4 COVID-19 lessons that has changed eCommerce forever

Article

Digibee, 06/08/2020

The scope of disruption in day to day life from business, mental health, to financial well being, has forced everyone to adapt to a “new normal” way of living.  While the full economic and social impact of the pandemic remains unknown, we have undoubtedly seen an everlasting change in the way we interact with each other and work on a daily basis. Online life has emerged as mainstream – from shopping to dating and telemedicine, the world is simply more digital.

As consumers adopt this new digital way of living, we have seen double-digit growth in the e-commerce industry, which happened in a single month. Recognizing the “why” behind this impressive growth during a pandemic comes down to a simple concept: accelerate the adoption of a digital-first strategy. The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, which already had sophisticated electronic B2B and supply chain integrations in place, can strengthen their online data exchange and third-party eCommerce marketplaces’ presence allowing them to profit by giving consumers the right products at the right time.

Social distancing required that consumers have the capability to procure goods and services from home using e-commerce platforms. This means that manufacturers are closer to consumers than ever before – very much a part of the day-to-day experience. There has undoubtedly been a learning curve for leadership across industries and sharing solutions, positive outcomes, and best practice knowledge has never been more welcomed.

4 lessons learned that are most relevant to CPG executives:

1. Real-time OMS-ERP integration will advance the customer experience

Sales order management is a series of interconnected touchpoints and stakeholders, that work together to enable customers to order the right products and receive them at the right time.

B2B and B2C companies are choosing to use integrated and responsive order management systems to match the pace of evolution in e-commerce and to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

The adoption of an Order Management System (OMS), drastically reduced sell-out, enabled prompt delivery, enhanced the usability of e-commerce platforms, and strengthened brand recognition and revenue for the CPG industry. Nevertheless, the OMS needs to be tightly integrated to the ERP in order to obtain the most efficient and profitable order management cycle possible.

The real-time (or near to) OMS-ERP integration is now a necessity. CIOs recognized that this integration could indubitably advance e-commerce, POS, and customer service performance during the pandemic as well as in a more competitive digital market.

2. Companies that centrally manage inventory across multiple marketplaces achieve more sales

In February – March of 2020, retailers were flooded with waves of panicked customers clearing their shelves of basic items such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, and bottled water.

Constraints in the availability of physical goods drove a lot of traffic to online shopping. Initially, consumers engaged with the usual sites like Amazon, Google, then large grocers like Albertsons, but they were eventually were forced to shop on any online platform that had items in stock.

This reliance on the digital marketplace created an environment that encompasses a true 360-degree customer view as online brands become more in sync with customer data. What quickly became evident, is that companies who centrally managed inventory across multiple marketplaces achieved more sales.

In this integrated digital landscape, non-traditional manufacturers that previously lacked physical distribution capabilities were able to control the sales processes using e-commerce platforms to place products into digital marketing channels, fulfillment centers, and retail stores efficiently and with reduced cost to new market entry.

It is imperative for companies to take control of their sales process and own the customer flow, even when managed by third-party online marketplaces in B2B, B2B2C, or B2C.

3. Automated delivery & shipping forecasts are core competencies

In digital sales, the direct order placement to the fulfillment center relies on sound integration with the supply chain.

Reduced inventory breaks enable accurate delivery scheduling and shipping forecasts from both local and remote distribution centers. When orders are placed, the company is able to verify product availability in real-time, segregate the quantities for fulfillment, trigger the logistics delivery process, and inform the buyer of when goods will be shipped and received. This is true end-to-end integration.

In the real world, this process touches several internal and external systems that need to exchange data. One example of an e-commerce integration use case includes the orchestration of:

  • Delivery address enrichment and validation
  • Warehouse management systems
  • Order pickup and handling
  • Carrier ordering and scheduling
  • Delivery tracking systems

Digibee’s HIP enabled the flow of data and best practice processes to integrate local, remote, and cloud-based systems.

4. Increased online shopping requires access to remote inventory data & real-time production forecasts

The increased online shopping traffic requires complete remote inventory data access, which impacts the production forecast implemented in the ERP.

Third-party distributors can manage fulfillment centers and remote inventory, but goods that are sold or distributed to retailers can also be viewed as remote inventory. With this complex digital infrastructure, manufacturers have visibility into supply chain tracking, can monitors POS activity, and transfer goods to more efficient models, or process online sales for local retail fulfillment. By having this granular and comprehensive product level visibility, the ERP can predict the correct production forecasts, mitigating the risk of sell out at any point in time.

In Summary

There are so many lessons to be learned from the current global virus outbreak and the impact it has had on day-to-day life. For CPG manufacturers, adding an omnichannel sales practice to take control of e-commerce is a fundamental business practice that will be the foundation for the future. Moreover, the single most important technological challenge facing any industry is to orchestrate all management systems inside and outside the company to meet ever-changing market demands.

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