let’s discuss it below.
1. Staying hyper-alert on your inventory
Now more than ever is the time to stay on top of how many products you have available in stock, what is not in stock, and what is running low. The last thing you want to do amid this chaos is to disappoint your customers. As you know, customers always feel let down when there’s a miscommunication about product availability, which leads to a loss in sales and cart abandonment. So, staying on top of your inventory will eliminate the chances of inaccuracies in inventory data.
2. Staying informed about product velocity
Product velocity in ecommerce is about the amount of time it takes for a product to sell when it’s available on digital shelves. It gives you an indication of the demand for your product. Knowing which products are top performers and which are underperformers gives you the power to do demand planning.
According to this article, effective demand planning gives you a chance to optimize service and inventory levels, thus reducing the need for excess inventory and minimizing costly markdowns. For example, you can stock more of the top performers and fewer underperformers, so that when the demand increases, you have the products available. That will lead to customer satisfaction as customers will be able to buy the products they value and love. A win-win situation.
3. Ensuring effective returns management
Research reveals that a quarter of all customers return between 5% and 15% of the items they buy online. Customers will return products for a variety of reasons, including dissatisfaction with the product, defective product, or change of mind. The important role your business will play in ensuring that the return process is easy and quick, even more so during such a time as these. Having an effective returns system can ensure that you’re able to quickly update your inventory.
4. Using third-party logistics to improve supply chain efforts
Order fulfillment, logistics, and shipping can be very complicated and expensive for online retailers that want to control everything. But the fact that remains is that customers want products delivered fast. Your top priority is to always deliver products on time. Seeking partnerships with third-party providers can help you achieve that even in the face of a crisis. These types of providers offer fulfillment solutions such as storing, labeling, packaging, and shipping.
For example, Shopify’s Fulfillment Network picks, packs, and ships your orders. That way, you can spend more time on inventory, and product data management.
5. Leveraging omnichannel fulfillment infrastructure
While customers may know about supply chain challenges that online retailers are facing, they do expect you to adjust and come up with solutions to meet their needs. For multichannel retailers with brick and mortar storefronts, this presents an opportunity to leverage omnichannel fulfillment solutions such as:
- Buy online and pick up in-store
- By the curbside pickup
- Click and collect
6. Establishing effective information management
Communication is critical in supply chain management, with customers, and suppliers. Not only does it create transparency, but it builds trust. Clear communication with suppliers keeps you in the loop about inventory and availability. Similarly, communication with customers keeps them in the loop about inventory, availability, and all other crucial product information they require.
According to this study, more online retailers are improving or planning to improve their communication strategies to meet consumer expectations. “70% of respondents adapt their order communication strategies to include package tracking information with their orders and enhance post-sale customer support.”
7. Adapting a product information management tool
Product information is customer-facing and deserves to take priority if you aim to drive sales, reduce returns, eliminate frustrations, and satisfy customers.
The way to do that is through a PIM tool that gives you the ability to provide customers with accurate and up-to-date content at all times. If they shop for a product from your ecommerce store, receive it within the expected timeframe, and it is exactly the product they expected as per the product description provided, they will be happy. Which makes it that crucial to include a PIM in your supply chain strategy. It really keeps the communication with customers going!
Invest in Plytix to achieve customer satisfaction
Plytix PIM helps small ecommerce businesses such as yourself store, organize, and enrich product data in a centralized location. It doesn’t matter how many SKUs you have or the product information and digital assets you need to maintain, we can easily ensure that you’re working smart to communicate all necessary product information to your customers. As an addition to our next-generation PIM’s ability to simplify your product content management, it also helps you with multichannel management, where you can pull necessary product content and distribute it to sales channels, and according to each channel’s requirements.
The modern tool can boost your communication with customers beyond the product information on your sales channels; you can use it for ecommerce product catalog management and distribution. (That’s why it’s the best PIM for Shopify and other ecommerce platforms.) It allows you to create a product catalog via our Brand Portals, where you can include all the digital assets and products your customers need to see. Not only that but it also automates product updates you make so that your customers are aware of which products are still in stock, low in stock, or any related information they need to make the buying decision.
All of this is to say that our catalog management tool works with you, so you can continue to provide customers with what they need, whenever they need it, and ultimately create customer satisfaction. To learn more about PIMs and how to shop for a suitable one for your business, download our detailed PIM guide.