Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

The wholesale omni-channel challenge

It’s always a shame when a product can’t be sold, especially when it’s in stock, but in the wrong place. And in wholesale immediacy is pretty key, think of a plumber with a burst pipe or a restaurant with no eggs, suddenly it’s pretty serious if you can’t connect them to their needed item. Disappointed customers won’t wait, they’ll drive straight to the nearest competitor.

The result: an unhappy customer, a lost sale and quite possibly a lost customer for life.

Wholesalers get logistics better than anyone, their businesses were built on the concept of distribution. They have hundreds of thousands of SKUs stored at their DC’s, hubs, depots and trade counters. More often than not they also have a sophisticated logistics network at their disposal. They have the stock … in spades. They also appreciate ‘the need for speed’ and were the inventors of the concept of same day delivery, years ago.

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But at what cost. And as omni-channel proliferates, are they appropriately structured to keep up with the onward march of demand?

Innovation in wholesale distribution has been impressive for years with a plethora of little tricks developed to speed up delivery and keep down costs: value added logistics services, two bin replenishment, pre-collated installation kits and many more. But pulling in the other direction is the ever-growing range of products they need to juggle, increasingly complex ranges: perishables, large volume items, high value stock and cold chain.

The crux of it is stock visibility and availability … here … and … now. But the secret is that it’s no longer just about getting organised inside the four walls of your warehouse. Today you have to have that level of sophisticated inventory management downstream right into manufacturing and upstream right into the store or trade counter.

You, your customers and your supply network need to be able to SEE in order to SELL and by seeing everywhere all the time you can orchestrate a profitable delivery satisfying your customer.

Order Management is critical to connecting all the disparate nodes in your network so that orders can be placed efficiently and effectively with deliveries that make sense for the customer and for you. A system such as this offers up-to-date stock information at network level, assigns orders to various stock locations dynamically and constantly monitors the order processing status. With such a system, the item that the plumber was so desperate to get his hands on that was not in stock in the nearest depot, can be delivered from a neighbouring depot or distribution centre – quicker and at a lower cost.

Given the size of the range and the huge number of different channels, it is not feasible for wholesalers to have every item available at the right time, in the right place. But by having visibility of existing stock online, in-store and back at the depot through a sophisticated order management system they get a lot closer to being able to get the right item to the right place at the right time … for the customer.

So … the tradesman gets what he wants and thanks to him and the timely availability of my cooker, I can get dinner cooked for the family tonight.