Transformed Order Fulfillment at the Store Level
At the store level of supply chain management, workers are now required to handle new tasks because of the way customers place orders and process returns. For instance, a consumer who orders a product online is more likely to return it at a local store than ship it back to the company. They get their money back faster and don’t have to go through the hassle of tracking their product back to the supplier. In-store employees need to be able to not only process the return of an online order, but also restock the item or ship it back to the appropriate party – all to ensure top-level customer satisfaction.
Adjustments in Inventory Replenishment
Yet another way that consumers influence supply chain management is in the way stores and warehouses alike replenish their inventory levels. For example, let’s assume that a customer orders a product that is not in stock at their local store but is in stock at a store nearby. The item is shipped to the local store from the second store, rather than coming from the warehouse. Without the right inventory management solutions, it may appear that the local store has an increased supply of a certain item, even though the supply is already destined for a particular customer. This may cause the store to not order enough of the product because the inventory is not accounted for.
This same issue can happen at the warehouse level. Companies using multiple warehouses to house and distribute their products must ensure that those warehouses communicate with one another through real-time inventory management programs. This, combined with transparent stocking data, should prevent under- or over-supplying in the future.
Higher Expectations for Customer Service
As part of the order fulfillment process, many distribution centers are starting to provide customer service for merchants and sellers around the world. It’s no longer a matter of simply managing products coming in and out of a warehouse. Companies are now taking the task of representing the merchants a personal level, directly interacting with the consumers they service. Customers in the modern world have higher expectations for quality customer service than they did a decade ago, and those expectations will continue to rise as companies learn how to best serve their target audience.
Shifts in Purchasing Trends and Inventory Needs
At the end of the day, customers are human beings who change their minds at the drop of a dime. Organizations at every level of supply chain management must follow these trends closely and adjust their inventories and operations accordingly. Whether it’s a new fashion fad or brand new technology that enters the market, consumers are going to demand it in high volume. Warehouses, sellers, and shippers have to be ready for the flood of orders to follow.