If you’re not already making plans for how your business can meet the demands of the landscape-changing powerhouse of omni-channel distribution by now, you’re seriously behind the times. Like most paradigm shifts, there's any number of ongoing discussions on who's doing it well and why it's important, but not so many on how you can harness the benefits of omni-channel for your own gain. Thankfully, in a neat little recursive twist, this technology-centric approach to sales revolution is, itself, essentially powered by advanced technology.
If you're looking for a quick-start guide to shoring up your business for omni-channel, look no further: these are the three things you'll need for a strong start out of the gate.
What Do We Need? (Predictive Analytics)
Data streams are a company's biggest asset for future decision-making. Properly studied and applied, they can eliminate unbelievable amounts of time and resource waste while ensuring consistent customer delivery. As Industry Week's Dave Blanchard enthuses, predictive analytics are becoming as much about changing customer behavior as studying it.
When customers trust that what they want will be delivered when they want it, they're more likely to return. Predictive analytics provide unbiased advice on how much to order, how many orders are likely to be forthcoming, and even how closely linked two items are in terms of same-buyer sales. Used internally for supply chain planning or externally for customer-facing applications, setting up these analytics is a must for efficient and durable performance within an omni-channel distribution framework.
How Do We Stay In Touch? (Cloud Capabilities)
The culture and practice of omni-channel sales means loosening the reins and embracing the idea of satellite offices, telecommuting employees or even third-party sellers. This freedom comes with the cost of getting distant users on the same page, and cloud computing technology neatly closes that gap.
Keeping certain files, such as approved stock photos of your SKUS, out on a cloud-based storage server gives both your own team and third-party sellers access to a brand image that communicates cohesively across platforms. Invoices, transportation manifests and daily warehouse inventory can also be shared intra-company to keep decisions both efficient and on-target. Keep in mind that not all cloud-based products are created equal, however.
Alex Niemeyer of McKinsey explains in a video interview on SupplyChain 247 that RFID tags, once touted as the savior of warehousing woes, have, for example, turned out to be an expensive dead-in-the-water experiment to early adopters. When selecting cloud services for your business, be sure that they have real, necessary applications in the here and now—not potential that has been over inflated by hype and buzzwords.
How Do We Move Our Products? (Transportation Modeling Tool)
When a transportation system is in place and currently running, especially in a multi-channel framework, a complete overhaul is too disruptive to consider. With the advances in the computing capabilities and modeling programs available to modern businesses, however, it's possible to fully visualize the effects of an overhaul without needing to put the literal and figurative breaks on. Rather than examining each moving part of a complex machine while it's turned on, analysts can instead consider collected data, drawing conclusions after thoughtful consideration rather than the end of a route observation.
Rebecca Koke of Llamasoft recently dug into the power of a comprehensive transportation modeling tool, indicating that it was one of the most successful ways to answer all the "What If" questions found in a supply chain at the same time. A good deal of business is, after all, about gaining the best reward from the smallest possible risk. A supply chain manager would be hard pressed to argue that a computer model posed less of a disruption risk than a thorough, in-person examination of internal and external transportation processes.
There may be a steep learning curve when it comes to omni-channel distribution, but consider these three technologies the comfortable gondola that glides you to the peak. Each one can be adjusted and scaled up or down to meet the needs of your business, ensuring that you stay in budget but still enjoy all the benefits. If you don't have the full set, it's time to start collecting.
Omni-channel is here to stay. Make sure your business is as well.