Every eCommerce business faces one crucial challenge: creating a logistics plan that is reliable and cost-effective. In today’s competitive eCommerce world, every touchpoint makes a lot of difference. Bad customer experience can undo your good work and tarnish your reputation. More often than not, delivering the basics is what it takes to keep customers happy - reasonable lead time and accurate delivery. Here are a few ways you can achieve that.
Are your deliveries on time?
First and foremost, your delivery needs to be accurate and on-time. When it comes to eCommerce, delivery is the most crucial part of the customer’s experience, especially there is no bricks-and-mortar experience for comparison. If your company misses a delivery, you may need to spend tremendous effort to compensate for the failed customer experience, given if you don’t lose the customer for good.
To make sure your lead times are accurate, you can consider these three aspects: lead time management, inventory control and supplier management. Addressing them will not only help you keep your customers satisfied, but also prevent potential problems from snowballing.
Manage your lead time
By definition, lead time is the time difference between when the customer places the order to the movement they receive the delivery. Lead time involves all aspects of supply chain management, from manufacturing, obtaining raw materials, packaging to delivering the goods to the end-users. As this implies, there are many elements of lead time management you need to manage. To start, consider where you pick up your raw materials and how long you need to process them. Then, evaluate the delivery process of the finished product to the end-user. If you can predict a caveat or an out-of-stock issue, consider how long you would need to fix it.
Once you have a rough idea of how long each process will take, it’s time to set expectations with the customers and devise a realistic service-level agreement. You can even set reminders for your customers and remind them of the delivery status. If you can identify a vulnerable part of the supply chain, remember to monitor it closely and have a plan when things go wrong. Here’s a rule of thumb: the shorter the lead time, the better. Shorter lead time can help you plan demands more accurately and enhance customer satisfaction, but one step at a time.
Manage your inventory
When you manage your inventory, consider how and where you store your goods and raw materials. Are they stored in one location near where you are or are they scattered in different countries, readily available to customers in nearby regions? Do your goods need assembly before being sold to customers? There are tradeoffs for where you choose to put or assemble your products or materials. If you store your inventory in one location, you may spend less on warehouse costs, but you may need more time to ship goods abroad. If you store inventory in different places, you can save delivery time and give the products to your customers more quickly, but that might incur higher costs.
To ensure a reliable inventory roadmap, make sure you have a robust inventory management system or a partner that can help you track your inventory. A reliable eCommerce merchant should know where every piece is, how many orders there are and when they’re arriving. Finding a good 4PL or 5PL partner will certainly help. You can also leverage their technological and cultural expertise to ensure smoother inventory management.
Manage your suppliers
Given your goods consist of different components or materials, your eCommerce business will inevitably involve suppliers. In this case, here’s a question: how well do you know their service capabilities that you’re sure they won’t miss their deliveries? Supply chain management isn’t just about your organisation, but also about your suppliers. To understand their capabilities and operations, you need to make sure your efforts extend to your service’s suppliers. Spend time with them regularly, whether virtually or physically, and keep both parties updated. Also, evaluate their workflow and identify anything that could become an issue in the future. If the supplier no longer meets your standard or requirements, make sure you can replace them within the bounds of contracts.
If you’re the supplier, make sure you’re keeping in close contact with your clients, and giving them regular updates. Open communication is key to any successful business relationship, especially during uncertain times with higher chances of missing shipments.
Now, how to optimise everything?
There are four ways you can optimise your lead time and ensure accurate deliveries. Firstly, identify the key categories of your lead times, such as manufacturer, materials, eCommerce, shipping and courier. Then, make sure you know your supply chain’s main components, identify potential bottlenecks and devise contingencies. Thirdly, maintain regular contact with your suppliers and logistics partners and inform them of any changes or requirements. Last but not least, make sure you have the right supply chain software or system that can help you track each component and accurately predict arrival times.