Supply Chain Management

To sell a product, first, you need to source the materials, then you need to ship it to your customers. What about Stock? Returns? Re-Packaging? Learn all about Supply Chain Management
Topic: Placement
Published In: 2021/07/ 28

The term supply chain management (SCM) refers to all of the actions involved in managing an organization’s procurement to accomplish the following:

  • Cost savings
  • Enhancing effectiveness
  • Fulfilling demand

Given the costs associated with accomplishing these objectives, firms must develop and implement supply chain plans or strategies that specify service levels and long- and short-term procurement objectives. These objectives should be consistent with and complementary to a business’s strategic goals.

Once such a plan is in place, reasonable and informed decisions about procuring raw materials and delivering completed items to clients become conceivable. This comprises recommendations on who the business should source from, the proper product quality standards, and how things should be supplied.

In addition, an Supply Chain Management strategy assists supply chain managers in determining the best course of action to follow when things go wrong, such as what to do when a supplier fails to deliver on time or how to address quality issues.

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Benefits of Effective Supply Chain Management

A well-managed and efficient SCM provides various services that enhance a business’s bottom line. Consider the following significant benefits of a successful supply chain:

Cost Savings

Supply chain management can help you save money in a variety of ways. For example, it optimizes your inventory management system and eliminates damaged resources by appropriately allocating storage space. Additionally, it can improve your system’s responsiveness to consumer requirements and help you establish partnerships with vendors and distributors.

Preserves Product Quality

Numerous benefits accrue to businesses that exert greater control over their direct suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. By establishing uniform minimum quality standards, direct suppliers can identify and collaborate with secondary suppliers who fulfill these standards. Additionally, process rules might assist your suppliers in meeting your quality performance requirements. A well-managed operating system will track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as on-time delivery, scrap, and rework rates, final product quality, time to resolve complaints, and conclusions from supplier quality assessments.


Access to raw materials, components, supplies, and services significantly benefits supply chain management. For example, rather than dealing with individual suppliers daily to obtain information and supplies, you can negotiate long-term contracts with third-party logistics providers, including real-time software and visibility.

Adaptable Shipping Methods

Whether you’re shipping tiny packages or massive bulk purchases to clients, they expect them to arrive quickly. Working with your shippers to offer flexible solutions is an integral part of meeting their expectations and running a successful business. Supply chain management solutions can assist you in determining the most cost-effective ways to ship more efficiently.

Information Flow and Customer Satisfaction

A supply chain management solution that effectively enables you to combine your data with your business partners and correct inventory information for your customers. Today’s customers want immediate response and easier access to your offerings. If the flow of information is disrupted, clients may abandon their carts, and you may miss sales chances.

This continuous flow of information also affects your capacity to interact with your teammates and work on ways to improve the flow. Improved visibility into all your transactions and insights can only enhance the efficiency of your supply chain.

Network Enhancement

Combining lean and agile methods is one of the most effective strategies to ensure a sustainable supply chain. By merging data from all your business’s sectors, you can create a more efficient supply chain network.

High Productivity

Supply chain management enhances communication amongst diverse stakeholders in your firm. Collaboration with shipping and transportation businesses, vendors, and suppliers will increase your output.

Enhancement of Cash Flow

Once communication is strengthened and you gain access to new technology that helps your operations run more efficiently, you can be confident that your revenues will increase. Meeting client demand and collaborating effectively with business partners enables you to boost sales, decrease losses, and expand your organization.

No Additional Delays

Effective supply chain management enables you to minimize process delays. Because everyone is aware of what the other is doing, late shipments from vendors, logistical issues in distribution routes, and production line delays will be minimized.

Enhancement of Risk Mitigation

Analyzing your supply chain data enables you to identify potential issues in advance. You can develop a contingency plan to address these unforeseen scenarios and estimate when these errors are most likely to occur. By using a proactive approach rather than a reactive one, you may regain control of your supply chain and dramatically mitigate unfavourable consequences.

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Supply Chain Orientation

Supply chain orientation is defined as “an organization’s realization of the systemic, strategic consequences of the tactical actions involved in managing the supply chain’s diverse flows.” This means that when a business owns SCO, its employees understand the implications of managing the upstream and downstream flows of products, services, cash, and information between suppliers and customers. Without an internal management philosophy, it is difficult to engage in successful strategic supply chain management.

Supply chain-oriented businesses have the following distinguishing characteristics that, when combined, set them distinct from their competitors:

  • They are trustworthy. They are capable of keeping their promises.
  • They are charitable. They are willing to take short-term risks on behalf of others; they are dedicated to others’ success, and they invest in the success of others.
  • They teamwork. They cooperate with their partners to accomplish goals, instead of antagonistically them.
  • They have the backing of senior management. Moreover, these managers have the vision necessary to take actions that benefit the whole supply chain in the short term to maximize firm success in the long run.

