Technology: The Driver & Solution for the Digital Commerce Revolution
By: Chris Talley – Vice President, Product Development, Tompkins Fulfillment Services
Most people would agree that the nature of global commerce is transforming at an ever-increasing pace and that technology is one of the major drivers of this change. You do not have to look far for it to become obvious that everyone is “connected” all the time. This constant state of connectedness has created an environment where the world is at our fingertips and we spend a significant amount of time browsing, swiping and clicking our way through it each day. Having just about anything you want just one click away has changed the way we shop as well. This change in consumer behavior has in turn changed the way companies must both find and deliver to their customers.
Unfortunately, we are not at the point where an organization trying to survive in this environment can just turn the problem over to the machines to solve. Technology will, however, play a critical role in providing an answer for this ever-evolving digital paradigm. Organizations must learn how to make their products available wherever consumers shop in this connected world, in an efficient manner, without making their business too complicated to manage. It is a complex problem, and here is how the right technology can help.
Since prospective customers could be nearly anywhere from a digital perspective, companies need to have their products visible and available through as many digital channels as possible. This includes not only the traditional marketplaces we are all familiar with, but also a brand’s own webstore and social media and other new digital channels that continue to emerge daily. Many organizations are concerned that establishing connectivity and managing product listings across a myriad of online channels will take an army of marketing and IT resources. Luckily, technical solutions are available that enable the integrated management of product catalogs, inventory publishing, dynamic pricing and marketplace connectivity.
Having products available in all the places that potential customers will search and shop for them is not enough though. Companies must also be able to deliver them to their customers efficiently and in a cost-effective manner once a purchase is executed. This is not simply a customer experience issue, but also an inventory value and placement challenge. This is where intelligent order routing, transportation optimization, inventory management and warehouse execution come into play. Getting the order routed to the right fulfillment center is the first step and this requirement should not be underestimated, especially if there are multiple service providers involved. Part of determining the optimal location involves evaluating available carriers and service levels based on the customer’s requirements. Inventory also needs to be stocked in the right locations for the network to reach its full potential. Finally, it is necessary to have streamlined warehouse and transportation execution capabilities at fulfillment centers to ensure customers receive their orders on-time. This all must come together across a potentially complex and unrelated network of fulfillment options. Providing this level of efficiency across the supply chain requires a well-designed technical solution.
When broken down, the imperative is simple. Sell anywhere your customers may be and then execute efficiently! Thankfully there are technical solutions that can help an organization manage this complex environment. So, should each company cobble together their own solution to bring all of these technical imperatives together? Although that is an option, it is one that creates complicated, disparate technical environments that each individual organization will then need to manage. Technical point solutions for all of these requirements are certainly available, but someone must bring them all together. Who takes on this challenge?
The good news is that each organization does not necessarily have to develop a solution for all of these challenges from scratch. There are now turnkey ecosystems that can provide the strategic expertise, fulfillment network and technology required to thrive as the digital commerce revolution continues. Implementing a comprehensive solution from a trusted provider will enable companies to focus more time and resources on other core business functions and help ensure long-term profitable growth.