Logistics or distribution plays a key role in the supply chain of all sizes of businesses especially in the FMCG space and with the advent of technology that allows businesses collect information from the field electronically and perform data analysis when done, business owners can now gain the much needed insight into key areas of their business operations. This allows them accurately measure key performance metrics and then make the changes necessary to improve its effectiveness.
But before you can begin to reap the rewards of data and apply its many benefits to your business, you first need to know what type of data you should be collecting, why you should be collecting it, and how to collect it easily, quickly and in a way you can understand and share it with your team, partners and major stakeholders.
Here are 4 kinds of data you should be collecting automatically to help improve and optimise your distribution strategy and operations, leading to better results for your team.
- Information about customers and the competition: When you find a suitable solution or tool, the first kind of data you should work on getting and analysing is one specific to your business, also known as market research data.
Information like a comprehensive list of who and where your customers are, how your product is faring alongside your competitors (market share), customer complaints and feedback e.t.c can be collected overtime making it easy to spot and correct/improve patterns and trends.
Also, carrying out a market survey, keeping tabs on your customers and competitors by collecting important information about them, and mapping your frequent customers’ location (automatically or manually) so you can develop a journey plan for delivery are all components of market research data and having access to this information will improve your distribution and boost your sales strategy.
- Information about orders from customers: Many businesses, regardless of size, do not have a central automated system for receiving and processing orders or payment as we will see in the next point. Orders are often received from multiple channels including manually via paper forms and phone calls, which therefore makes tracking and getting status information difficult and sometimes results in missing or unprocessed orders.
It is therefore first important to have a system or solution in place that helps you receive, process and track the status of all orders coming in and going out in one place to avoid mix ups and errors, and then you will find that gathering this data overtime will
- give you a bird’s eye view of your business operations
- help you stay better organised
- allow you accurately measure the inflow of income
- see if you are growing as a business
- identify loyal customers and reward them
- identify buying habits of your customers which can make it easier for you to upsell ( or prompt them to buy) certain products at certain times and formulate better customer retention strategies based on real and raw data tailored specifically to your business.
- Information about your business’ payment processes: A lot of businesses don’t think gathering information about payment is important and to be fair, there are several effective ways (such as bank statements and credit alerts) to access and share payment information from customers, but being able to have this information collected overtime via an automated system will help accountability and transparency especially when you need to share that information in a visually pleasing and easy to understand way with partners and stakeholders without accidentally revealing more than you need to as with bank statements.
Some solutions that allow you collect this kind of data often allow you receive payment directly from customers once they place an order, which is good because this eliminates some of the challenges associated with receiving payment after goods have been delivered like
- waiting for a customer to either physically go to a bank to make payment or do a bank transfer of funds
- having to decide if a customer should pay cash or via a POS machine if they choose the payment on delivery option
- and worrying about your delivery personnel misappropriating funds gotten from customers for goods delivered.
Not only will collecting this kind of data in an automated way help solve the above challenges, but overtime, it will allow you to quickly identify and spot demand trends and patterns, spool out financial reports whenever you need them, have a clearer view of your revenue, track performance of your distribution team at a glance, refine your sales strategy, identify your highest paying customers and develop better customer relationship and retention strategies e.t.c and this is valuable information for any business.
- Information about deliveries made to customers: Gathering this kind of data has immediate benefits when compared to the others because you can start to get insight, from the first few entries, into how optimised and efficient your distribution team really is and it can therefore help you manage your people and field assets smarter.
Getting this information through an automated system for example, an electronic waybill or proof of delivery, allows you to begin to process payment immediately after receiving electronic confirmation that your products have been delivered. Gathering this kind of information overtime can help you;
- track your Turn-around-time (TAT) so you can use your delivery vehicles smarter
- create journey plans that optimise personnel time and company resources which helps boost customer satisfaction (often turning new customers into loyal repeat customers) because goods are delivered on demand and on time no stories
- having an effective delivery plan ensures that key distributors of your products never run out of stock
all these are the benefits of gathering information overtime and making better decisions based on it, which contributes to helping your team get better results and in some cases help you cut costs and save time.
It is clear that the importance of these types data for business owners cannot be overemphasized because data is what drives supply chain and logistics optimisation. But for any business to truly get the most out of any kind of data, it must be accurate, timely and comprehensive. There also must be plans for a fully automated system of data collection and transfer from the field to the office for this to work effectively and seamlessly because manually entering anything other than very minor amounts of data is both too time consuming and too error prone to support optimisation.
Looking for a solution that can seamlessly connect your office to the field and help you manage your operations smarter?