Oliver GuyOliver GuyMay 24, 2019
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7min810

Imagining a world whereby stock isn’t tracked and managed is barely worth thinking about.

We’d miss out on sales, end up with too much stock to store in a back office – or even worse, suffer from increased costs as a result of missing a shipment or rescheduling one. To avoid stockout and maximise return on investment, retailers rely on a robust inventory management process. However, the problem is that retailers are drowning in a sea of inventory.

The more the sea rises, the harder it is to stay afloat. On the other hand though, should the water levels decrease, the boat encroaches on further danger. It’s important for retailers to find the middle ground – and sail by calmly.

To avoid the stormy seas, retailers need to prepare to face difficult journeys along the supply chain.

Avoiding the stormy seas

The retail supply chain used to be simple. From supplier to distribution centre, distribution centre to the store, and store to the customer – it has barely changed in 150 years. Yet, today retailers face a stormy journey. As consumer expectations continue to change, and rapidly. The need to fulfil these increasing demands across multiple new channels driving up inventory.

In fact, according to Gartner, 54 percent of retailers say that fulfilling online orders from store increases store inventory by 10 percent. Essentially, even the best run retailers could be having issues with increasing inventory as they expand across channels.

However, what’s more, it’s quite likely that the inventory is covering up issues, not just with the production system, but with issues with the overall omni-channel fulfilment system. These issues can include poor sales forecasts, problematic inventory placement decisions, supplier delivery delays, missing process orchestration, data silos and inefficient manual processes.

Finding the middle ground

To avoid these bumps in the supply chain and to improve the process, retailers need to implement the right technology to facilitate necessary data flows. This applies to both inside and outside of the organisation.

The best place to start is in finding out what the source of these issues is. In doing this, the inventory can then be controlled.

When it comes to inventory and visibility, a great starting point is real-time inventory visibility. This offers instant insight into stock. Think about it. It’s 11am and you’re expecting a bulk delivery, but you have no idea where it is. A real-time inventory visibility solution can help every retailer to overcome this with real-time insights that can make it possible to meet the demands of customers and planners through any channel. By understanding real-time inventory status across all your locations, you can determine the most beneficial way to use the inventory at any specific time to maximise sales and profits. This, whilst also ensuring customer satisfaction.

Increased visibility over the supply chain is crucial in maintaining an updated view of inventory, regardless of the number of systems any retailer has.

A calm sail

We live in a more digital world than ever before. This means consumers are far less patient when going into a store when it comes to finding a certain product they are looking for. If a retail assistant were to walk over to a shelf to see if the product is still in stock, the customer might not wait. The ability to check the online systems is therefore key to giving accurate and up to date information to a customer regarding the location of an item – or alternatively, when the next shipment is due.

This doesn’t just apply to retailers. But, to the customer too. Today’s customers are no longer just going to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. They are shopping online via mobile devices, iPads and tablets. This means they expect to be able to check whether or not a certain product is in store – or if in fact, it’s stocked in a store nearby.

Whilst implementing real-time visibility into the inventory process may take time; it’s easy to understand. This is why it is important that retailers take their time to find the best solution for them.  The retail industry is as its most competitive yet. To stand out in an already crowded space, customer experience must be at the centre of everything we do. This means ensuring every customer is satisfied, with the products they want – as available as they can possibly be. Managing stock efficiently and effectively is crucial to facilitating a top-quality Customer Experience – and in ensuring return purchasing.

 


Oliver GuyOliver GuyJanuary 7, 2019
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5min1083

Retail disruption is now a market ‘given’ and many think that the future is starting to look brighter. 

Why? Because winning retailers are grasping the technology to innovate; enabling them to develop new business models, drive operational efficiencies, and improve Customer Experience. What happens in retail is driven by consumer choice, how retailers respond to that will determine their future.

Here are some ways retailers will respond in 2019:

1. Retail Therapy: “How does that make you feel?”

More retailers will exploit emotional differentiation, targeting potential customers’ feelings. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers”.

This is why John Lewis spends so much on Christmas advertisements, to create an emotional connection with its brand. Part of this drive will come from personalisation, plus retailers have hyper–personalisation (context, real-time) in their sights – for both product and experience.  Artificial intelligence can help with this, but AI relies on quality data so a large constraint will be data availability and collation.

2. Note to tortoise: This time the rabbit wins

Retail keeps getting faster – customers demand things faster and the bar keeps getting higher. Like Gartner said: “For modern retail, lack of speed in decision making is deadly.”

This relates to internal operations – being able to respond in good time. As well as investing in process automation from RPA as a step toward full business process automation, retailers will consider real-time analytics to respond to what is happening with customers, in their own supply chains and in their stores. They will learn how to operationalise AI and machine learning technologies in order to deliver real value.

3. Is IoT a highway to the danger zone?

The Internet of Things may be the road to a successful future for retailers, but many consider it fraught with risks. Concerns about security, complexity, and connecting to the existing IT ecosystem will restrict uptake for a time. Smart retailers will look across what is being done in other industries and seek to acquire a platform with carrier grade security, from a vendor with a proven track record.

4. No man is an island, entire of itself

Ecosystems will become more complex. Retail expert Jon Bird said: “Traditional barriers and frameworks will fall by the wayside. Everyone can be a retailer and every surface a store.”

The most popular way to break down those barriers today is with mergers and partnerships. Examples include Amazon’s relationship with the UK’s Morrisons, using stores as local distribution centres. Kroger and Sobeys outsourced online grocery sales to Ocado, while Kroger also bought meal-kit vendor Home Chef.  These kinds of deals will grow and will only become more complex.

5. Consciously decoupling: Off with their heads

Winners will realise that to innovate they need to decouple back-office systems from the customer touch points; this is known as headless commerce. This gives them flexibility to continuously tweak and improve the customer journey at the front end, without having to constantly re-platform.

As was illustrated in Software AG’s 2018 Retail Digital Adoption Survey, digital leaders are using “third-party integration platforms to insulate digital platforms from change, to increase extensibility, and to gain deployment speed”.

One thing is clear: In 2019, the distance between retail leaders and the rest of the pack will continue to increase. Response to consumer demand will determine success levels. Leaders will continue to actively apply digital technologies to business problems. Predictions of customer choice will drive growth in areas. Without fully committing to digital transformation, the rest will probably fall by the wayside.




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