The events of the past few years have put their fair share of pressure on both supply chains and the logistics they entail, making the already-challenging process of supply chain management even more of a test.
But without efficient supply chain management, you may stand little chance of meeting customer demand, fulfilling shipments, and contending with shifting consumer preferences. Falling short here can turn the click-of-a-button convenience of e-commerce into a frustrating, long-winded process for businesses and customers alike.
Below, we’ll take a look at just how important supply chain management is in the world of e-commerce, and how you can improve your own approaches and processes to help deliver a higher standard of online shopping to your customers.
What is the e-commerce supply chain?
As more physical stores, manufacturers and consumers make the move to online, the e-commerce supply chain is one that must constantly evolve and adapt to the challenges and developments e-commerce creates.
As such, each element of the e-commerce supply chain adds up to ensure products are of a high quality, deliveries are made on time, and a business’ customer base is satisfied with every order.
Take the nature of e-commerce sites themselves. Such sites have no opening hours; they’re available to access and purchase from 24/7.
That means the e-commerce supply chain has no time to sleep either; it must remain open around the clock to account for the increase in night-time purchases. As such, it’s vital that your e-commerce system is integrated with your back-office system if you’re to efficiently manage incoming orders when you aren’t physically present.
Automating certain processes also plays a vital role in the e-commerce supply chain. Not least, in maintaining accurate stock levels 24/7, but in utilising features such as predictive stock and advanced order replenishment to keep up with customer demands, allowing you to fulfil orders and keep the supply chain moving without putting undue pressure on your staff.
An effective e-commerce supply chain underpins a successful e-commerce business. You can have an incredible-looking website that’s eye-catching, easy to navigate and stocked with plenty of choice and products, but without a system that lets you deliver products to your customers, in minimal time, at minimal costs, and without compromise, holding onto customers is going to be a challenge.
This is where e-commerce supply chain management is essential.
E-commerce’s role in the supply chain
With today’s social media and online shopping, volatility is a lot more frequent than it once was. Through the internet, trends can change at the drop of a hat. The global pandemic emphasised this volatility even further. With sales of certain products spiking like never before as a result of panicked bulk buying, brands struggled to both foresee, and then meet, this demand.
What are the benefits of supply chain management within e-commerce?
Despite the issue of volatility, e-commerce supply chain management can help your business in several different ways, including:
With the right software in place, you’ll have greater visibility of each stage of your supply chain network. By tracking production, warehousing and delivery through inventory management, you’ll have a clearer view of your supply chain’s inner workings – from the start of the purchasing process all the way to delivery to customers. By doing so, you can create smarter strategies around how you use your resources.
This also helps with stock visibility too. The right software can point out your stock levels, letting you know of any items that are running low, so you know when and what to replenish before things go out of stock.
Take the advanced stock replenishment feature Intact iQ employs. Through clever intelligence capabilities and algorithms, this feature can send orders to suppliers automatically based on previous order and purchase trends.
By accessing real-time data for order status, your team can stay up to speed on delivery lead times or anything that may be creating a lag in dispatch. An e-commerce site essentially means your business is open 24/7. Real-time information that keeps staff and customers updated around the clock and around the globe is vital.
Increased Automation and Reduction of human error
Technology is your ally in your bid to effectively manage your supply chain with shortages, rising costs and delays a recurrent theme these days. Successful ecommerce supply chains therefore involve the active streamlining of your business’s supply-side activities to maximise customer value and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
So, where labour-intensive tasks are involved, automation is your friend in helping all processes run smoothly and with less labour. It also reduces the potential for human errors to creep in. Your valuable human resources can be allocated to focus on tasks such as building customer/supplier relations and decision making, which ultimately drives value for your entire business.
Better customer & supplier relations
A key element of good supply chain management is building strong relationships with your suppliers. Modern software enables you to nurture and optimise your relationships across your supplier network, delivering action-based insights, comparisons, and automated review tasks. It also helps you to keep on top of any supply chain issues and support your delivery time commitments, enabling you to deliver the quality and value your customers’ demand.
Through benefits like the above, as well as higher quality products and on-time delivery, your business will also reap the rewards of improved relationships with your customers. Good supply chain management will help you anticipate customer needs, take note of increased demand, and so help you to prepare for any influxes of orders with ease.
And when a business can improve its relations with its customers, it can optimise its reputation as a result – creating greater customer loyalty and help to secure new customers.
By optimising processes, identifying areas that may incur increased expenses and delays, and ensuring the right stock is always available, e-commerce supply chain management can, give your profitability a boost.
And by running an efficient supply chain that is based on good supplier relationships, maintains strict quality and stock control, and keeps a watchful eye on costs and prices your liquidly also benefits from improved cash flow.
How to improve supply chain visibility
So, what can your business do to gain this much-feted visibility? Supply chain visibility doesn’t simply come overnight. Instead, it requires time, effort and insights to implement and improve things, including…
Identify your current supply chain’s situation
Before you do anything else, it’s important to be aware of where your company’s supply chain operations currently stand. There’s a good chance there are areas that lack visibility, creating pain points that stop you from functioning like you should. It’s a good idea to meet with both internal and external stakeholders to identify and understand the weak points across all elements of the supply chain.
With this information to hand, you’ll want to identify how these issues are impacting your company. Do they take away from the customer experience? Are they adding to your operating costs? However they’re affecting you, this is the time to identify the problems you might be experiencing and putting together some suggestions for improvements.
Set your goals
With the insights accrued at the first step, you’ll want to create goals that seek to ease the problems your pain points create. Maybe you need to build stronger relationships with your suppliers? Or maybe your technology is letting you down? Whatever form your goals take, it’s important to keep them measurable and timely, so you can gauge the success and progress of them.
Invest in the right technology
Technology and software that’s going to help you meet these goals are vital. Through an e-commerce integration platform, like Cliqx, you’ll have a bank of data within your ERP platform which you can use to track every point of your supply chain as accurately and efficiently as possible.
Analyse your findings
Supply chain data within your system will provide you with valuable insights into your operations and performance. Analysing this data, collected from supply chain activities, will allow you to make more informed decisions about where and how your operations need to be optimised.
Create regular reporting processes
On the way towards meeting your goals, regularly checking in with your teams and employees is essential. Supply chain visibility doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather is an ongoing process of improvement. Talk to those involved at regular intervals so you can identify any challenges they may be having – and make the necessary adjustments as fresh data comes in.
In need of business solutions that automate key processes, free up your team and let your productivity flourish? Intact’s iQ solution does all three, and then some. For more information on future-proofing your business head here or get in touch with our team today.