In the long run, those who are efficient and follow the above guidelines managing and controlling supply chain operations, are financially better off in the long run than those who don’t.

Supply Chain Agility

Agility in the supply chain refers to an organization’s capacity to adjust fluidly to market developments. These changes are extensive and interconnected, encompassing everything from shifting client preferences to economic and market volatility, as well as competitive disruption, to name a few.

Supply chain agility does not imply that daily operations and workflows are adjusted to match internal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). However, increasing the agility of the manufacturing supply chain will necessitate changes to internal processes. Typically, this entails implementing new technology, data management, and vendor service agreements.

The objective is to maintain a responsive, fluid, and educated supply chain that can readily traverse any changes — positive or negative – that may occur.

Successful supply chain agility is contingent upon the following:

  • Recognize how external forces influence your supply chain Logistics, regardless of how stable the situation is at the moment
  • Examining the components of the value chain that are most impacted by industrial disruption
  • Integrating proactive technology and processes to address value chain pain points
  • Continuous monitoring and analysis of new techniques, cost savings in production, cross-functional collaboration, and the adjustment of processes as necessary.

Take the example of quick fashion. Fashion evolves rapidly in today’s Instagram and blogging cultures, and production must be prepared to keep up with emerging and altering trends. Flexibility and efficiency are required to get the product onto store shelves and into consumers’ hands before the next great fad arrives.

More examples include Honda, Apple, and Zara, which are just a few corporations that have benefited from agile supply networks. These organizations’ entrepreneurial culture places a premium on their supply managers and teams coming up with novel solutions in difficult times.

Supply Chain Integration

Supply chain integration refers to the process of integrating all parties engaged in the fulfilment of a product into a unified system. This needs considerable coordination and alignment to guarantee that everyone is always successfully working toward the same goal.

Having the components for a product arrive where they are needed when they are required helps avoid manufacturing delays and removes a lot of wasted time, storage space, and other resources. In addition, when done correctly, supply chain integration unites partners that are frequently at odds with one another.

All materials and components from the supply chain are required, and by integrating everything into a single system, effective product production becomes much more manageable.

Supply chain integration is widely recognized as a critical component of achieving improved supply chain performance. It provides a slew of competitive advantages – including complete transparency from supplier to customer.

Supply chain integration occurs when several enterprises in a supply chain coordinate their operations and procedures to ensure that they are connected smoothly to pursue customer satisfaction. Supply chain management’s primary aims are to minimize costs, improve the business’s overall performance, and increase customer satisfaction through improved product or service delivery to the consumer.

For instance, the supplier’s computer system may be configured to provide data to the buyer’s computer in real-time. This informs the purchaser of the following:

  • The status of all current orders.
  • Which products are stocked by the supplier?
  • For the buyer, the manufacturer’s status of the products.
  • When an order or a product is complete and ready to be shipped.
  • Shipment tracking.

This straightforward method of supply chain integration is frequently visible when shopping online. You can instantly determine whether an item is in stock. Following the placement of an order, you will receive confirmations that the order has been received, that it is ready for shipment. And that the item has been dispatched, along with the tracking number.

Demand-Supply Integration (DSI)

A significant aspect in the battle for consumer market share in today’s digital era is a business’s ability to connect demand and supply processes to accomplish strategic goals. Digital contacts with end consumers in real-time via social media, mobile apps, online ordering, and other channels create new marketing offerings and demand shaping.

They also pose difficulties for supply chains tasked with meeting that demand. As a result, companies that implement demand/supply integration (DSI) can shape the market through these digital engagements and improve their business objectives.

True DSI is a cross-functional method for developing a go-to-market strategy that aligns marketing and promotions, supply chain, and operations with business goals. Simply defined, DSI analyses demand data and compare it to supply capability and financial objectives to make tactical and strategic judgments regarding future actions.

Consider the following situation involving a quick-service restaurant:

Suppose similar same-restaurant sales are not growing quickly enough to meet revenue targets. In that case, DSI enables senior leadership to identify this deficiency and then utilize advanced analytics to design an action plan to boost demand.

For instance, a quick-service restaurant (QSR) could use machine learning to mimic the performance of a limited-time sandwich deal and then execute it via a push notification on its mobile app. However, the critical point is that such a plan would be implemented in conjunction with the restaurant’s supply chain, ensuring that the restaurant can satisfy the rising demand for the sandwich.

