ANDREW DAWSON What’s important is enabling retailers, with their own methodology software-wise, to generate orders and use the call centres to create new sales and awareness
Automation solutions provider MACmobile MD Andrew Dawson stresses that technology that offers mobility, automation and the ability to engage customers while maintaining social distance will be crucial to driving market sales in the local industry.
“The key technology at this stage is mobility – the ability to engage with a customer or retailer using a mobile device. The price of data has come down, and even entry-level smartphones are capable of running applications that help manage automated logistics systems.”
He notes that Internet connectivity, the data capability of smartphones and Web-based applications will allow for a quicker and more efficient deployment of a company’s services and operations.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and particularly the lockdown regulations, have encouraged companies in all industries to use these systems and automation technology to meet logistics demands. This will also enable companies to deliver products to various regions with the assistance of automation across the value chain, adds Dawson.
However, he points out that companies often use multiple automation platforms to manage supply chains simultaneously. Ideally, one or a maximum of two automation platform providers should be used to manage the entire logistical process.
This consolidation of systems has become particularly important in the current economic climate, as companies have less spending power for multiple automation platform providers.
Moreover, Dawson notes a shift towards consumers’ preferring to buy staple foods in larger volumes, which affects a company’s logistics systems.
“Staples foods in larger volumes have heavier weights and usually are available at a lower margin. Therefore, when retailer specialist distributors negotiate logistics and distribution on behalf of the customer or manufacturer, it changes the ratios of costs to profits already established. This, in turn, places pressure on the logistics company, its earnings and its ability to deliver at a profit.”
He points out that having an ideal and detailed analytics data platform, which can use live data analysis to take the earnings results from the different distributions and use artificial intelligence to identify the problem, can greatly assist with these challenges.
A logistics partner can use this data, present it to the customer or manufacturer, and re-negotiate a deal that would be profitable to the company providing the product and the distributor, Dawson advises.
“There’s generally a transparency between logistics companies and companies looking to distribute their products. Most of the time, both companies come to a compromise, as a customer needs to distribute stock, but logistics companies need to distribute and still remain profitable.”
While Web- and mobile-based applications are one type of solution which MACmobile is providing to the local industry, Dawson underlines the impact that call centre integration can have on helping local companies drive market sales, an initiative that the company is driving.
“The ability to communicate with customers and still have some human interaction without being exposed to human contact is becoming a powerful and vital technology.”
Dawson maintains, however, that outbound call centres should be the focus for a company to drive market sales.
While inbound call centres are generally a support function and are important for customer relations, he argues that using digital applications, bots and ticketing systems are generally helpful in resolving technical or support issues.
Consequently, companies can focus their resources on outbound call centres to drive customer engagement and sales.
Meanwhile, MACmobile helps companies to consolidate different digital and enterprise resource management systems to help optimise the logistical process.
This year, the company has developed and is deploying a Web- and mobile-based e-commerce application for retailers and merchants, which will help customers to create a complete product ordering chain for all the stages in the supply chain.
“This will provide distributor representatives with a direct channel of communication to the customer, through which they can generate loyalty rewards and influence volume. That’s a significant drive for us currently,” he concludes.