Digital commerce is booming. As we move further into 2021, it’s becoming clearer day by day that every click, engagement and individual customer experience matters. Lean management, with its focus on ‘continuous improvement', can be just the thing needed to enhance your e-commerce strategy and ensure a customer-first mentality.
Quick overview: What is Lean management?
Just to set the scene, we’re going to quickly define Lean management. If you’re already savvy on Lean methodologies and concepts, skip the next section here.
The Lean methodology is all about continuously improving processes so systems work more efficiently, people work more productively, less waste is produced (think intangible waste e.g. time, resources etc as well as physical waste) and customers ultimately receive more value.
But instead of one person or small group of people holding onto that responsibility, Lean encourages it to be shared among the people who will be most affected by these changes. In other words, your everyday users and your customers.
Let’s tie this back into the commerce space.
How Lean management can benefit your e-commerce strategy
1. Offer fast deliveries and short lead times
No-one wants to wait weeks - or worse - months for their order to arrive. Surrounded by digital technology that allows instant gratification with just a few taps of a keyboard, consumers want their orders as quickly as possible. If you make them wait 26 weeks for a particular piece of furniture, I can guarantee they’ll be searching for alternatives.
Lean management principles can help by:
- Optimising your business’ resource utilisation, particularly in relation to your supply chain. This can improve your demand planning, procurement and logistics processes
- Mapping the flow of processes, such as materials as they travel from vendors/suppliers to customers. E.g. RFID (radio frequency identification) technology helps you track merchandise through your supply chain. Now it’s easier to identify potential challenges, eliminate errors and review optimisation opportunities at each stage
- Allowing you to identify waste - e.g. unnecessary steps in particular processes, excessive amounts of time spent waiting in the warehouse etc - and taking steps to reduce them
Successful implementation of Lean principles can help you select the appropriate supply chain model for your business needs, reduce lead times, meet customer demand, fulfil orders at minimal cost and offer an outstanding customer experience.
2. Meet customer expectations
The modern-day customer wants the answers to their questions and solutions to their problems quickly. Instantly, if possible! They don’t have the time or patience for vague descriptions, outdated imagery or inaccurate stock levels. Their attention (and wallets) will just move onto another website, maybe a competitor who offers the accurate answers they need.
Lean management can help by ensuring your customer service agents are ready to support customers whenever they’re required. Of course, the best course of action is to ensure your website content is as accurate as possible (great product management and a commerce-ERP platform integration will help here) but sometimes customers require additional assistance.
When that happens, your customer service team need easy access to the information required to resolve that customer query. For example, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that’s integrated with other business systems (e.g. your ERP and commerce platforms) unlocks a free flow of information. The best CRMs will come with capabilities such as smart workflows and AI-driven recommendations to help your agents find the answers to customer queries.
3. Benefit from automation to improve overall efficiency
Automation is a trend that’s quickly becoming popular across a variety of sectors, including commerce. And it makes sense. Manual processes are often time-consuming and fraught with human errors. Automate those and you can eliminate the risk of human errors, improve data accuracy and get time back for your team. What’s not to like?
Lean management and ways of thinking can help businesses in the commerce space embrace automation without generating more waste. For example, automation best works for repetitive processes. So you’ll need to identify those processes that are repetitive before you can automate them.
Lean principles allow you to monitor your supply chain more closely and identify opportunities for optimisation (e.g. the RFID technology example we mentioned earlier). That includes identifying areas for automation.
Here’s where to find out more about Lean commerce
Earlier this month, we sat down with premier industry publication The Manufacturer and digital experience solution provider Episerver to discuss how Lean manufacturing principles can drive results for the commerce industry.
The video is now available on-demand. Watch it here.
In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about building the perfect e-commerce strategy for the B2B sector, check out our guide below.