We’re joined by Linn Academy 2021 speaker Omari Whyte, Director of Operations at Nisolo to discuss supply chain challenges and being transparent with customers about delays. We also talked about the importance for brands to have the right systems in place to manage inventory.
Nisolo is an environmentally conscious shoe brand. The company’s vision is to put the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction — where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price — a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.
Here’s our conversation with Omari.
Linnworks: What are your predictions for commerce in 2022?
Omari: Right now, the biggest impacts are supply chain constraints and limited products. I think that will continue into 2022.
I know a lot of people are predicting that these issues will turn around by spring, but I just see it continuing on, partially because of the issues of hiring and staffing across the supply chain. I don’t think there’s much that’s going to improve it.
I think businesses were hoping with joblessness benefits going away that people would be running back to the labor market, but that’s just not the case in the US.
So much of our supply chains across the board are in parts of the world where vaccines are not available. I see supply being a huge impact to everyone.
Linnworks: What are your biggest ecommerce challenges right now that are impeding growth?
Omari: It really is supply.
From raw materials and then the capacity at our factories — we’ve spent a lot of time in strengthening up our demand.
We’ve been growing our partnerships. Right now, we’re looking at our forecasting for 2022. We have a huge gap between what our demand is vs. what we’re going to be able to supply.
That means we’re looking into dual sourcing — we’re looking into pushing out orders as much as possible.
Our growth is heavily dependent on what we can supply.
Linnworks: How do you see physical retail and online working together in the future?
Omari: Physical retail and online ecommerce are all centered around the customer.
So being able to offer the customer more options is going to be key to the omnichannel world — customers want to be able to place orders online and pick it up in-store, or they want to be able to go to the store, and if for some reason the store doesn’t have a product, the customer wants it delivered and shipped to their house.
It really is about answering the question, How do we offer as many options to the customer that are as seamless as possible? Where in the past this required multiple transactions.
A lot of companies and brands offer one transaction that will allow you to ship a product to a customer’s home or office, or the Walgreens up the street — or customers have the option to pick up the product in store.
I think the challenge that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic was that for most brands, their inventory management systems were not prepared.
How many times did people go to the websites of Walmart or Home Depot or Lowe's and say, ‘They have this product at my store.' But then the customer arrives and it’s not there. So I think customers have no patience for that now. Businesses now require systems that are able to handle all of that information in one platform.
Linnworks: What do you think are the opportunities for growth and expansion in ecommerce?
Omari: I think international expansion is one of the biggest plays right now.
We’re starting to see other markets come online pretty quickly. The UK and Canada and Australia has always been the low bar for everyone, but other parts of Eastern Europe are coming online and being familiar with ecommerce in addition to Asia.
So, for US brands figuring out how they either partner through 3PLs overseas or Amazon is a good platform to sell internationally, or even connecting with Alibaba. For brands in the US looking to expand, international is a huge piece of it.
Linnworks: How have you seen consumer behavior change over the past 18 months? Have you had to adapt your customer experience strategy to accommodate new consumer expectations?
Omari: I think the recent changes that we’re seeing — people were very patient with brands at the beginning of the pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, there was the cleaning and wiping down of the warehouses and therefore customers experienced delays. People don’t want to hear about delays anymore.
Right now, the piece about supply chain delays causing backorders, people were understanding but it is two fold . We at Nisolo focus on proactive messaging.
We will make sure it’s on the website and it’s in the order confirmation. There are several places where we try to communicate proactively if there's any delays or changes. Then the other piece of the communication is transparency.
I’ve gotten responses from brands that are robotic and generic that say something like, ‘Hey, due to a system glitch we weren’t able to fulfill your order on time.’ Not that we give details like, ‘Our Container 615 didn’t arrive through Miami on time,’ but it’s important to give the consumer some additional information as opposed to a generic response.
Be proactive and transparent when communicating with customers. We’ve seen that it’s really helped garner understanding with our customers and build brand loyalty.