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How Can An Omni-Channel Solution Improve Your Supply Chain Strategy?

August 15, 2013BY AMS Editor

One way to improve your supply chain strategy is to make it easy for customers to do business with you in the way that they want.

According to a post on the Logistics Viewpoints blog, many wholesale and retail distributors are adjusting their supply chain strategy to reflect customer demand for a variety of different purchasing and shipping options. Many distributors are responding to these demands by moving to an omni-channel model.

A white paper by UPS demonstrates why wholesale and retail distribution companies should consider such options. UPS found that customers put a lot of stock in return services, with 80 percent likely to make a purchase if they can return the item for free online or in person. Customers also, perhaps unsurprisingly, value free shipping, even if it means they have to buy more items to reach a minimum threshold to receive it. Flexible shipping options are also in demand.

Wholesale and retail distribution companies would also do well to have an integrated omni-channel solution, UPS found. As it relates to omni-channel and ERP systems, integration is the key.

To be successful, all sales channels must tie into one centralized fulfillment system. The e-commerce website, the point-of-sale terminals in the store and the customer service agents in the call center must all be able to access the same customer, order and inventory records at the same time. In the same vein, as orders are taken, they must be reflected immediately in the company’s ERP system so that product availability is properly updated.

This holistic view of the customer anywhere at any time is what allows the company to interact with its customers consistently, whether online or in person.

In order to provide the consumer more shipping options, the company needs to have systems in place to integrate its ERP system with multiple carriers. Typically this is done using an integrated multicarrier manifest system, which allows a distributor to ship with any number of carriers, such as UPS and FedEx.

There often are a lot of manual processes in shipping. Even if your systems are integrated, processes such as creating documentation for international shipments can be rather daunting. Much of that is streamlined and automated using an appropriate multicarrier manifest system.

The benefit to customers is increased visibility into their order status, especially as it relates to shipment. As soon as their order is packed and loaded, they’ll receive notification with tracking numbers from that integrated multicarrier manifest system.

The company’s customer service representatives will also have more information available because the tracking details are written back to the ERP system. When everything is integrated, everyone is on the same page. This means that all company representatives can interact with the customer in the same consistent manner and more ably meet the customers’ growing expectations of doing business with a company.

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