The ongoing supply chain crisis is causing B2B suppliers to split their focus between tackling logistical issues and delivering a seamless customer experience. At the same time, many are in the process of either implementing or optimising their B2B eCommerce presence in a significantly saturated online market.
Suppliers don’t want the disruption to negatively impact their customers’ experiences or cause their customers to lose trust in them. With so much uncertainty, they must focus on what they have control over to change.
The current supply chain crisis
Volatility has been building across supply chains for a number of years. It is caused by a combination of infrastructure issues. The UK is still feeling the additional complexity of Brexit – exacerbating these tensions by shutting out low-skilled EU workers. At the same time, the country is unable to fill the gaps left in the haulage industry, warehousing and production lines with British workers.
This confluence of factors has triggered shocks across supply chains, resulting in labour shortages, reduced access to raw materials and ultimately, a rise in cost across everything including air freight, rail and truck shipments and even shipping containers.
B2B suppliers are now caught between a rock and a hard place. Lessons learned from recent years show that 6. and post-Brexit economy. At the same time, they are facing several imminent issues that need to be addressed at full tilt. One of which is the culmination of maintaining customer trust.
Using technology to build customer trust
At a time when supply chains are causing delays in deliveries and sometimes even causing stocks to be unavailable altogether, accuracy is everything when it comes to maintaining customer trust. Recent research among B2B buyers shows the essential trust indicators to be the accuracy of stock and pricing, delivery and tracking, and detailed product information. Using the right technology is crucial to bolstering each of these factors:
- Accuracy of stock and pricing – B2B eCommerce platforms built separately from the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) result in silos between the two systems. Selecting a web store with a native ERP integration allows suppliers to leverage all the data logic within the ERP, so system upgrades happen automatically in real-time, ensuring reliability without compromise.
- Delivery and tracking – a customer portal with basic shipping and return details, and clear signposting to support, allows suppliers to give realistic delivery timescales. As well as full visibility over their shipping method and courier. Integrated inventory management solutions will also help to provide transparency and accuracy through the shipping and fulfilment process.
- Detailed product information – this can be a real challenge for suppliers with high stock levels. In this instance, they should consider a platform that utilises the data held in their ERP to manage buying complexities. This allows buyers to search for products online with customer-specific pricing, as well as download relevant technical papers and accreditation and compliance documents.
We often see B2B supplier teams working in silos – from sales, customer service, marketing and finance. But a buyer’s experience is the sum of all interactions they have with a company. And when these interactions become disjointed, particularly at a time of volatility within a supply chain, it can cause serious frustration for the buyer.
While there are many ways suppliers can help encourage collaborative working – establishing clear roles and responsibilities, setting cross-team collective goals, implementing collaborative meetings and workshops – integrating technology will move mountains in this regard.
Each team working from a collective data pool, connected also to the web store, will encourage collaborative working and avoid potentially major issues. Such as a sales rep promising something that cannot be delivered, price alterations not being met, repeating communications, and losing customer complaints. Forging connections between critical technologies immediately breaks down any silos and enhances the buyer’s overall omnichannel experience.
Supply chain resilience: future-proofing the tech stack
It’s all about integrating the tech stack, with the ERP acting as a central base for housing all the company’s technology needs. This means integrating all tools, which could include advanced tracking, analytics, mobile applications and more data management systems. Integrated eCommerce software keeps inventory organised and gives buyers a seamless experience.
Therefore, building and maintaining their trust. As a supplier’s online presence grows, so too will the technologies that they deploy. This means it’s crucial they select a tech stack that can easily and cost-effectively integrate with their future tech needs. It’s important to consider:
- How effective the order management system is when it comes to fulfilling orders quickly
- How it supports the buyer’s shopping experience
- How accessible it is across staff teams
- How accurately it reports on inventory, numbers and statistics
- How customisable it is for your future business needs
- How it will help with the order process
Looking to the future
When it comes to the future of supply chain, it seems the challenges that suppliers are currently facing are not set to go away any time soon. Issues around labour and raw material shortages are complex and will take some time to resolve. What’s more, increased pressure from the government and intergovernmental organisations to crack down on sustainability will bring about new legislation and regulations.
The positive from all of this is that many of these problems have been born from increased demand, which can only be a good thing for business.
We are seeing many companies looking to diversify their supply chains and increase stock levels in order to take a ‘just in case’ approach over ‘just in time’. But these changes will struggle to make an impact if a buyer’s online experience isn’t satisfactory. And compared to restructuring a supply chain, making changes to a web store is significantly easier. It’s all about offering transparency to give customers the confidence they are making the right purchase decisions.
This is the key to building and maintaining soild relationships. If suppliers want to focus on the elements that they can control, an integrated web store is a great place to start.