Moreover, world-class supply chain management necessitates those disparate businesses appear to have the same objective and leadership.

To accomplish this task across enterprises with different ownership and interests, enterprises committed to offering superior service to their consumers. They seek the following types of external integration:

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  • Relationship integration
    • Refers to a company’s ability to build social connections that guide their interactions when they collaborate. More precisely, relationship integration is the capability of businesses to establish and maintain a shared mental model that specifies how they will rely on one another when collaborating. This covers how they will collaborate on activities or initiatives to maximize the entire value generated by the supply chain for the consumer.
  • Integration of measurement
    • Reflects the idea that performance assessments should be transparent and measurable across the borders of different firms and should also assess the supply chain’s performance while holding each firm or business unit accountable for meeting its objectives.
  • Technology and planning integration
    • Developing and maintaining information technology solutions that connect managers across supply chain organizations. It necessitates information hardware and software systems capable of exchanging data between customers, suppliers, and each supply chain partner’s internal operational areas.
  • Integration of material and service
    • Suppliers require businesses to connect seamlessly with those who provide them with goods and services to optimize work processes and create seamless, high-quality customer experiences. To ensure supplier integration is successful, both parties must share an identical vision of the complete value creation process and be prepared to share responsibility for meeting customer expectations.
  • Customer integration
    • Is a capability that enables businesses to provide long-term, distinctive, value-added solutions to their most valuable customers or supply chain partners. Firms with a strong customer focus examine their skills and then match them to customers.

Critical Practices of Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management is the manufacturing industry’s unsung hero. It is not glamorous – there is no tangible reward for your work – yet it is the bedrock upon which every manufacturing business is built. A seamless supply chain optimizes inventory management, reduces waste, and frees up cash that might otherwise be locked up in stock — it’s well worth the effort to do it right! On the other hand, supply chain management does not occur in isolation; it is built on the backbone of critical business activities.

Consider the following essential procedures to demonstrate how a best-of-breed ERP system provides a foundation for Supply Chain Integration:

Management of Customer Relationships

Initiate a framework for establishing and maintaining customer relationships. Individual consumers or groups are recognized based on their cumulative value, and their loyalty can be supported through the provision of customized products and services. Customer teams comprised of cross-functional members create Product and Service Agreements (PSA) to address the demands of essential accounts and segments of other customers.

Moreover, they collaborate with major customers to optimize operations, decrease demand fluctuation, and remove non-value-added processes. Performance reports are intended to quantify both the profitability of individual customers and their financial impact.

Management of Customer Service

Operates at the point of contact with the customer. It acts as the primary point of contact for running the PSA and can inform customers about orders, shipment dates, and product availability.

Management of Supplier Relationships

Defines how a business communicates with its suppliers. As with customer relationship management, a company will create close ties with some suppliers while cultivating less tight relationships with others. Achieving effective supplier relationship management entails developing the appropriate PSAs and managing them effectively to ensure that both the company and its suppliers continue to profit from the most advantageous trade arrangements.

Demand Management

Allows a business to be proactive in terms of supply and demand matching. The method entails anticipating and synchronizing supply and demand to maximize flexibility and minimize demand volatility. The process should use customer knowledge, past sales data, and planned marketing efforts to forecast and impact the market.

Order Fulfillment

Processes entail more than simply fulfilling orders. It encompasses all efforts required to determine client requirements and build a process that enables a business to meet customer requests while keeping overall delivered costs low. This is not a logistical role alone; it must be executed cross-functionally and collaborate with significant suppliers and customers. The goal is to create a continuous process that connects the supplier to the organization and its numerous client segments.

Management of Manufacturing Flows

Includes all actions essential for the movement of commodities through production and the acquisition, implementation, and management of manufacturing flexibility in the supply chain. Manufacturing flexibility refers to producing a broad range of items at a reasonable rate and at the lowest possible cost. To achieve the appropriate level of manufacturing flexibility, planning and execution must extend beyond the manufacturing site and throughout the supply chain.

Managing industrial flow requires some degree of human resource planning. In the case of SYSPRO, our Equator human resource management module connects with the enterprise resource planning system to assist this planning.

Commercialization and Product Development

Establishes the framework for jointly creating and bringing products to market with consumers and suppliers. The product development and commercialization process team must collaborate with customer relationship management to identify articulated and unarticulated customer needs; select materials and suppliers in conjunction with the supplier relationship management process; and develop manufacturing technology to manufacture and integrate a given product into the optimal supply chain flow.

