Finding each and every competitive advantage that your company has can be a daunting task for your marketing department. It’s easy to see some of them, such as product features, price, or quality. However, many more are less tangible and relate to aspects of your company that may not be obvious as marketing advantages on the surface, such as having an efficient and effective supply chain.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how your supply chain and logistics operations can be used to help bolster your company’s messaging and build your brand in order to gain marketing advantages over your competition. Knowing how your logistics and supply chain stacks up against your competitors is valuable information that you can use to your benefit.
In addition, it’s also important to understand that the customer experience is not limited to the function of your e-commerce website or your retail shopping locations. Product distribution, inventory availability, packaging, order fulfilment, delivery times, and even the returns handling process are all major factors that influence overall customer satisfaction. This is where your supply chain can become a significant marketing advantage.
Let’s take a look at some of these supply chain factors in more detail, and how they relate to your ability to craft more effective marketing messages.
Product Distribution & Inventory Availability
Having your products in the right place at the right time is one of the most critical factors that influence the overall customer experience. You can promote your products 24/7 across all media channels, but if your customers can’t find them when they’re ready to buy, then you’re not going to win in your markets. Choosing the right locations for your retail presence allows you to deliver on customer expectations of accessibility to your products in their area.
Of course, it’s not just retail locations that come in to play here. Your ability to ship products direct to customers efficiently is extremely important. If your shipping range is limited or you are only serving a select few markets, then you won’t be able to capitalize as effectively on the demand for your products with consumers in distant or remote markets. The last thing you want to do is hand over customers to competition simply due to their location.
Maintaining an appropriate level of inventory is also essential to managing customer expectations when they’re ready to buy. Your retail locations need the right amount of stock, and your e-commerce site also needs to have ample inventory to draw from to meet market demands.
By having a solid distribution network that is able to service your customers effectively, as well as extensive shipping capabilities, and stocking enough inventory to meet demand, your company can confidently state that your products are always there when your customers want them, no matter where they may be located.
Packaging & Order Fulfilment
Once your products end up on the shelf of your retail locations or arrive on the doorstep of your customers, the next impressions of your brand that are conveyed to your customers come in the form of packaging. It’s important to take your packaging seriously and look beyond the base fact of it being ‘just a box’ to how the appearance, feel, and structure of your product packaging affects the customer experience.
A quick scan of YouTube for product reviews will show you that product packaging is often the first thing that reviewers will go over as they perform the unboxing of a product. The appearance and printed details on the packaging are examined, and the ease of opening the product is scrutinized. Instruction manuals and documentation are looked at for accuracy and ease of understanding, as well as the condition that everything included arrives in.
The protection in the packaging of the product and its accessories is very important, as anything that appears scuffed, marked, or damaged will be immediately obvious and called out. However, it’s not all negative aspects that get spoken of. Packaging that exceed expectations will be praised for its quality and effectiveness, providing added assurance to customers that their product will arrive in pristine condition.
If the product was shipped right to the customers home, the condition that the shipping box arrived in will also be examined carefully. First impressions of shipping boxes can have a big impact on the customer’s experience with your brand. Thin, flimsy packaging that was damaged during shipping does not instill confidence, whereas solid, sturdy packaging that effectively stood up to the rigors of shipping will be viewed positively.
Aside from the first impression factors that go along with the packaging of your products, accuracy and completeness of the parts and accessories plays a big part in the satisfaction of a customer, too. Whether it’s a single product or multiple products contained in an order, completeness and accuracy is absolutely essential. Your picking and packing operations, although they are never exposed to the eyes of the public, have a very direct impact on the satisfaction of your customers.
By having well-engineered packaging and shipping supplies that are durable and effective, coupled with consistently complete picking and packing systems, will ensure that the first impressions your customers have when receiving and handling your products, are always positive.
Returns Handling & Reverse Logistics
Of course, there will always be instances where your customers will need to return their products for a wide variety of reasons. Perhaps there was an unforeseen error that occurred during picking, or the customer simply ordered the wrong size. Whatever the reason for the return, it’s absolutely essential that the reverse logistics experience that your customers have, is smooth and hassle-free.
There are many ways to simplify the returns process and provide a better customer experience. Some companies offer pre-printed return-shipping labels in their packages for customers to use if they need to return an item. Others have online tools that enable customers to request a return authorization automatically at any time of day, for any reason.
For in-store returns of online orders, having clear and effective policies is important, but having the retail team in the store trained in those policies and ready to give excellent customer service is absolutely essential. It’s a well-documented fact that if the customer experiences a pain point at some point during their experience, whether it’s their fault or not, it’s the actions of the company that determine whether their loyalty will be weakened or strengthened as a result of the interaction.
Providing a smooth, seamless and hassle-free returns experience is a substantial benefit for your business, especially for e-commerce retailers. Many customers consider the return experience a very important element of why they choose certain retailers over others. Those companies that make it easy to do business, even when errors occur, are the ones that are proven to have higher levels of customer loyalty.
Read one of our other articles: Don’t fear returns, embrace them! And learn how creating a positive return experience can help build brand loyalty.
Conveying the Value of your Supply Chain
When it comes to crafting your various marketing messages, you need to take a step back and consider what really impacts the customer experience, and how your company addresses those factors.
In the case of your supply chain, your customers are directly affected by your ability to move the right volume of products to where they need to be. They are directly affected by the completeness of their order and the condition of their products. And, they are directly affected by how easy it is to correct a mistake with their purchase.
These elements, when included as components in your marketing messaging, can provide the assurance that your customers need to know that they’ve chosen wisely when they do business with you. Providing the best customer experience, from beginning to end, can be the competitive advantage you need to achieve growth and success in a challenging business environment.
Be sure to call out major investments in your supply chain technology and provide specifics about your returns procedures – such as the preprinted, postage included return labels, as these are the things many of your competitors aren’t providing details on. This can make the difference between completing the order or abandoning their cart.
To learn how you can enhance your supply chain to provide a better customer experience, contact the team at SCI today.
Our logistics experts will be glad to answer any questions you have on how you can benefit from a wide range of 3PL logistics services.