Retail Supply Chain: A Customer Shift

By Todd McCourtie, Solution Strategy Director

While attending this year’s Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Conference in Phoenix, it was apparent that the future of retail analytics, predictive technology, and a consumer-driven supply chain is here.  Many of the conference’s presentations focused on the importance of predictive analytics, automation of tasks (fulfillment, merchandising, and store operations), and artificial Intelligence (AI) that shapes assortment,  financial planning, merchandising, and the supply chain.

Too often, we believe having an online offering is enough—it’s not.  You need to be in-stock on the merchandise the customer wants, provide the ease to obtain that offering, and create training for in-store personnel to think “customer first”.  Retailers need to think of Omni Channel as a fulfillment network, which is a dramatic change for stores, as they are traditionally not designed to do this. 

Customers are shifting from product need to lifestyle fulfillment.  In turn, we must shift our thinking from demographic focus in the assortment process to understanding the journey path the customer is taking to have their needs met. Do we provide the products, services, and convenience that drives the customer’s journey within our stores? Analytics need to become part of not just our assortment decisions, but also how we enable our supply chain to transform to meet demands and differentiate as a source of fulfillment during the journey.

Consumers shop to not only fulfill a need, but also to discover value and time saved.  Can you protect their time and still mange cost effectively?  Is your staff trained to focus “customer first” and enhance the opportunity to increase the basket, not just with the offering, but with service?  Is your store designed, planned, and merchandised to understand how your customers shop?

The questions posed above represent important business cases to consider as you move to a data science-driven retail landscape.  Retailers need to become agile when performing tasks focused on speed to market, adjusting to changes in customers’ needs, and being agile in replenishment based on  causal factors like weather,  sports or entertainment events within their market.  Your supply chain needs to be smart yet dynamic in allocating the correct inventory to meet consumer needs.  Optimization of labor and in-store resources is critical to move your store supply lines from back door to floor. 

How will you schedule for peak times, order fulfillment, and providing and higher value to your shoppers?  How can you automate routine work from planogram development to restocking in-store?  You need to move your workforce talent from menial, time-robbing tasks to high value tasks, including analyzing customer data, peak traffic, and website updates to capture new and exciting trends. 

Be ready to understand and plan your business to support AI, IoT and automation.  Collaborative thinking will need to be the norm; sharing and understanding what we do today, how we do it, and how we optimize it will decide whether we win the customer journey.   Vaco Supply Chain Solutions can assess, evaluate, and help you put your customers on the right path.  Let us show you how!