Product marketing is the guiding force behind the marketing and acquisition of goods. If you’re looking for more information about Product Marketing, feel free to read our article, The Fundamentals of Product Marketing

Returns Management

Is the supply chain management process by which operations such as product returns, reverse logistics, gatekeeping, and avoidance are managed inside the business and between crucial supply chain participants? Proper implementation of this process enables management to properly work reverse product flow and discover possibilities to prevent unwanted returns and maintain control over reusable assets such as containers. Effective returns management is a critical link between marketing and logistics, and it provides a means of gaining a competitive edge.

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Sustainable Supply Chain Management

Corporate social responsibility and supply chain sustainability are popular buzzwords in today’s market, but what do they mean? Sustainability is no longer an afterthought; it has become an integral aspect of every business plan.

What Is a Sustainably Managed Supply Chain?

Sustainability is the way of the future, and now more than ever, it is critical for your business’s supply chain to implement a sustainability program. This tool will assist you in determining the extent to which your suppliers and customers have a social, environmental, and economic influence and viability. While there are no government mandates to promote sustainability, business constraints on suppliers and vendors are already in place. Sustainability encompasses much more than becoming green and being environmentally conscious. It also affects the entire manufacturing process, from raw material sourcing through plant operations to the use and potential recyclability of the product or service.

Nike is a shining example of corporate sustainability. The world’s most prominent shoemaker altered how some of its shoes are manufactured, resulting in labor savings of up to 50% and material savings of 20%. As a result, margins increased by 0.25 percent.

Why Is It Critical?


When manufacturing inventories, the supply chain is the first factor that will help your organization achieve a more sustainable future. Manufacturers must develop new methods for managing and tracking their supply chain, manufacturing process, and sales and marketing techniques. Additionally, customers are becoming more vocal in their support for these initiatives.

Enhancement of the brand

Sustainability can positively affect more than just product quality; it may also have a positive impact on customer relationships. When it comes to manufacturing inventories, focusing exclusively on cost will not suffice. Customers develop a sense of loyalty for brands that share their beliefs, which is why you should invest in sustainable methods that minimize waste and source products responsibly. Makeup brands that use plant-based ingredients and recycled packaging and those labelled “vegan” or “cruelty-free” quickly develop a loyal following. Consumers are more conscientious about the products they purchase, and many opt to support firms that work to safeguard the environment.

Control of Costs

While transitioning to a sustainable supply chain model may be costly initially, it has been shown to result in increased efficiency over time. Over time, businesses achieve significant cost savings, which appeals to both producers and buyers. When you transition to a sustainable business strategy, everyone benefits.

4th Party Logistics vs. 3rd Party Logistics

Fourth party logistics or 4PL providers, organize and manage a whole supply chain on behalf of manufacturers and wholesalers.

For instance, in a 4PL model, a producer outsources the logistics, packaging, warehousing, and delivery of a product to a retailer to a 4PL company. Essentially, 4PL businesses take over the totality of a manufacturing company’s logistical activities.

Several of the services provided by 4PL logistics companies include the following:

  • Purchasing techniques for freight
  • Consultancy for logistics strategy
  • Transportation expenditure analysis
  • Analyses of carrier performance Efficient third-party logistics management
  • Planning a business
  • Management of projects
  • Proper inbound, outbound, and reverse logistics management
  • Coordination of a diverse supplier base located in a variety of geographic regions
  • Management change
  • Analyses and designs of networks
  • Capacity utilization analysis
  • Inventory planning and management that is effective

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, is like fourth-party logistics in many aspects but varies in several critical factors. For instance, a third-party logistics company employed by a farm may package and store vegetables in addition to shipping them to a grocery shop. However, unlike a 4PL, it will not be responsible for the complete supply chain management and organization.

Among the services provided by 3PL are the following:

  • Storage inventory
  • Effective inventory management
  • Brokerage of customs
  • Transportation of goods
  • Contract administration
  • Picking and packaging of merchandise
  • Cross-docking
  • Information technology solutions

4PL’s Advantages

  • Support for operations that is unique and professional
  • Effective outsourcing of a business’s entire logistics needs Provides a single point of contact for all supply chain partners
  • Provides a greater sense of ownership and control over one’s business
  • Establishes a lean and cost-effective supply chain, resulting in increased profit margins
  • All logistics are outsourced to third-party expertise, allowing producers to concentrate on their products.

4PL’s disadvantages

  • Control over fulfillment and logistical procedures is limited.
  • It could be prohibitively expensive for some small firms and startups
  • With fourth-party logistics, businesses may eliminate supply chain inefficiencies and focus on their product rather than on the supply chain’s intricacies.
  • The 3PL model is one in which a manufacturer retains control of their supply chain but outsources transportation and logistics to a third-party provider.

