COVID-19 has given consumers more time to find alternative ways to shop, as shopping malls and high-streets have become less accessible and thus less convenient. Total online spending in May 2020 hit $82.5 billion, up 77% year-over-year, exceeding even 2019 holiday season levels. Traditional brick and mortar retail models are being challenged and shaped by the accelerated growth of ecommerce channels.
The free time to browse, along with the unpredictability of physical stores closing again, has led to a longer-lasting fundamental shift in everyday shoppers’ minds. With the potential of a second wave and new lockdowns, customers can’t risk delayed deliveries due to supply chain issues.
The need to maintain sales during a lockdown, along with an aversion to over-relying on traditional retailers, has meant a general expansion into services designed for maximum convenience for the customer. Most notably on the world’s largest online retailer: Amazon.
If these services can be maintained and expanded, I’m sure many people will form new habits. Making online shopping the go-to, as opposed to a trip to the store.
A path which we were always on, but one that has been accelerated due to the pandemic.
For suppliers, having their products available through e-commerce retailers is a way to reach and engage with new customers, maintain existing ones, and build brand loyalty.
Automation is salvation
How can manufacturers set themselves up in the best possible way to work with Amazon and other online customers? How do they incorporate these retailers into their processes without allocating a disproportionate amount of resources to manage the day to day? And, how can this all be done while achieving the best possible OTIF performance?
The answer is, and always has been through the implementation of automation. By migrating manual tasks and handling order documentation on to an automation platform like OmPrompt, you’re able to process order capture instantly, acknowledgments, share ASNs, and generate invoices – all without human input.
One can also automate the settlement of fulfilment disputes such as penalties, using pre-configured rules.
These ‘rules’ are created in a configurable ‘business rules engine‘ to help standardise the processes mentioned above but are flexible enough to alter depending on each specific customer or process requirement. The implementation is made easier with network-ready connectors, that seamlessly integrate with whatever’s ERP or accounting system currently in place.
This then feeds into achieving the best possible OTIF outcomes, as it becomes easier to monitor and proactively solve exceptions. Issues are identified earlier, and they can either be automatically resolved or, if needs be, with manual intervention.
The increases in order volumes from pure-play e-commerce retailers (such as Amazon), online-only SKUs, and special packaging requirements adds new pressure to already stretched supply chain teams.
A way out
You’ve got to keep existing relationships sweet while introducing alternatives, plus implementing a strategy to help your team know when to make changes before trouble starts, not in the midst of it.
When you’re too reactionary, everything becomes more difficult as you try to work with suppliers during a demand shift.
To help manage your supply chain in this transition time, you need EDI implementation and message onboarding capabilities as part of any new trading relationship. Or the application of data entry automation of sales orders, returns, and penalties into ERPs, where EDI isn’t available.
This all needs to be done to relieve yourself of the financial burden of invoice disputes and retailer penalties. Not doing so minimises your e-commerce opportunity through revenue leakage and won’t serve this new breed of customer well.
Automating strategically important customers gives operational teams time. This can be time dedicated to customer collaboration and supply chain improvements. Time spent on maximising On-time-in-full (OTIF) performance and reducing Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is time well spent – especially when you look at the value and demands of these and other top tier customers.
Companies utilising automation solutions such as EDI or AI for automating manual documents are in stronger positions to align these evolving business demands.
As a result, costs go down, risks are lessened, and the time taken to deal with external demands also decreases. Customer proactivity increases, customer satisfaction, goes up, and supply chain organisations can become value drivers in the business.
EDI and automation offer the opportunity to connect with a broader contingency of partners, adding layers of resilience across the supply chain, ensuring the continuity of the supply of raw materials, parts, and products to fulfil customer orders and meet company targets.
Amazon EDI integration with OmPrompt
This shifting tide opens not only new commercial value but process improvement ones as well. OmPrompt has the solution.
With ready to go EDI connectors, RPA, ZeroTouch automation of manual documents, and AI tools all set to help you streamline, standardise, and control the transactional flow between you and your e-commerce customers.
So, if it’s large e-commerce customers such as Amazon you trade with via Amazon Vendor Central, or, new emerging players, and you’d like to focus more on serving them rather than managing the data, get in touch.