The Omni-channel Challenge: 5 Ways to Thrive in the Digital Age

It’s no secret that we live in a digital age. Consumers are rapidly embracing technology and utilizing smart phones and tablets to complete daily activities. As ordinary tasks, such as retail purchases, become simplified, consumer expectations rise. The demand for instant gratification and faster, more efficient service, has led to an increase in online shopping. In fact, online retail sales in the last quarter of 2013 were up 10.3 percent (Internet Retailer).The exponential growth of e-commerce has opened up many new opportunities for retailers. Retailers are beginning to develop a larger online presence in order to retain customers and increase revenue. However, many retailers struggle with the challenges direct-to-consumer shipping poses, such as moving products over the 150 pound mark, and turn to 3PLs for help.Traditional 3PLs won’t survive if they don’t adapt and embrace omni-channel distribution. Involvement in the e-commerce world is no longer optional, it’s mandatory if you want your business to survive. 

Shifting Market Landscapes

The increase in popularity of e-commerce is quickly altering traditional supply chains. One early adopter of multi-channel distribution is Amazon. Amazon set the bar high early on for competitors and remains a global leader in the e-commerce world. In 2012, Amazon’s web sales totaled over $61 billion, almost 8 times more than Walmart’s (Ecommerce Times).  Most recently, Amazon began offering same-day delivery to select cities and it’s speculated that Amazon has plans to run its own fleet.Similarly, Google offers Google Shopping Express, a service that works with local stores to provide consumers same-day delivery. Originally solely offered in the San Francisco Bay area, Google Shopping Express has recently expanded to Los Angeles and Manhattan (MedIll).Smaller companies are struggling to compete with these giants that dominate the e-commerce space. Often times, retailers decide to outsource to 3PLs because they do not have the capabilities to handle omni-channel distribution. It is vital that 3PLs enter the e-commerce space in order to survive in this technologically advanced market.Robert Nathan, CEO of Load Delivered, notes, “E-commerce is creating this whole new dynamic in transportation that many traditionally-structured 3PLs are having a hard time adapting to; especially those focused narrowly in scope on full TL and LTL delivery networks.” 

5 Ways for 3PLs to Thrive in the Digital Age

  1. Embrace Technology: Make sure that your TMS is up-to-date and that your business utilizes the latest technologies.
  2. Diversify Offerings: Don’t isolate your business by focusing solely on one specialty. Customers look for 3PLs that offer a wide array of services to meet all of their shipping needs.
  3. Service Retailers that Ship 150+ Pounds- Retailers that sell larger items online, such as patio furniture, often don’t have the capabilities to transport them and look to 3PLs for assistance.
  4. Provide Visibility- Enable inventory visibility across all channels to provide accurate fulfilment times. This often leads to faster delivery times and increased customer satisfaction.
  5. Be Conscious of Current Trends- Stay up-to-date and research current trends in the industry to remain competitive. Is there a rise in mobile device use or an increase in tablet sales? This information is pertinent in the e-commerce sphere.
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