For many - if not all - businesses, the commerce landscape may feel more saturated with competitors by the day. The unstoppable force of technology has transformed most industries - such as retail which is almost unrecognisable, thanks to disruptors like Amazon. These days, there’s little room for error - even the most niche of sectors have to work hard to keep up with this new status quo.
Enter Lean management.
What is Lean management?
Lean management is all about reducing waste which can include both tangible and intangible examples. The Lean management methodology dictates that waste is anything that doesn’t directly contribute to providing more value to the customer. So, Lean management aims to provide more value to customers using fewer resources.
Here are some examples of waste, according to Lean principles:
- Unnecessary transportation
- Time operators spend waiting for machines
- Excess stock
- Defects in products/materials
Can you see how ‘waste’ doesn’t necessarily have to take physical form? It can also come in the form of time and other intangible forms of resources.
The benefits of Lean management for commerce
Lean is often said to be the precursor to agility. If you can remove waste, you’ve basically cleared the path that leads you to meeting customer demands. And so, quickly responding and adapting to customer demands, no matter how unpredictable they may be, becomes much easier.
Let’s break that down a little more…
1. Customers can view an up-to-date record of your products and stock levels
It’s frustrating when you’ve purchased an item and you receive a follow-up email to notify you that the item is no longer in stock. Why couldn’t the website have just told you that the item wasn’t in stock before you placed the order?
For some customers, this sort of bad experience may be enough to put them off doing business with the company again. Either way, it doesn’t place your company in a very good light. Avoid this situation by adopting Lean management principles.
For instance, connecting your ERP system with your commerce platform so data on stock levels can be automatically transferred to your website, keeping it up-to-date. Implementing a PIM (product information management) solution can also ensure any information related to your products is kept accurate. Product imagery, videos, descriptions - the more accurate it is, the better the picture of your products you can paint for your customers and keep return rates at a minimum.
2. Customers gain more autonomy
Integrating your commerce platform with your back-office software can give your customers more freedom to find key information they want at any time. This may include:
- Order statuses
- Order tracking details
- Price quotes
- Tax calculations
Better yet, this autonomy means customers can self-service whenever they want - even out of hours. This boosts their satisfaction, experience and frees up your customer service team to focus on other tasks.
3. Your customer-facing teams gain more time back
Time - reducing the wastage of this resource is something Lean management particularly focuses on. If your customer-facing teams, such as salespeople and customer service representatives, are spending disproportionate amounts of time answering the same queries and fixing the same issues, that presents a Lean opportunity.
- An FAQs page that contains answers to some common questions. Keep this up-to-date as you receive more intel
- A comprehensive downloadable fact sheet or section on your website that covers your business’ services
- A built-in calculator that can help customers create their own custom quote based on their needs, situation and what packages you’re currently offering
- A chatbot that can handle commonly asked queries and present resources that may help. Customers can also choose to speak to a human rep. This can help separate the customers who really do need help from those who can self-service, potentially shortening virtual queues for customer service
4. You can go to market with new products and services more quickly
Access to intuitive technology, such as an AI-driven ERP system that can provide a snapshot view of industry trends mapped alongside the state of your business, can help you access the information you need to drive growth. Combine this with all the efforts you’ve already taken to transform your business into one that’s much ‘leaner’ and it’s suddenly much easier to launch new products, services, promotions and more.
Want to dive deeper into Lean management principles for the commerce industry?
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Lean management and its role in the commerce space. Premium industry publication The Manufacturer hosted a virtual roundtable where our Product Strategy Director Kevin Bull discussed all things Lean management in a digital world alongside DXP (digital experience platform) provider Episerver.
The video is now available on-demand. You can watch it here.
In the meantime, you might be interested in some other tactics that can propel your e-commerce strategy forward. We have a guide that offers plenty of tips B2B companies like yourself will want to digest and action.