The pandemic has been a game-changer for several sectors, retail being one of them! While e-retail boomed, offline retail took a blow due to strict lockdown restrictions. E-commerce is rapidly growing in the country - in FY21, online retail grew by 25 percent while offline retail shrunk by 5 percent, thanks to features like touch-less payments and doorstep deliveries, easy exchange, and the flexibility to order anything, anywhere. For modern multi-location retail outlets, however, the lockdown necessitated an accelerated transformation, with tech adoption, to drive maximum efficiency, and retain customers and boost profitability. And 3PL service providers, with expert, tech-driven solutions for transport, storage, and last-mile deliveries, customized to perfection, were the go-to partners for business strategy transformation, for traditional retail businesses.
Seamless retail supply chains for multi-location brick-and-mortar stores, depend on flawless processes, from holistic planning to fool-proof inventory management, to optimize the supply chain and 3PL service providers are doing just this. Here’s how 3PL is empowering modern multi-location retail outlets to survive and thrive in a digital-first world:
Supply Chain Planning: Retail trade is all about moving products from suppliers to customers and you need to have a big picture view of your supply chain to do that efficiently. You must know when, where, and how your inventory is transported. You need clarity about which carriers will move your inventory from location A to location B, while also accounting for peak season surges and unforeseen bottlenecks. 3PLs plan and execute all these tasks in-house, finding the fastest and most cost-effective route to bring the products from your suppliers to your customers.
Warehouse Management: Warehouse management involves optimizing the use of finite warehousing space to maximize inventory storage, simplifying stock-taking, catalyzing efficient order fulfillment, and coordinating with suppliers and transporters to ensure that materials arrive and orders ship on time. The benefits of good warehouse management can ripple out to the entire supply chain, strengthening relationships with both suppliers and customers.
Inventory Management: 3PLs monitor and manage your inventory levels across multiple channels and locations, which is a prerequisite for multi-location retail chains. This means, effectively, that you don’t have to keep tabs on your stock and worry about replenishing their supply as your inventory levels drop. Retail-ready 3PLs will monitor demand for your products and proactively source what’s required to match them.
Shipping and Delivery Planning: 3PLs carve out their own relationships with different carriers. They leverage this relationship and a large amount of revenue they consistently offer them to find the best shipping lanes to procure and deliver your products. They also hold significantly more negotiating power than retailers and can customize their quotes to individual carriers to obtain the best rate for every delivery, bringing the benefits of route optimization and cost efficiency to retailers.
Cost Optimization: Offline retail is an extremely cost-sensitive business and the tiniest of variations in operations could impact the bottom line. With an industry-leading 3PL partner, logistics, warehousing, and transportation costs are optimized and kept in check. 3PL service providers also provide expert insights and custom-tailored solutions to meet your supply chain needs, in line with your current and future plans.
Automation and Technology: Tech is the key differentiator between modern 3PL service providers. Naturally, they have to stay on top of it to beat their competition. Brick and mortar retailers can leverage their range of tech-enabled 3PL solutions to optimize their processes and gain a competitive advantage in their industry. Such tech-driven solutions may include temperature-controlled supply chains, cutting-edge warehouse and inventory management software, data-driven solutions for sales fulfillment, real-time stock update, use of ML and AI to reduce shipping time and costs, and location-wise performance updates – all key insights that could turbocharge sales and increase market share for multi-location retail brands.
Value-Added Services: Retail-ready 3PL service providers provide a spectrum of value-added services that are customized to meet the specific demands of each location, segment, and product. From assembly, packaging, labeling, quality inspection, re-distribution, kitting, sampling, and even documentation and customs clearance, 3PL providers lend more efficiency to these processes through their years of experience and expertise in executing them while also allowing retailers to focus on their core competencies.
The Way Forward
According to market research firm Technavio, India’s 3PL market is set to grow at a CAGR of 8 percent from 2021-2025. With a clear vision of streamlining operations, optimizing processes, and driving efficiency, 3PL service providers are actively creating bespoke solutions that leverage AI, ML, automation, other emerging tech, and deep domain customer understanding, in order to add more value to their retail clients. The surge of such tech-first, value-driven 3PL partners is poised to drive the growth of multi-location offline retail brands like never before!