Third-party logistics providers work as an intermediary between manufacturers and retailers and, like 4PL firms, have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Several of these include the following:

3PL’s Advantages

  • Time and money are saved
  • Excellent for both domestic and international distribution
  • Affordably priced for small enterprises with a high rate of order growth
  • Possibility of exerting control over returns
  • Risk is reduced when there is a high degree of decentralization.
  • Model of responsive logistics

3PL’s disadvantages

  • Inventory control is compromised.
  • Expensive if order quantities are small
  • Generally, only suitable for small-to-medium-sized businesses
  • Control over the customer experience and fulfillment is limited.

Because 3PL companies function as intermediaries between manufacturers and retailers, they do not acquire ownership of the commodities or items being sent. Therefore, if your supply chain proves to be too complex for you to manage effectively on your own, a third-party logistics provider may be a viable choice for your organization.

Public-Private partnership

A public-private partnership [PPP] is a term that refers to a project that is operated and funded through a collaboration between private sector businesses and the government.

Typically, a PPP involves a private sector entity investing funds in developing an asset, which the private sector entity then operates and assumes some financial risk for. For instance, a government may wish to build a tunnel but is hesitant to collect taxes on the people to fund it. Rather than that, they could enter a PPP with a contractor or a consortium of contractors.

The contractor invests money and supervises the tunnel’s construction in exchange for the right to impose tolls on tunnel users for a specified length of time, for example, 30 years. At the end of the period, ownership of the asset may be transferred to the government. So, the contractor’s risk is that patronage of the tunnel will be lower than projected, resulting in a lower profit margin or possibly a loss.

The use of PPPs has been controversial, as private sector access to capital is contingent on the liquidity of financial markets, and notable PPP contractor failures have resulted in assets reverting to public sector ownership following the contractor appointed to operate the project’s insolvency, casting doubt on the accurate level of risk transferred.

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Basically, public-private partnerships are formed when a government agency collaborates with a private sector entity to finance, build, and operate public infrastructure projects such as public transit networks, parks, and convention centres. Investing in a project through a public-private partnership can expedite its completion or even make it possible. Public-private partnerships sometimes involve tax or other operational revenue concessions, liability protection, or partial ownership rights over nominally public services and property by for-profit private sector firms.
  • Public-private partnerships enable the completion of large-scale government projects such as roads, bridges, and hospitals using private capital.
  • These collaborations succeed because they combine private sector technology and creativity with public sector incentives to finish projects on time and within budget.
  • Cost overruns, technical faults, and a failure to achieve quality requirements are risks for private enterprises. In contrast, for public partners, agreed-upon user rates may not be supported by demand—for example, for a toll road or bridge.
Despite their benefits, public-private partnerships are frequently attacked for blurring the distinction between legitimate public aims and private for-profit activity, as well as for perceived public exploitation caused by self-dealing and rent-seeking. For example, a local government may be severely in debt and unable to undertake a capital-intensive construction project. Still, a private enterprise may be interested in supporting the project’s construction to obtain the project’s operational earnings once completed.
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Electronic Distribution

The electronic supply chain enables retailers and their suppliers to communicate instantly. An electronic supply chain can benefit a business in advanced planning and replenishment (APS) and supply chain execution (SCE). Retailers and suppliers can predict sales and inventory requirements using APS.

Forecasts of this type of aid in the planning and scheduling of orders. Organizations can improve control over distribution centers, warehouses/stores, transportation, and other logistical operations by implementing the SCE system.

Businesses are printing prototypes, machine tools, spare parts, and finished things in growing numbers. The initial impediments to adoption, such as the expensive cost and low speed of 3D printers, diminish.

According to Gartner, the number of printers supplied in 2016 is expected to be about half a million, or double what was sent last year, and on track to reach 6.7 million units shipped in 2020.

While quick prototyping is still the most common application for 3D printers, some organizations have taken it a step further. For instance, the hearing aid sector is frequently identified as a big user of 3D printing. Apart from healthcare, other prominent businesses include aeronautics, autos, and consumer goods.

65 per cent of global supply chain managers currently utilize 3D printing or plan to do so within the next two years. – Gartner

What makes 3D printing potentially disruptive for global supply chain management is its ability to produce products closer to customers worldwide, customize them in real-time, and significantly cut inventory, transportation expenses, and capital expenditures on factories and warehouses. According to Gartner, managers’ objectives for using technology were virtually evenly split between altering customer experience and service, increasing efficiency, creating income, and decreasing expenses.

Global Supply Chain Management

Global supply chain management is a broad term that encompasses all procedures involved in the lifecycle of a product, from inception through distribution to endpoints. Global SCM aims to increase the efficiency at each stage of this lifecycle, eliminate inefficiencies, and deliver products on schedule and with minimal disruption.

