In a hyperconnected world that continues to escalate the pressure on retail businesses to adapt to consumers’ “I want it now” demands, and provide a singular shopping experience across all customer touchpoints, the stakes have never been higher. For Canadian retailers and their suppliers, this is doubly true.
To quote poet Geoffrey Chaucer, “time and tide wait for no man.” In the modern context where the nonstop consumer is mobile, social, and remarkably tough to impress because they can shop stateside or elsewhere in a click, customers want what they want when they want it. If you can’t deliver it in a personalized and timely fashion, they will show your business no loyalty. Reaching that level of world-class customer service demands rapid, multi-pronged order fulfillment, and smart inventory management.
Let’s face it: in the business-to-consumer (B2C) arena, the consumer has always been in charge. But we now live in the age of turbocharged customer centricity. It’s the promise of the 21st century realized; it’s tomorrow’s world today whether your company is ready for it or not.
With the steady rise of e-commerce – and now m-commerce (mobile commerce) thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices – retailers that fail to evolve their strategies from providing a multichannel customer experience to what’s referred to as an “omnichannel” experience, are inarguably doomed to be consigned to the dustbin of merchandiser history.
The Brave New World of Retailing
The term “omnichannel” may have become a buzzword to a degree, but the necessity for retailers to provide a seamless customer-driven experience is more than mere jargon.
According to Accenture’s annual Global Consumer Pulse Research report, “Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?”, it warns consumers’ biggest frustration with retail providers is their “failure to deliver on their promises, inefficient and slow customer service, and a lack of interaction convenience.” Moreover, the report states an estimated 44% of consumers are open-minded to purchasing products and services from “nontraditional” competitors.
What does that mean for Canadian retailers? Consider in the 1800s the notion of a nontraditional retailer was the dry goods store that did away with the need for individual shops for every type of consumer good by making it more convenient to shop for the items you needed under one roof. The dry goods store preceded the first major nontraditional retail institutions: large department stores and their mail-order catalogues. Fast-forward a few decades, and digitized self-serve checkouts soon followed in certain consumer-facing businesses like the supermarket or corner gas station. Nowadays, it’s big online retailers such as Amazon that pose a terminal threat to Canada’s established retail landscape.
It appears the recurring amalgam of catalysts fuelling these market shifts are the only constants in an otherwise ever-evolving industry: consumers’ impatience and their increasing mobility and purchasing power. That, too, is evolving in light of social networks which provide consumers with a real-time outlet to share their experiences whether good or bad.
If Canadian retailers are going to adapt to these changing patterns of consumption, and remain competitive by ‘wowing’ their customers, they’re going to need an experienced and flexible third-party logistics (3PL) partner that can help them embrace and deliver the coveted omnichannel customer experience.
From Technological Laggards to Leaders
So what, exactly, must Canadian retailers do to their ecosystems to deliver a holistic, fleet-footed customer service experience online and offline? There are five major logistics-related backend services you need to have in place:
- Proactive internet fulfillment. Online shopping isn’t going to go away, it will continue to expand, and with it, so too will consumers’ expectations for near instantaneous delivery. It isn’t just American retailers that are eating your lunch. Seasonality will also up the ante (Black Friday, the holiday season, etc.). A 3PL partner that can ensure you meet your internet fulfillment demands is the highest priority for businesses of all sizes.
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is the always-on, always-available data access you and your business partners or franchisees need to stay atop of inbound and outbound shipments. It’s also a real money saver, and increasingly, a necessity if you want to see your goods sold by big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco that impose compliance requirements on all of their suppliers.
- Reverse logistics. Managing returned or unsold products is an important part of smart supply chain management. Without it, your bottom line will be affected.
- Accessible warehousing. Shipping by ground is much cheaper than shipping by air or via expedited measures, as does keeping goods readily available under one roof reduces inventory carrying costs. Maintaining market share through customer retention is paramount to both of these issues.
- Fast, flexible transportation. Whether you need to deliver hard goods to a retail location on a mass scale or smaller orders to a customer’s home or office, fast, cost-effective, national transportation is essential.
Are you seeking a 3PL partner to help you transform your supply chain to meet customer demand efficiently? Talk to us. We’ve been a trusted supply chain management partner of Canadian companies big and small since 1950. We know how to help you grow your customer base and increase revenues.