Retailers: These 4 demands from your customers are revolutionizing freight management

E-commerce continues to revolutionize retail. Are your freight management operations equipped to handle the change?

By: Lance Healy

According to DC Velocity magazine, controlling supply chain costs in 2017 was the number one strategic priority for supply chain managers. This response makes sense when you consider how much retail has changed in the past couple of years and how high the stakes are.

To better emphasize the importance of controlling costs in retail, DC Velocity supplied a list of all the companies who shuttered stores and enacted layoffs in 2016. The list is long and it includes Macy’s, JC Penney, CVS, The Limited, Walmart, Sears, and Sports Authority (which closed completely). Retailers know how competitive their industry is; add in the wrinkle of adapting to omnichannel elements, and even the largest companies will have to adapt or die.

The technology is not driving the change; it’s the demographics driving the market shift.  Amazon’s not investing in the 40-to-60-year-old market that is slow in changing how they shop. Instead, Amazon is directly targeting the consumer group that dwarfs the baby boomers – the millennials. These are my kids, they order everything online, and have little interest in getting their license or a car because they can Uber anywhere. These are buyers that were raised on mobile technology and have no brick-and-mortar buying habits to overcome. In 2016 alone, Amazon invested over $7.2 billion in losses related to shipping costs to buy change in consumer behavior. Amazon Prime eliminated the barrier of shipping costs and reset the bar for consumer expectations of shopping experience from a mobile app. This is the long game and if they can capture the demand, they can drive efficiencies into the supply chain to serve their customers better than anyone. The next trick is developing the supply chain infrastructure to deliver it faster to satisfy the instant gratification of an in-store purchase.

The market is shifting and while we all may not be competing directly with Amazon, we should be prepared to serve the new largest consumer demographic in a way that meets their expectations. I know how quickly my kids are growing up, and that doesn’t leave us a lot of time.

That is why we have compiled a quick list of 4 demands from your customers, especially focusing on where it impacts the revolution of freight management and supply chain logistics.

 

  1. On-Time Delivery

Let’s start with the least exciting and most expected answer – on-time delivery is critical. If you’re not delivering on time, quite frankly, you’re failing your customer’s number 1 expectation. On-time delivery isn’t a bonus anymore – it’s a baseline expectation.

Recently, Amazon has blown by that hurdle and completely reimagined both the loading and delivery processes with robots and drones, respectively. Now, on-time delivery has moved from a few business days, to overnight, to same-day. If your competitor consistently delivers a similar product faster and more seamlessly, expect to see a decrease in online orders.

Most retailers are confronting the realities of their legacy infrastructure to align business systems and logistics to effectively track inventory and ship from stores through a single platform. E-commerce grew by more than 16% last year and the kids aren’t waiting for any of us to weigh the ROI of a system’s upgrade in 3 years.

 

2. Self-service

Self-service in retail and freight management is moving to the web as millennials take to mobile devices with a do-it-yourself mentality. The trend toward self-service has permeated nearly every aspect of society—and with good reason; self-service is a near-perfect business model that benefits customers, while also allowing companies to streamline processes.

For customers, self-service means greater control. To win in the e-commerce game, users want to drill deep, see specs, look at pictures from all angles, and read reviews. Can you offer upgrades or alternatives? Many customers embrace self-service because they have become sensitive to poor service. Thus, the customer who has wasted too many minutes in long telephone queues is more likely to turn to an always-available web alternative.

 

You’ll want to design your self-service portal so it covers these three customer requirements:

 

1. Enables users to do things—today, consumers don’t need to contact a travel agent and pay extra fees for doing work they can easily do on their own. Cutting out a middleman will always save money.

2. Allows users to know things—when a consumer purchases something online, they know the money was withdrawn because they can see it through mobile banking. For consumers and shippers, automatic billing is one less thing to worry about.

3. Grants users the capability to see things—cloud-based technology has revolutionized information by making it available to anyone with an internet connection. When everyone is on the cloud, information is visible immediately and with full transparency.

 

Have you provided your customers with an easily accessible self-service portal to track shipments?  The self-service model is here to stay.

 

3. Process automation

Much like your favorite web browser auto-filling your username and password into various sites, process automation in retail is an efficient and stress-free timesaver. How do you create a relationship with your client through technology and the buying experience? Process automation for consumers has evolved beyond companies knowing products that are frequently purchased together. Set preferences, based on their last purchase, make it so easy to do business with you, that the thought of starting over with another provider is frightening.

Process automation has become a necessity in so much of the consumer experience that it’s about time the same innovative concepts helped streamline freight operations. Pre-fill location information, product data, stored shipping location, accessorial requirements, and shipment tracking appear automatically. Systems can now automatically compare each data element of your invoice to the shipment data you submitted for the quote. This reduces your billing process to managing exceptions, so you can get back to focusing on your customers.

 

4. Ability to compare

When it’s time to shop, consumers have become accustomed to easily finding, not only the lowest price, but also feature variants. With online shopping becoming so prevalent, a consumer can search the online inventory of 10 different stores in as many minutes. If this seems like too much work for the modern consumer, certain stores like Walmart, Best Buy, and The Home Depot have low price guarantee policies. This ensures that consumers don’t have to worry about always shopping at the wrong store. If they find a lower price elsewhere, consumers can reference the competing store’s lower price and the original store will match it.

As a retailer, why not expect the same functionality out of your own operations? Expect the functionality your customers receive, to easily compare options and prices to ensure you’re getting the best price, even in something as traditionally un-techy as freight operations.

Any commercial shipper wanting to upgrade the 1980’s processes of annual contract negotiations, averaged static tables, and routing guides can directly connect with their carriers to ensure the best price on every shipment. Compare prices, leverage capacity options, negotiate with carriers on any rate base, renegotiate with a simple report every month, and reduce expenses by using Banyan Technology’s live connections.

E-commerce is advancing rapidly; it’s time to steal the concepts your customers value the most and apply them to how you manage freight.

Consumers are revolutionizing retail, and Banyan is revolutionizing shipping. See how Banyan Technology’s live connections provide shippers the ability to take all four of these consumer expectations, and apply them to freight management, by scheduling a demo.

 

To learn more about the impact of live carrier connectivity, download the whitepaper: The End of EDI, and the Rise of Live Connections.