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The Customer-Focused Supply Chain: Why an Omni-Channel Supply Chain Approach Keeps the Customer Happy

The role of the customer experience in growing your business cannot be overstated. Amazon and other retail giants have managed to create unique, customer-focused supply chains, ensuring customers have real-time status updates and options in case of returns. Meanwhile, managing customer-focused supply chains can be complicated, eroding profit margins. However, an omni-channel supply chain approach can help your business create a customer-focused supply chain.

Omni-Channel Supply Chains Improve Visibility

When customers are kept in the dark, it contributes to anger and possible loss of customers. However, omni-channel supply chains rely on consistent communication and insight into every product’s specific location, including after shipping and during returns. As a result, this information can be passed along to customers through email, text or other notifications. In fact, up to 71 percent of retailers cite increased visibility across the whole supply chain as key to improving customer service, reports MultiChannel Merchant. Moreover, omni-channel supply chains promote diversity in decision-making processes for in-transit issues, a key concern for 69 percent of retailers.

Omni-Channel Supply Chains Provide Customer-Tailored Products

Retailers are in the Age of Apps. Every major retailer has unveiled an app to make the shopping experience more personable and faster in recent months. But, apps require an omni-channel supply chain. Apps make the promise of getting virtually any product at any time, at any place and through any means.

As explained by Phil Wainewright, many brands have grown accustomed to traditional, multi-channel sales. However, the increased demand from more customers through e-commerce requires a significant investment on the back office—the supply chain—to fulfill these promises. Thus, retailers must manage the whole process, including inbound and outbound freight, as an extension of the shopping experience.

Customers’ Data Is Being Created, And It Requires Integration

Depending on your industry, you must create a unique shopping experience for every customer. Although this sounds redundant, customer data from all touch points and shopping options must be leveraged to provide greater control over the remaining supply chain. According to Antoine Rizk, a typical retail experience for unique customers might include retailers, product manufacturers, banks, online product rating tools, sales and marketing information, social media data and more. This information can be analyzed to create better demand forecasts and accommodate peaks or lulls in operations.

In other words, data created must be used across multiple systems throughout the supply chain. Since omni-channel supply chains rely on data sharing for increased collaboration and productivity, customer data sets lend themselves to propagating omni-channel supply chain practices. In addition, the level of personalization results in increased likelihood of returns or buyer’s remorse. Essentially, customers want the flexibility of sending something back without extensive restocking fees or other charges. While this represents a risk to omni-channel supply chains, it is essential to their success.

What You Can Do to Create an Omni-Channel, Customer-Focused Supply Chain

The first step is simple; begin integrating your existing systems. Break down organizational silos, and bridge the disconnect between all previous multi-channel supply chains. This process can be difficult for all business. For example, Home Depot’s size might provide a basis for its continued growth. But, the retailer has worked to increase omni-channel sales, specifically by marrying e-commerce within in-store shopping, creating a consistent 23-percent increase in web sales annually. Regardless of your company’s size, consider working with a third-party integrator (3PI), such as Veridian Solutions, to help manage the upgrade and integration process. This will help you move toward a successful omni-channel, customer-focused supply chain strategy.