Today’s online shoppers have higher expectations than ever before. Consumers want to shop from websites anywhere and at any time, and they want a choice in how products are delivered to them.

The need for speed
Now, customers want same-day or next-day delivery, and some even want to choose their delivery date. A 2013 Econsultancy Multichannel Retail survey found that 50% of respondents had abandoned a purchase online due to unsatisfactory delivery options. A fixed date was the most popular choice when it came to ‘premium’ delivery options.
Consumer pressure to deliver more quickly and precisely means distribution services will have to evolve and expand.

Technology to add value
Fortunately, e-tailers are employing a number of technologies to help them differentiate themselves and to provide the additional services and capabilities customers are demanding. Technologies such as Vendor Managed Inventory, RFID and drop shipping are helping them streamline processes and enhance collaboration.

Many e-tailers are benefitting from Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI). VMI is a means of optimizing supply-chain performance through an inventory replenishment arrangement whereby the supplier either monitors the customer’s inventory with its own employees or receives stock information from the customer. The vendor then refills the stock automatically, without the customer initiating purchase orders. The vendor takes full responsibility for maintaining an agreed inventory. VMI makes it less likely that a business will unintentionally run out of stock and reduces inventory in the supply chain. This is one of the successful business models used by Walmart and other big-box retailers. A logistics provider can also be involved to make sure that the buyer has the required level of inventory.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and similar technologies,
meanwhile, enable companies to better manage and control production, purchasing and delivery requirements. EDI provides trading partners with an efficient tool for the automatic transmission of business data from one computer application directly to another. EDI is a key component of just-in-time manufacturing and quick-response customer-supplier links, resulting in significant reductions in inventory levels, out-of-stock items and returns of goods.
Using EDI allows a company to store and manipulate data electronically, thereby reducing the cost of manual entry. Another advantage of EDI is the opportunity to reduce manual-entry errors, such as shipping and billing mistakes, because it eliminates the need to rekey documents. EDI can also result in increased speed – large volumes of commercial data can be communicated from one computer to another very quickly, enabling faster response and greater customer satisfaction.

Streamlining supply-chain processes and enabling better collaboration across networks can help a company stay competitive and strengthen relationships with customers. Fortunately, technology solutions available today can help retailers adjust supply-chain practices to maximize customer satisfaction. 


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