We live in an age of overnight delivery that brings goods to the consumer’s home in a matter of clicks. Brick and mortar retailers are pushed harder than ever to satisfy customer’s evolving wants and needs. Indeed, one bad customer experience can have a devastating domino effect, both for the retailer and any supplier who failed to deliver against expectations.
As a retail supplier, your B2B relationships are only as good as your ability to get goods to retail on time. Further, you need to be agile when the goalposts are moved on you, as they inevitably will be. Fortunately, third party logistics (3PL) services have evolved to meet the demands of digital-driven distribution to retail.
Implement a competitive retail distribution strategy
Effective retail distribution depends on a robust distribution management strategy. One that keeps inventory moving through your supply chain, so that you’re able to replenish the inventory your customers want in stock quickly.
A 3PL vendor should be able to analyze your current approach to distribution with the goal of streamlining and optimizing, from pickup through to delivery confirmation. Once you’ve agreed upon a strategy for managing your distribution needs, optimization doesn’t end there. A good 3PL vendor should provide a focus on continuous improvement, so that supply chain insights become customer satisfaction opportunities.
Pool distribution that drives down costs
When shipping high volume goods, pool distribution can play a significant role in making your distribution efforts more efficient and competitive. By consolidating your shipments at the point of origin, a 3PL vendor should be able to lower your transportation costs, with your goods making fewer stops than less than truckload (LTL) shipping. LTL shipping typically involves more docking time, as the provider is consolidating shipments from various sources and stopping more frequently.
Making the most of a milk run
Pool distribution will move your goods in a more efficient manner over long distances. As your goods get closer to their final destination, a multi-stop, multi-drop “milk run” strategy can further improve your distribution strategy. Named after the dairy industry’s cyclical approach to collecting milk from farms and delivering milk bottles to consumers, the round-trip nature of a milk run can serve as the back end of pool distribution and the front end of reverse-pool logistics. By making full use of delivery fleets, the milk run is a cost-efficient approach to distribution that’s well suited for goods that are being moved around at relatively high volume with a somewhat consistent cadence.
A transport management system keeps all eyes on your supply chain
With the increased demand for transparency with the supply chain, the right transportation management system (TMS) is a critical component of a successful retail supply chain.
Today’s modern TMS offerings are cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications designed with tools that provide unprecedented levels of visibility into retail supply chain logistics. A TMS will also generate data which can enable the optimization of your supply chain for cost savings and improved performance.
Not all TMS systems are created equal, though all require a considerable level of expertise to implement. Some businesses opt to onboard a TMS for in-house purposes. Others choose to outsource to a 3PL vendor that has experience in customizing a TMS to specific retail business needs, ensuring a smooth TMS implementation, and providing ongoing optimization and support.
At Expak, we offer clients the Expak Performance Suite (EPS) of tools, including ExpakShip, which offers a user-friendly workflow for full operations visibility from shipment tracking to settlement processing. With accurate information on the status of goods in the chain and accurate proof of delivery (POD), retailers can hold 3PL vendors accountable for the services they offer, and good vendors will welcome that accountability as they work towards continuous improvement within the chain.
Staying on the right side of your customers
Whether you need to manage seasonal fluctuations in supply and demand, get your products to customers faster or account for occasional problems in your supply chain, a good 3PL vendor is your ally in keeping your customers happy. That means expecting the same level of customer service from your 3PL vendor as your customers expect from you. Our customer service team is available 24/7 and trained to understand the specific needs of your business. One-size-fits-all solution is a thing of the past, and agility comes from specialization.
The challenges of meeting your retail customer demands are always going to be evolving, but with the right support, your B2B distribution strategy can be a source of pride, not anxiety. Your business reputation is something you’ve earned. Reliable distribution keeps you trustworthy in the eyes of your customers.