Don't stop moving: how ASICS overcame logistical challenges
International footwear and sports apparel retailer ASICS knows a thing or two about supply chains thanks to its global wholesale network. But in the last two years, it has been perfecting the art of eCommerce, and delivering its famed goods direct to consumers across Australia.
To achieve this, ASICS Senior Manager – Operations James Gardiner explains that the business needed to develop a new behind-the-scenes strategy that was all about putting the consumer first. “We thought about how we can get deliveries there quickly, and looked at the top supply chain and packaging solutions to achieve this,” he says.
He explains that the business uses IT systems to segregate orders once they hit a central warehouse, and that an alert is made when an item ordered by a customer is ready to be packed. Gardiner thinks a good supply chain is vital to any thriving SME, and is as important as the product itself, of course supported by marketing and financials.
Put simply, a supply chain is the movement of product from supplier to customer, explains Shaun Patterson, Head of Marketing, Commercial and Logistics for StarTrack. As Australia Post’s parcels business, StarTrack was integral in assisting ASICS to achieve its streamlined delivery system.
In an increasingly international market, the supply chain could mean moving goods within Australia, importing from overseas, or exporting overseas. The customer could be an individual shopping from home or a business ordering bulk goods. For SMEs in eCommerce, the vital elements are obtaining goods from suppliers, and delivering them to consumers when fulfilling orders online.
And, just as an attractive website design can attract online customers, it’s also important to think about logistical elements SMEs need to have in place to keep the customer satisfied after they make their purchase.
“Warehousing, direct delivery, ‘click and collect’ and consolidated shipments for store replenishment are just some ways a supply chain can improve the online shopping experience,” says Patterson.
Finding the right supply chain logistics partner
Many SMEs will engage with a supply chain logistics partner to ensure this is done correctly. To get a supply chain partner spot on, it is vital they understand a customer’s expectations, and think about the desired speed of delivery, he explains.
It’s also important to know the value of the goods being exchanged, the size of the products and the delivery locations – as these all have an impact on designing and delivering the right supply chain.
Patterson says if your customers are predominantly located in regional locations, then it’s important to make sure the logistics supplier has a strong regional footprint.
“Or, if you’re delivering to consumers [in city locations], then delivery choice becomes critical, as does a supplier that can provide options like parcel lockers and multiple parcel collection locations,” Patterson says.
He explains that adopting effective shipping solutions and offering extras such as delivery status update notifications and alternative delivery options are vital to meet the needs of today’s eCommerce customers.
In his experience, Patterson has found one of the biggest logistical challenges SMEs in eCommerce face is managing product returns. The solution to this is simply having a well-oiled supply chain at the core of their business.
“Satisfied customers require convenient, quick and flexible return solutions that make their exchange experience seamless. That takes a supply chain partner with strong experience.”
ASICS’s James Gardiner thinks partnering up on the supply chain is the best way for SMEs to excel.
“SMEs need to ensure the cost margin is good enough to stay afloat – but it can be a disadvantage to cut it down to the lowest price point for poor delivery services – as the cost of a lost sale due to a bad delivery performance is something that we take very seriously,” he advises.