Retail is hard. Really hard. Razor thin margins. Demanding customers. Unpredictable trends. Unreliable carriers. Financially unstable suppliers. The list goes on. But there are steps a retailer can take to make sure their odds are better than their competitors. Specifically, they can take steps to strengthen their supply chain — and a recent article over on Supply Chain Digital on untangling the retail supply chain with real-time analytics outlines four steps a retailer can take to strengthen their supply chain.
1. Obtain an end-to-end transparent view of the supply chain across both traditional and online business units.
You can’t run brick-and-mortar and online stores as separate business units. They are one brand and your customer expects one experience. If it’s in the warehouse, it needs to be available to customers who frequent your store as well as to customers who visit your online storefront. Moreover, pricing needs to be comparable. If you charge significantly less online than in the store for the same product, then why should your customer come to your store? Especially if you’re offering free shipping to build your online presence?
2. Implement the capability to identify bottlenecks and problems in real-time and the agility to take corrective action before the customer experience is impacted.
Your end-to-end view needs to go beyond simply identifying inventory levels across the organization, but expected delivery dates, ship dates, and late shipments / deliveries that will increase stock-outs and impact your ability to serve your customers.
3. Integrate once diverse and siloed sources of data across the business units to offer coordinated and quality service levels for the omni-channel shopper.
You need to not only offer superior service, but service your online customers in your stores and your store customers online, because, online or offline, you’re one organization, one brand, and you need to offer one consistent quality of service to maintain that brand.
4. Leverage historical data to set baselines and then analyze data against those baselines on a regular basis to make more reliable and timely predictions and better manage the business.
Past purchase patterns are just that — past purchase patterns. As tastes and trends change, so do purchase patterns — and the sooner new patterns are detected, the sooner inventory levels can be modified to prevent stock-outs of popular items and expensive over-stocks of items in disfavour.
It’s not a complete list of actions retailers can take, but it is a good starting list.