Traditionally, the worldwide supply chain is divided into four essential stages:

  • Supplier
  • Manufacturer
  • Retailer
  • End-user

Globalization has been a dominant trend in practically every industry for several decades. Manufacturers and other firms seek to capitalize on the plentiful raw materials and low-cost production accessible in emerging countries worldwide. Global supply chains are complex manufacturing, logistics, transportation, and communication enterprises that coordinate the movement of products and materials through worldwide production and distribution channels.

Global supply chain management is the process of assuring the secure and timely delivery of all types of goods, from raw materials to finished consumer items, as they travel from manufacturers and suppliers to wholesalers, retailers, and other distribution locations. Supply chain managers’ objectives are to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and mitigate risk.

Supply Chains: How They Work and Why They Are Critical

Supply chains are the networks that connect business partners as they manufacture and deliver products and services to clients, whether they be consumers or other businesses. According to Investopedia, domestic and global supply chains are comprised of numerous activities, entities, and resources:

  • Transportation of raw materials and their conversion into finished products
  • Transportation of goods to distribution centers Distribution of goods to customers
  • Coordination of suppliers, manufacturers, vendors, warehouses, transportation partners, wholesalers, and retailers’ activities
  • Managing product development, marketing, finance, customer service, business operations, and distribution logistics

Some examples of the world top leading global supply chain companies include:

  • Unilever
  • Nestle
  • Nike
  • Colgate

Supply Chain Analytics and Technology

Faced with the challenges of globalization, greater product complexity, and increased customer expectations, businesses are embracing new technologies to convert their supply chain from a purely operational hub to a center of business innovation.

Forward-thinking businesses collect data at every step, from the state of raw materials flow to the condition and placement of final items, using sensors and ever-improving internet access.

Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics all contribute to automation and provide insights that enhance efficiency — for example, changing routes on the fly to expedite product delivery or swapping materials to take advantage of better cost or availability.

Marketing Channels and Channel Intermediaries

Creating a quality product or service is difficult enough. Getting buyers to see the product’s benefits and then closing the sale are two very distinct issues. You may design a superior mousetrap, but the main question is whether you can sell it in sufficient stores to earn a profit. That is why astute businesses carefully consider their marketing channels and the middlemen within them.

Routes of Distribution

Typically, the word “marketing channels” refers to distribution channels, which are the routes taken by a business to get a product or service to the “end-user,” or the person who finally consumes it. While things go one way through the channel, from producer to consumer, payments for the commodities travel in the opposite direction, from consumer to producer. Thus, producers strive to identify the routes that will efficiently reach the most significant number of potential clients.

Types of Channels

The most direct marketing channel is the direct channel, in which the consumer places an order directly with the producer, who then distributes the goods to the consumer. Other players are attracted through indirect distribution routes. For example, a manufacturer may sell their products to a wholesaler, who then sells them to a retailer, then sells them to the consumer. These channels might be short or long, depending on the product being marketed. Additionally, businesses may use the term “channels” to refer to many methods of connecting with consumers — at retail stores, such as telemarketing or online orders.

The Channel’s Intermediaries

Intermediaries are the channel’s “middlemen” – businesses and organizations that bring the product to the consumer. Wholesalers and retailers and freight transporters, warehousers, delivery businesses, brokers, agents, and even finance organizations act as intermediates. According to marketing experts Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller, in their book “A Framework for Marketing Management,” middlemen are essential to many consumers than the manufacturer. A negative dealership experience, for example, can turn a customer off a specific make of car. Likewise, if you hire a delivery firm with reckless drivers, you risk losing future business from dissatisfied clients.

Additional Channel Types

Kotler and Keller assert in their book that marketing channels exist in addition to distribution. Communication channels are how you convey your message to your intended audience. This includes advertising and promotions and press coverage, sponsorships, and retail store display design. Meanwhile, service channels enable sales transactions. For example, if you offer store financing, you may enhance sales by attracting clients who cannot pay cash up front. These are channels of service.

The Essential Role of Intermediaries

With the ease with which any firm may establish an e-commerce website, it may be tempting for a small business to eliminate intermediaries to maximize profit. However, for a growing organization, this can result in increased workloads in logistics and customer service.

For instance, if 10,000 clients purchase a product directly from the manufacturer in a single month, this would necessitate 10,000 separate shipments to 10,000 different locations, as well as a minimum of 10,000 customer interactions. If you factor in customer inquiries regarding the product, refunds, and after-sale support – not to mention all the consumers who make a purchase but do not complete it – you’re looking at several thousand customer interactions for every 10,000 transactions. With three or four intermediaries and a weekly shipping schedule, the manufacturer would schedule only a dozen shipments per month with a quarter of the interactions.

