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Q&A: How can small retailers compete over delivery times? (Includes interview)

While big companies can put in place one to two day shipping services for consumers (notably Amazon), this mechanism is not so easy for smaller retailers, who rely on holiday shoppers to stay afloat.

To address the challenges that arise, Doug Waggoner, CEO of Echo Global Logistics, believes that retailers must have the right back end and logistic solutions in order to meet consumer demands – and that failing to do so could be a major misstep for retailers. Doug can discuss how all retailers (regardless of size) should – and can – organize their logistics team to meet growing expectations.

To learn more, Digital Journal spoke with Doug Waggoner.

Digital Journal: How have consumer expectations of retailers changed over the past five years?

Doug Waggoner: Consumer expectations of retailers are changing rapidly. Consumers used to have standard expectations about competitive pricing and quality customer service. But nearly every industry has grown quickly over the past five years, and business models have evolved, so it’s not surprising that retail is experiencing major changes as well. Today’s consumers have higher expectations — they want connected omnichannel experiences, personalized interactions, and nearly immediate shipping options that cater to shoppers’ convenience.

DJ: How important is the supply chain for meeting customer expectations?

Waggoner: The supply chain is often a forgotten factor, but it plays the largest role in meeting modern customer expectations. Building a better supply chain boosts customer satisfaction because it has a direct impact on two of the most critical customer expectations: price and delivery. An efficient supply chain allows retailers to cut costs, which allows the business to lower prices, and it improves the company’s overall profitability.

In today’s retail market, fast fulfillment is an absolute must for many consumers. A high performance supply chain means you’ll be able to meet — or exceed — customer expectations on delivery timing, and that drives higher customer satisfaction and repeat business.

DJ: How has supply chain technology evolved?

Waggoner:Technology has completely transformed the supply chain, changing the entire structure of how we work, from internal communications to physical processes. 14 years ago, when Echo launched our technology, it was a highly fragmented industry and Echo was at the forefront. Today, we continue to develop and evolve our Digital Freight Marketplace to keep us in that position, most recently launching EchoAccelerator, our flexible and robust proprietary architecture that supports shipper, carrier, and managed transportation systems. Technology has made supply chains more transparent than ever before, giving the customer full visibility and immediate answers about delivery status. Take for example, EchoShip, our self-service shipping platform that consolidates and simplifies shipping by enabling customers to build loads, store frequently used shipment information, and track shipments in real time. Shippers can also search, view, and pay all invoices using EchoShip.

EchoDrive gives carriers the ability to book, manage, and get paid on freight hauled for Echo. The platform’s load management tool and document upload capabilities streamline operations, keeping dispatchers organized and helping drivers get back on the road faster. EchoDrive users get real-time access to search, view, and bid on available freight, reducing the effort associated with finding freight for their available equipment.

Modern supply chain software is much more efficient, which expedites processes. Thanks to greater transparency, we can identify potential errors more easily, which means supply chains can adapt more quickly and complete processes more rapidly. Ultimately, supply chain technology allows businesses to integrate processes across their organization.

DJ: Are smaller businesses at a disadvantage?

Waggoner:Building an efficient supply chain is a major investment of time, money, and human resources. It’s a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but smaller businesses often are at a disadvantage, mostly due to a lack of investment power, modest IT budgets, and limited access to supply chain/logistics professionals. In particular, smaller businesses tend to have a trickier time achieving supply chain visibility, building and maintaining critical supplier/partner relationships, and staying up to speed as technology evolves. This is where the power of a 3PL partner like Echo really comes into play. Quality 3PL partners, such as Echo, often provide logistics technology as part of their service, and at no additional cost to the shipper. Most provide access to rates a shipper could not negotiate on its own which helps to level the playing field.

DJ: What can smaller businesses do to improve their logistics processes?

Waggoner:Improving your supply chain and logistics processes doesn’t always have to mean a large-scale overhaul that takes a lot of time and money to implement. Smaller businesses looking to improve their logistics processes should focus on four things:

1. Choose suppliers/partners that are of a similar size and operating on a similar scale to build and maintain resilient supplier/partner relationships.
2. Increase your supply chain visibility, which benefits your organization and your supplier. Internally, it allows employees to access vital information that can help them strategize more effectively. Externally, supply chain visibility allows your suppliers to check your inventory in real time so they can serve you better.
3. Engage your IT department to learn about new software that can potentially streamline supply chain processes.
4. Partner with a 3PL like Echo to leverage their robust buying power and advanced technology, ultimately simplifying your transportation management and allowing you to focus on what you do best.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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