Posted by Guru Rao

Any discussion about modern retail is incomplete without mentioning two names: Amazon and Walmart. The former accounted for 44 percent of all e-commerce sales in 2017, while the latter experienced between 40 and 50 percent growth in online retailing last year.

What do they both have in common? The insatiable desire to control as much of their supply chain as possible. The proof lies in separate initiatives by the two companies that work toward that same end:

  • In February, Amazon announced the limited release of “Shipping With Amazon,” a new, full-scale delivery service that the company expects to rollout in full later this year.
  • In January, Walmart announced it will require large suppliers to meet a one or two-day delivery window 85 percent of the time or face fines from the company.

Amazon stands to gain more direct control over its downstream operation, while Walmart is turning up the heat on suppliers and carriers so it can ultimately deliver a better, more timely experience to the consumer. Both businesses send out a clear warning signal to everyone else: improve the grip on your carrier networks or risk falling even further behind.

Make or break with supply chain visibility

Omnichannel shopping makes it more difficult for retailers to centrally manage their distributed supply chain infrastructure. Data silos that exist between channels and the ever-expanding array of supply chain stakeholders sequester critical information that might otherwise be tapped to identify value-add opportunities. The inability to visualize these revenue chances through a unified supply chain platform makes it impossible to maximize your existing resource utilization. It boils down to a platitude: “You can’t manage what you can’t see.” And when it comes to the supply chain, you need to see everything.

That’s why step one of taking control of your product journey is to rein in supply chain touchpoint data. Every aspect of your product’s journey needs to be recorded with as much specificity as possible. It’s like looking at a photo. The more pixels you fill in, the sharper the image. Likewise, the more product touchpoint data in your control, the clearer your picture of your end-to-end supply chain. And when you can see your products’ end-to-end journey, you can start to manage it more effectively.

Achieving this requires a hub aggregator with an open API that facilitates frictionless integrations between many systems. You don’t necessarily need to directly own every single asset in your supply chain. But if you can see all the associated information, you can strategically rearrange the order of operations to get the desired outcome: customer satisfaction at the last mile.

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Supply chain visibility starts with seamless integration.

Call the shots with a digital delivery management system

Once data is aggregated, normalized and made accessible, retailers have everything they need to eliminate process inefficiencies, find cost-saving opportunities and discover new and creative methods to deliver a consistently awesome cross-channel customer experience.

You don’t need to vertically integrate every aspect of your product’s journey to control it. And you don’t have to slap your suppliers with fines to expedite upstream operations. You just need good data, a strong delivery management system and a vision for success. Customer satisfaction follows.

Retailers: It's time to take control of your product journey