B2C vs B2B transportation in retail - Lessons from both sides

We all know B2C retail is going through a turbulent time, but what does that mean for shippers?

The retail sector’s supply chain has had a difficult time adapting to changing consumer behaviour. People want their goods now, they want to be able to return them easily and they don’t want to pay for the privilege.  They also want to benefit from an omnichannel approach: a seamless shopping experience delivered across online, phone and physical infrastructure. You might think these expectations are only a problem for B2C, but that’s not the case.

For retailers keeping up with customer expectations requires an agile supply chain, able to rapidly react to fluctuations in demand. A retailer can’t successfully tackle an evolving marketplace without its transportation processes optimised on both sides.

Flexible and reactive

A big part of success in transportation is being able to react quickly. Maybe there was a huge traffic jam and a fleet of trucks was delayed, maybe a driver didn’t show up, maybe some goods never arrived… In the past these scenarios were the stuff of nightmares for logistics managers and their teams. Industry tools just didn’t provide enough visibility and disruption always ensued. 

Drivers would (and in some cases still do) provide updates over the phone, by text or email. All time-consuming work, which was not only inaccurate, but also risky if someone in the chain forgets to fill in a cell on a spreadsheet or send a text. This lack of visibility means it is difficult to plan ahead and mitigate unexpected events - and when you work in transport ‘unexpected’ is very much the norm. Now solutions such as Live Tracking, give retailers full visibility into where goods are and access to a dynamic ETA. 

Retailers can confidently react to changes on the B2C-side, knowing exactly where their stock is located and in what quantities. This would potentially allow them to reroute cargo heading to one destination to another. Say a particular product has unexpectedly proved very popular in one area and a truck carrying the product is heading to another where it hasn’t been as successful. Well solutions such as Live Tracking will inform the feasibility of rerouting the cargo. 
But there are other reasons B2B transportation needs to look to B2C for inspiration.

Making transportation more accessible 

Graduates and others joining the transportation industry are not going to find many of the current tools used by the sector intuitive. Using spreadsheets to manage freight procurement or slot booking will seem an alien concept to anyone who’s grown up with Airbnb, Dropbox and Uber’s user-friendly interfaces. It’s not something they’ll pick up quickly. And they shouldn’t be expected to.
 
At Alpega we’ve invested heavily in creating the best possible experience for our users. Whether that’s getting experienced freight experts to talk through the pain points of running RFQs, to carrying out workshops with shippers, carriers and 3PLs to perfect our slot booking solution. 

Our Smart Booking solution, for example, has taken a leaf from B2C ticketing websites, to deliver a seamless booking process. Not only has feedback from the market been great, but new employees are able to intuitively get to grasps with the software and hit the ground running. It also cuts out many of the frustrations people had with some of the older software platforms.

A game of two halves

For retailers there’s no point having a state of the art B2C supply chain if the B2B segment can’t keep up. Taking a holistic approach to each end, and having one support the other, is the optimal way to uncover synergies and ensure optimal performance. Not to mention happier employees, who don’t spend their time trawling through Excel files!

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