Transforming the Ordering Process for Food Suppliers
Today’s food and beverage suppliers face rising retailer expectations, razor-thin margins, and shortened time-to-market requirements that are transforming the way businesses get their products to consumers. To survive and thrive in this new era, food suppliers must differentiate themselves by streamlining the fulfillment process to ensure profitability and improve in-store turn. Cumbersome reorder practices, however, have made it hard to fulfill orders efficiently. While many of these transactions occur via EDI, many DSD and convenience store suppliers are still taking orders on paper and outdated handheld devices. Store employees placing orders for new deliveries also face similar challenges with clunky barcode scanners and other proprietary hardware. To alleviate these problems, some manufacturers and distributors are beginning to invest in a new generation of technology powered for food distribution, fundamentally changing how orders are written, submitted, and processed.
The “Consumerization” of Ordering Technology Among Food Suppliers
The grocery industry was an early adopter of mobile ordering solutions, and both stores and suppliers have been using them in some form for decades. Most of these tools were based on expensive proprietary hardware, and continued dependencies on these legacy ordering technologies (or even paper order forms) has led to fulfillment delays and empty shelf space. Today, however, B2B commerce technology is going through a “consumerization” phase. Modern ordering solutions are intuitive, mobile-first applications running on consumer technology like the iPad and iPhone. Rather than trying to navigate confusing text-based interfaces, users can access a highly visual, familiar digital experience. These solutions include:
- Mobile Order Writing Software allowing sales reps, drivers, and merchandisers to take and place orders on a mobile device. The product catalog, retailer information/pricing, and an intuitive order writing interface are all available to the rep on the device, making the ordering process faster and easier.
- B2B eCommerce allowing grocers to independently place orders online when necessary from a desktop or mobile device, giving the retailer more autonomy in the ordering process and allowing distributors to receive high frequency reorders in the most cost-effective way possible. Mobile eCommerce is particularly critical, because retailers can scan items and write orders right from the aisle of their store, making the process even more convenient.
Changing the Way Orders are Placed at Grocery & Convenience Stores
Using both mobile order writing software and B2B eCommerce platforms, food and beverage manufacturers and distributors can provide a much more streamlined ordering experience. Key process changes and improvements include:
- Customer-specific product catalogs ensure that only the products relevant for each individual store are available for purchase.
- The product catalog includes HD images, so the order writer can visually confirm that the product they are ordering is exactly the same as what’s on the shelf.
- Orders are quickly built using standard functionality or by scanning UPC codes using the built-in camera or a bluetooth scanner.
- Customer-specific pricing and supplier promotions are easily managed within the system and applied to orders.
- Reps and retailers can view inventory levels and know up-front if something is out-of-stock to prevent backorders.
- Planograms, merchandising guidelines, and other manufacturer-specific content can be easily accessed.
- Because orders can be compiled and submitted almost instantaneously via integration with back office systems, processing isn’t delayed due to data entry errors or miscommunication.
Businesses will increasingly leverage the power and functionality of consumer technology as a source of competitive differentiation. With these familiar, intuitive user experiences, orders can be sent to the warehouse, picked and packed for shipment that day, and delivered the next, enabling more and more food and beverage suppliers to deliver on shorter fulfillment times and a superior customer experience. This article originally appeared on Progressive Grocer.