1.Representatives and Brokers

In their capacity as mediators, agents and brokers are practically synonymous. Indeed, they are synonymous with any client regarding real estate transactions, despite their varying roles in the sector. However, in most cases, agents act as a permanent mediator between buyers and sellers, whereas brokers act primarily temporarily. Both are compensated on a commission basis for each transaction and do not acquire ownership of the merchandise.

Along with real estate, agents and brokers are prevalent in travel agencies. In addition, agents and brokers are frequently used by businesses when importing or exporting products across the border.

2.Wholesalers and Resellers of Merchant Goods

Merchant wholesalers purchase bulk from manufacturers and resell them, typically to retailers or other businesses. Some offer a diverse selection of things, while others focus on a few essential items but offer a vast array. They may run cash-and-carry locations, warehouses, mail-order businesses, or online sales, or they may just store their inventory in trucks and deliver to their clients.

3.Wholesalers and distributors of functional goods

Distributors, sometimes known as active wholesalers, do not purchase products directly from manufacturers. Rather than that, they facilitate transactions between manufacturers and retailers or other businesses. As with agents and brokers, they may be compensated on a commission basis or through manufacturer fees.

4.Retailers, both traditional and online

When a buyer purchases a product from someone other than the manufacturer, they deal with a retailer. Corner stores, shopping malls, and e-commerce websites all fall under this category. Retailers might purchase directly from producers or through an intermediary. In other marketplaces, they may stock things and pay for them only when a sale is made, as is the case with most bookstores today.

A retailer is also an e-commerce website that is not controlled by the firm that manufactures the product and then sells it to a consumer. However, with Amazon manufacturing their items and selling them straight to customers alongside those manufactured by other companies, the distinction between manufacturers and sellers is becoming increasingly blurred.

Supply Channel Structure

While channels might be highly complicated, many transactions share a similar set of channel architecture. Each channel structure is unique in terms of organizational structure. The term “channel partners” refers to the organizations that jointly support the distribution channel.

Consumer Product Marketing Channels Producers flow to consumers, and consumers flow to producers.

Retail channel: Producers deliver goods to retailers, retailers deliver goods to customers, and retailers return goods to producers.

Wholesale channel: Producers sell to wholesalers or distributors, who then sell to retailers. Retailer-to-consumer flows. Producers send their products to an agent/broker. The agent/broker sends it to a wholesaler or distributor. The wholesaler or distributor sends it to a retailer, and the retailer sends it to consumers.

For example:
At a farmer’s market, a woman arranges baskets of berries. The direct channel is the most straightforward. The producer sells directly to the consumer in this situation. Simple examples include producers who sell in modest quantities. For example, you can purchase things now from the farmer or craftsman if you visit a farmer’s market. Additionally, giant firms that efficiently employ the direct route, particularly for B2B transactions. Direct channels can also be used to sell services, and the same idea applies to an individual purchase a service directly from the supplier who delivers it.

Direct channels include the following:

  • Online marketplace
  • Local farmer’s markets
  • Oracle’s sales force
  • A baked goods sale

Retailers are channel companies that specialize in selling directly to consumers. You are almost certain to interact with the retail channel daily. Retail is distinct from direct marketing in that the retailer does not manufacture the product. Instead, the retailer markets and sells the producer’s goods. Consumers benefit tremendously from shops since they create a single spot where various things may be acquired. Retailers may offer their products in-store, online, at a kiosk, or directly to customers. The emphasis is on selling straight to the consumer, not on the specific place.

Retailers include the following:

  • Discount Walmart stores
  • com online retailer
  • Department store Nordstrom
  • Restaurant Dairy Queen

The wholesale channel appears quite like the retail channel from the consumer’s perspective, but it also involves a wholesaler. A wholesaler’s primary activity is purchasing, storing, and physically handling large amounts of commodities that are then resold (often in lower quantities) to retailers or industrial or business users. The vast bulk of goods produced in a developed economy are distributed through wholesaling. Additionally, wholesale channels include manufacturers with sales offices for wholesale purposes and retailers who run warehouses or engage in other wholesale activities.

