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Portals and Your Supply Chain: What Customers and Vendors Want

Published November 22 2022
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Back in the day (not that long ago) having a website made you a trendsetter in any industry. Today, everyone has a website. Or do they?

If you define “website” as having a web presence, then you do. If you define “website” as an extension of all your business processes as it applies to B2B, B2C, B2B2B2C, and more, then you will discover that you are sorely behind the times with your existing website…unless you already have a web portal.

A website, or web portal, needs to have true ecommerce functionality based on your processes and customer and vendor expectations. If you’re on the fence about the importance of portals in your supply chain, then you must have already considered the questions below:

  • What is the cost to your business when you lose a customer? Is it hard for a customer to go to a competitor?
  • What is the cost to your business for a missed delivery date by a vendor?
  • How easy are you do to business with? Would you do business with yourself?

Modern Supply Chain Needs

First, we need to agree that all manufacturers and distributors are part of a retailer’s supply chain.

What I mean by this is that you may be level 30 in a supply chain BOM and you have no contact with any retailer at any point in time, however, your product is another company’s raw material and so forth and so on up the supply chain food chain until it reaches a retailing location – ecommerce or brick and mortar.

So how can you affect a supply chain for customers you are not even aware of? Here is a real-life example:

  • You need to reduce your lead times and improve visibility for your customers.
  • You negotiate with your vendor to ship specific items directly to your customer (items that are add-ons to your product for which there is no need to receive in your location). This revised process allows you to minimize on material handling for these products.
  • Your vendor updates his portal on the status of the shipment, which automatically updates your customer portal in real-time with the latest information. Now, your customer has the latest information he can provide up his supply chain.
  • Your customer is in the know on the order and can plan accordingly.
  • You are in the know and can plan accordingly to deal with the exceptions and create contingency plans if necessary.

Think about the scenario we just covered and consider these questions:

  • What is the value of this type of service and what is the ROI for you?
  • What is the value for your vendors and customers?
  • How will this new approach help with your supply chain resiliency?
  • Are you the right partner to meet your customers’ goals?

Gartner says that by 2022, 96% of retailers will have invested to make their supply chains more agile and 90% to make them more resilient.1

Challenge Impact
Cross-channel, real-time inventory visibility
  • Costly product storage & handling
  • Stockouts and overstocks
Siloed order systems
  • Late, wrong, or cancelled orders
  • Non-optional fulfillment times
Limited vendor relationships
  • Increased risk of supply-chain & fulfillment disruption
Supply-chain and logistics complexity
  • Suboptimal fulfillment decisions
  • Lack of resilience

The retail chart above highlights just how much companies that are in a downstream position in the supply chain need to change.

All manufactured products end up in a retail system regardless of their go-to-market approach, whether it be to your direct consumer or as part of a product that will be sold in a consumer environment. One way or another you are part of a retail (end user) supply chain – regardless of how far you are from the final product.

The challenges and solutions that retailers are going to apply will affect the supply chain of which you are part of.

What are your customers looking for?

It’s simple and can be summed up in one word: portals. Don’t believe me? Let’s explore what a customer expects in today’s market.

They are looking for instant gratification and want to know:

  • Where is my order?
  • Do you have inventory?
  • What was the pricing based on our agreements?

They want immediate, automated information like product specifications, intelligent recommendations, historical information from previous transactions, RMA capabilities, security, privacy, payment functionality, purchasing and more.

If you can think it, they want it. They are looking for a tailored experience.

Avoid telephone calls, emails, multiple sources of differing information. The more the information is scattered, the harder it is to find and the more complicated it becomes to do business with you.

Having a customer portal solves most of these challenges: it makes access to information faster and easier, it provides a personalized experience, it empowers your customers to take action on their own, and so much more.

The good thing about having a customer portal is that it will not only make your customers’ lives easier, but your team will also benefit from having automated data in one place. It will make your customer service team more proactive, your operations team will improve their forecast, so will your sales team, and all the other departments will experience a positive impact.

The best part? You will be able to see the big picture of your customers’ lifecycle journey and use these insights to make smarter data-driven decisions faster.

What are your vendors looking for?

Like your customers, your vendors have their own expectations when it comes to doing business with your company. They are looking to update you on your POs or delivery status, provide documents for the items, check pricing, see available inventory, and much more.

Without a portal to exchange information and communicate, your vendors have to work extra hard to do business with you.

Collaboration within your supply chain is the first step to improving your standing with your customers and vendors. If you are not considering a solution for the above, the competition will be there to provide one.

So, how will you avoid being the weakest link in this supply chain puzzle?

While creating a customer portal can be overwhelming, it offers the opportunity to improve your data and business processes. Alithya can help guide you in the right direction based on your specific business requirements. Contact us at MSsales@alithya.com to learn more.

 

1 Chart created by Microsoft is based on Gartner® research. Source: “Transforming Retail Supply Chain,” Gartner® Inc., 2021