Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Nancy Harris, EVP and Managing Director, Sage North America.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the distribution industry today is ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction. According to a recent report, half of customers will abandon a purchase if delivery choices are unsatisfactory.
Customers expect online orders to arrive as quickly as possible and also at a specified delivery time. Gone are the days of “your parcel will be delivered between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. within the next five to seven working days." Companies must provide timely and accurate delivery options to stay competitive in the age of Amazon.
For many distributors, keeping track of orders-in, orders-out and returns on top of delivering items accurately and on time is not an easy task. In fact, many businesses are challenged with calculating accurate costs for customer shipments, based on location and delivery preferences. The root of this issue is that many businesses still run on inefficient, costly legacy systems.
To stay competitive, it’s critical that retailers and distribution companies stay agile and flexible – all without eating into their margin. But how can they simultaneously deliver low cost and high-quality products while keeping customer experience top of mind?
Have one central data source
Today’s businesses are facing increasingly global and turbulent market forces. The ability to adjust processes, information flow and operations through the supply chain is vital. The digital age welcomed a new deluge of data that is proving to be a gift and a curse as stakeholders struggle to efficiently collect, process and action the data available to them.
Many of the issues often lie with the complexities and constraints of having vital information spread over various technical solutions. Data is often siloed in different software solutions that have not been designed to work together. As a result, time and resources that should be spent on serving customers and growing the business is unnecessarily spent on forcing the integration between these solutions.
Companies can only benefit by investing in cloud solutions that easily collect and consolidate data into one central hub. In fact, industry research firm IDC predicts that by 2020, approximately 80% of supply chain interactions will happen across cloud-based networks because there is "so much information that needs to be shared.”
Invest in the right management solutions
For distribution companies, adopting cloud-based, integrated premier solutions can bring a range of benefits including cost reduction, efficiency gains, better competitive advantage and an improved customer experience. For example, a recent Forrester study found that distribution companies saw a 237% return on investment (ROI) in just four months by implementing effective business management solutions.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes need products that aid productivity, enable them to respond at lightning speed and deliver insights as well as opportunity. Some of the best business management solutions are designed to make the lives of business leaders simple by removing the complexity of product and technology buying decisions. Identify the technology solutions that can address all the needs of businesses today and can scale as your company grows – including accounting, payments, payroll, human capital management and enterprise management.
Keep an eye on IoT
Along with the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) is giving companies the opportunity to have the best combination of solutions without the complexity and cost. For example, IoT is introducing opportunities to leverage physical equipment sensors to not only manage the equipment’s function, but also provide the appropriate context in the supply chain and financial operations of the business. IoT’s potential is so significant, that the technology is expected to triple in use by 2022.
As IoT technologies improve and easily integrate through cloud solutions, supply chain visibility will become increasingly attainable – making investments in new technologies a more palatable proposition to enterprises from a cost and complexity standpoint.
With improved accessibility, functionality and integration of these solutions, distribution businesses are poised to reap the benefits. By streamlining processes and integrating solutions, distribution companies stand to gain from a variety of advantages, but particularly, it will free employees from mundane tasks, enabling them to deliver a great customer experience.