Wholesalers include the following:

  • Wholesalers of Christmas trees that purchase from producers and resell to retailers
  • Suppliers of restaurant food
  • Wholesalers of clothing who sell to retailers

One more intermediary is included in the agent or broker route. In contrast to wholesalers, agents and brokers do not acquire title to the item. In other words, they do not own the goods because they do not purchase or sell them. Rather than that, brokers connect buyers and sellers and negotiate the transaction conditions: agents represent either the buyer or seller, typically permanently; brokers connect parties temporarily. For example, consider a real estate agent. They do not purchase your home and resell it; they market and facilitate the sale of your home. Agents and brokers connect buyers and sellers or contribute knowledge to a channel to make it more efficient.

Brokers include the following:

  • An insurance broker is a person who sells insurance products to businesses and individuals on behalf of a variety of insurance firms.
  • A literary agent is a person who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatre producers, and motion picture producers.
  • An export broker is someone who negotiates and oversees transportation requirements, shipment, and customs clearance on a purchaser’s or producer’s behalf.

It’s critical to keep in mind that the larger and more complicated the material flow from conception to purchase, the more probable it is that numerous channel partners will be involved. Each channel partner will provide unique expertise that improves the process’s efficiency. If an intermediary does not bring value, they will likely be phased out over time due to the enormous cost of managing and working with each middleman.

Supply Chain Management | 7

Original Diagram by The World Marketing Forum (2021)

Factors Affecting Channel Choice

Significant elements influencing the manufacturer’s channel of distribution selection include the following:

A.Product-Related Considerations

When a manufacturer chooses a distribution channel, they should consider the variables relating to the product’s quality and character. They include the following:

1.The Product’s Unit Price:

When a product is costly, it is advisable to employ a limited distribution channel. For instance, industrial machinery and gold ornaments are expensive products, so a limited distribution channel is operated for their distribution. On the other hand, a lengthy distribution channel is used for less expensive products.

2.The product that is either standard or customized:

Standardized products are pre-determined and cannot be altered. For instance, MILTON utensils. This lengthy distribution chain is utilized to sell.

On the other side, customized products are created at the consumer’s desire and allow for customization, such as furniture. Face-to-face engagement between the manufacturer and the user is critical for these items. Thus, Direct Sale is a viable choice for these.

3. Impermanence:

A manufacturer should choose a distribution route with few or no middlemen for an item or commodity that is particularly perishable. On the other hand, durable items can benefit from a lengthy distribution chain.

4. Technical Characteristics:

If a product is technically complex, it is preferable to sell it directly to the consumer. This will assist the user in understanding the product’s necessary technical specifications.

B.Market-Related Considerations

The following are market considerations:

1. Total Number of Purchasers:

If there are a significant number of buyers, it is preferable to use the services of middlemen to distribute the items. On the contrary, if the number of purchasers is small, the producer should handle distribution directly.

2. Buyers’ Profiles:

Buyers are classified into two categories: general purchasers and industrial purchasers. If a product has many buyers who fall into a broad category, there can be a more significant number of intermediaries. However, there may be fewer middlemen in the case of industrial buyers.

3. Purchase Habits:

A manufacturer should use middlemen if his financial situation prevents him from selling items on credit to consumers accustomed to acquiring goods on credit.

4. Purchase Quantity:

When purchasing items in lesser quantities, it is advantageous for the maker to rely on the services of middlemen.

5. Market Size:

If the product’s market region is distributed, the producer will need the assistance of middlemen.

C.     Manufacturer/Company-Related Considerations

The following considerations pertain to the manufacturer:

1. Generosity:

The manufacturer’s goodwill influences the channel of distribution decision. A manufacturer with a high reputation does not need to rely on middlemen because he may easily open his branches.

2. Desire to exert control over the distribution channel:

The desire of a manufacturer to control the route of distribution affects its selection. Therefore, such a manufacturer should engage consumers directly. For example, the electronic products industry has resorted to company-owned retail counters to maintain control over the service levels supplied to clients at the point of sale.

3. Financial Stability

A business with a strong financial foundation can develop its channels. On the other hand, financially troubled firms would be forced to rely on middlemen.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing is concerned with providing shoppers with a consistent, tailored experience across all channels and devices. Omnichannel marketing’s guiding premise is that it is shopper-centric, not channel-centric. The primary objective is to simplify the shopper experience, which requires consistent engagement regardless of where or how a shopper interacts with you.

Multichannel marketing encompasses various channels, including social media, mobile, direct mail, and physical locations. Each channel is distinct and autonomous from the others, operating in a vacuum with its strategy and objectives. The absence of integration in a multichannel strategy might result in a perplexing and impersonal experience that frequently leaves shoppers disappointed.

The WMF Editorial Board is composed by a team of experienced Marketers from all over the world. Only with the contribution of such a rich multicultural background of different writers based in different places we can deliver high quality content to the Marketing Community and Worldwide Business Owners.

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