The Role of B2B eCommerce in Supply Chain Management (SCM)
Today’s eCommerce and B2B marketplace businesses are incredibly competitive, fighting to win the hearts and minds of customers. Success requires not only a user-friendly eCommerce platform but a connected supply chain. Thus, a practical marriage of B2B eCommerce and supply chain management is necessary for capturing leads, building relationships, or growing sales.
Better supply chain management equals better eCommerce
Your supply chains don’t operate in silos. This is particularly true for eCommerce B2B businesses, where supply chain connectivity is a crucial part of the customer experience. Supply shortages, excess inventory, underutilized warehouse capacity, or creeping transportation costs all waste company resources. For success in the long-term, businesses must maintain a user-friendly eCommerce platform plus ensure they share information freely across supply chains.
Any B2B Commerce supply chain process starts with a plan, where the entire chain is analyzed or strategized. The plan’s bedrock is research, market analysis, demand forecasting, including analyzing supplier options and capabilities. For example, a manufacturer may prefer building a wide array of upstream (suppliers) / downstream (distribution) relationships with stakeholders. Proper planning helps you accommodate or seek out proper access permissions, workflows, as well as customer personalization features from your eCommerce vendor.
In our interconnected world, many businesses source materials from suppliers based on specific characteristics and requirements applicable for their needs. The company may prefer to build a deep relationship with one supplier or work with multiple suppliers. Integrating supply chain management software data into your eCommerce system improves communication with your upstream stakeholders and relays crucial information to your sales reps or customers.
Effective B2B supply chain management requires a close eye on inventory, ensuring that demand projections are accurate. Setting high forecasts causes a pile-up of excess inventory, while low forecasts prevent you from fulfilling orders. Out-of-stocks damage the customer experience and decrease customer trust in your brand. Effective B2B supply chains offer visibility into forecast or sales data. When transferred into your eCommerce system, this data can help management make quick projections-related decisions.
For manufacturers, production is an integral part of their supply chains. For a successful production process, all the other elements must work in unison. Like with demand or inventory data, production data must be communicated with your eCommerce system in order for management to act on market trends or disruptions quickly. By using eCommerce data, organizations can implement a just-in-time strategy, having components arrive at the production floor as soon as they’re needed, with finished goods shipped as soon as they’re ready.
To reduce bottlenecks as well as streamline logistics, third-party logistics (3PL) or outsourced fulfillment centers now play an essential role in eCommerce supply chain services. Many eCommerce businesses operate their own or partner with distribution centers to process and transport goods between distributors, retailers, or end consumers. Keeping tabs on identifiers such as SKUs (stock-keeping units), transferring them between your eCommerce system is crucial for maintaining transparent order tracking for customers.
Managing returns effectively requires supply chains, eCommerce platforms, plus some departments such as customer service be highly connected with each other. Customers want the ease of handling returns online, so businesses must act quickly in case a product is defective. Just like with order information, returned order information should flow between your ERP / eCommerce systems in real-time. If your supply chain isn’t directly connected with your eCommerce system, you can lose out on user experience and lose customers to competitors.
How eCommerce can help streamline supply chain management
Effective supply chain management in B2B eCommerce improves visibility, reduces costs, helping sellers capture everything from new opportunities or revenue streams. Whether you outsource order fulfillment or pick and pack in-house, it makes sense that data flows throughout your supply chain management system, including your eCommerce platform. Without data silos in your way, you can analyze performance & identify improvements that result in a more reliable, resilient, faster, more cost-effective supply chain.
1. More visibility
As inventory numbers increase, the demands on inventory management processes increase too. For example, a large SKU (stock keeping unit), mainly if it includes high-value items, needs to be monitored closely to avoid increased order time, costs, or trapped capital. By providing visibility into stock levels, you can inform customers why an item is out of stock (such as demand or seasonality) when you expect it back in stock, and even for preorders.
This builds trust, prevents SEO issues, captures sales that might otherwise not happen. Businesses can improve visibility by integrating supply chain data into their eCommerce system. OroCommerce connects with various business systems such as ERP, CRM, Procurement, 3PL systems, or PIM for eCommerce.
2. More personalization
All customers, whether in B2C or B2B respond positively to personalization. If you’re selling products across multiple verticals or geographical areas, you must offer numerous websites with different languages or currency options for improved user experiences. Moreover, your marketing must be distinct to each vertical, segment, or individual customer. OroCommerce offers custom self-service portals for a hyper-personalized user experience that includes customizable product catalogs, pricing, ordering, and checkout sequences, as just a few examples.
3. More efficiency
Suppliers and merchants are a large part of your supply chains. Thus, your inventory visibility must be in top shape. For example, distribution centers may want to customize or grow the capacity of warehouse space. Customer expectations could necessitate the ability to lower shipping costs or delivery time. For increased fulfillment efficiency, consider how you can switch between 3PL, internal fulfillment, automation, and other options.
As customer expectations, supply chains become more complex, online sellers look for automation features that will work with their business systems over the long haul. OroCommerce offers various workflows for back-office functions that help manage inventory, quotes, ordering, checkout steps, and more.
4. More flexibility
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that many businesses, particularly their supply chains, were woefully unprepared for disruption. Some restaurant supply businesses saw their markets dry up without knowing how to pivot. For example, at the end of March 2020, Sysco laid off 33% of its staff, scrambled to maintain hundreds of distribution centers plus tens of thousands of trucks. Others like Frito-Lay saw their vending machine sales plummet, and they started selling direct to consumer eCommerce.
The pandemic shows no sign of slowing, so businesses must start adapting now. They can look at non-traditional selling modes such as B2B2C, D2C, or B2G commerce through different websites, brands, and shopping experiences. OroCommerce supports multiple selling models including multi-branded, localized sites under one roof.