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4 New Ways to do Business through Modern Technologies

  • 9 January 2015
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New technologies such as cloud, mobile, social and big data are changing the way companies do business. In our previous report, we outlined the supply chain of the future in which modern technologies redefined the rules. In this report, we want to show you how to create a contemporary business model with these new rules that helps you to make a huge dent in your market…

Enlightened business model

Over the past decade we have seen a number of companies, Amazon, Airbnb and Uber are good examples, that conquered a large slice of the market, from scratch, using modern technology and an enlightened business model. All in all, these developments have made the market more transparent, making it increasingly difficult for companies to play with their margins. Through Alibaba, nowadays anyone can buy directly in China. A recent report by ING emphasized that especially wholesalers are facing hard times. They feel pressure both from logistics service providers, as well as manufacturers and retailers that do business directly.

Businesses reinvent themselves

What we want to show in this report, is that the new way of working is not restricted to innovative newcomers only. Also existing businesses can reinvent themselves and ride the new waves. US retailer Macy’s, with its proclaimed omnichannel strategy is a good example.

Four opportunities

The question now is how modern technology can help to strengthen your company’s proposition so that customers naturally choose for you and keep coming back. We see four opportunities.

  1. Virtual stock
    Deliver goods that are not in stock
  2. Virtual stores
    Sell goods/services through new sales channels
  3. Virtual warehousing
    Create a seamless distribution network
  4. Virtual Platform
    Let others act through your platform

Virtual stock

The essence of your new supply chain is that you can always deliver. Both products that are temporarily sold out as well as products that are not standard in stock. Dutch department store Bijenkorf makes stocks, which are not present in store, available via tablets of salesclerks. These virtual stocks are delivered to customers from other branches (ship-from-store), from warehouses or directly from suppliers (drop-ship).

Fourteen percent

Virtual stock can be lucrative. A notable example comes from Hema.nl. Products sold by the webshop, come from the e-commerce distribution center of retailer Hema. If a product was not present there, then it could not be delivered. As of February 2014, however, stocks in the retail distribution are also made available to the webshop, but with one extra day for delivery. Instantly, online sales went up by 14 percent. Although recent research shows that Dutch webshops mainly compete on speed of delivery, it seems that availability is a better bet. Customers are looking for that one unique product. If they find that in your shop, then chances are that you also get the rest of their order. If, conversely, that one item is missing, you might lose the entire order.

Piggyback

Fourteen percent revenue growth is wonderful for any business. Yet, there is more. Let’s see what else you can earn with virtual stocks. According to the Pareto curve, product ranges typically consists of 20 percent fast movers that generate 80 percent of sales, while the last 50 percent slow moving items contribute just 5 percent. For fast movers, it is not difficult to have enough stock. Lost sales are mainly found in slow movers with irregular demand. Virtual stock is the answer, turnover rises and existing assortments can piggyback ride on the extended product range.

Virtual longtail

Except preventing lost sales, virtual stock offers more opportunities. You may expand your assortment with extra items in a virtual longtail. These are typically extreme slow movers, for which it is not profitable to keep them in stock. However, with a huge item range, still interesting sales volumes are at your grasp.

Other industry segments

Furthermore, you can virtually extend your assortment with products from other industry segments. This is particularly interesting, since these are not only slow movers as in the long tail, but also fast movers with a lot of extra revenue. This explains why Amazon is rapidly adding new product groups to its portfolio.

Lucrative

That virtual stock can be lucrative, is illustrated by the following comparison. Amazon and Zalando achieve impressive growth, but margins still are at the zero line. Both companies run mainly on their own stocks, while stock-free Alibaba shows a profit margin of 43%.

Virtual store

So far, we have looked at the benefits of virtual stock. The next opportunity, on your way to market leadership, is the virtual store, a point of sale without physical stock. This may start with a webshop or a spot on popular portals like eBay or Amazon. Moreover, we see that companies, especially wholesalers, make their assortments available online to webshops of resellers without physical stocks. Typical examples we see in consumer electronics, such as Ingram Micro or Tech Data.

Mobile apps

Also, mobile apps are hot. Plux, the app of Dutch computer retailer Paradigit, offers its own products and, recently, also books from Libris and sister chain Blz. More retailers will follow, according to Paradigit. Samsung opts for yet another channel to reach additional customers. The electronics manufacturer places video walls at various European retailers where consumers can view and order products.

Virtual warehousing

All in all, your supply chain will need a substantial overhaul to link these virtual stocks and virtual stores. Virtual warehousing is a distribution form in which it no longer matters where stocks are situated, they are directed efficiently to their destination via a seamless distribution network. A good example is Cycleon. The company orchestrates a pan-European returns network for various brands in consumer electronics and fashion from a central control tower. They do this without bricks or wheels of their own.

Shutl

City distributor Greencity, the Dutch counterpart of Shutl, directs local transports through a control tower of Istia. With mobile app Greendropz, users can have their packages rapidly delivered within the city through various local (bicycle) couriers. Modern technology makes it relatively easy to develop such networks of multiple carriers, including tracking & tracing, proof of delivery and billing. This creates new opportunities for companies that want to deliver to consumers directly, for instance, manufacturers who wish to skip the middlemen or retailers who want to offer same-day delivery from stores to local consumers.

Multichannel warehousing

If goods for a customer have to come from multiple sites, then this may require quite some additional movements. VDS Fulfillment runs a multichannel warehouse in the Netherlands with stocks of both wholesalers and retailers in consumer electronics. As a result, clients of retailers can receive products from both stocks in a single package.

Virtual platform

In a while, your new initiatives attract many customers and you host a seamless distribution network. Then you have the opportunity to create a virtual platform for other vendors. You provide commercial, financial and/or logistical services on their behalf. At the same time, your customers benefit from an even wider product range. Among others, C&A and Esprit put their stocks at Wehkamp.nl and let their products be sold and supplied through the network of the number 2 in the Twinkle Top 100.

Cannibalize

Besides suppliers, you can also give customers access to the virtual platform. Amazon allows individuals to sell used products through their webshop. Amazon receives a commission on these sales. This principle is also applicable in business to business settings. By allowing your customers to exchange their products through your network, they do not get stuck with obsolete inventories. In the short term this might cannibalize your sales, but in the long term it lowers barriers for placing orders and the supply chain as a whole will sell more.

sales growth

Conclusion

And are you a market leader by now? Probably not. Though you may have taken a major step forward. The graph on the next page gives an indication on how you may double your sales with the new virtual initiatives. Customers appreciate the convenience and know that they can get any product quickly and reliably. This will set the wheels in motion, making more and more customers naturally select you as their preferred vendor. So it went happened for Amazon and Zalando. And before you know it, three years later, you have indeed become market leader in your segment.