David Dorf, VP of Product Strategy, Infor Retail
In the fight to stay relevant, every retailer’s bag of tricks has to be on the cutting edge. Some of the industry’s popular retail “tricks” to win your business include free shipping, flexible fulfilment options or discounts for opting to delay shipping time. One thing is clear: If you want to compete with Amazon, you’ve got to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
The secret behind all of these surprises and wonders is a better understanding of the realities of your supply chain.
It is this that underpins the ability to get creative to fulfil demand anywhere, anytime, at the lowest cost possible. Traditionally, retailers have turned to order management solutions to streamline the supply chain and meet seemingly impossible consumer demand.
But even these technologies are facing the limits of their ability, so Networked Order Management is rewriting the rules to build the most efficient, flexible supply chains we’ve ever seen—and there are the new tricks of the trade:
The omni-channel disappearing act
Customers don’t care what channel they’re in when they make a purchase. They don’t care how the sausage is made, only that their sausage is available and on time when they want it … whether it’s online, in store, or some combination of the two. This is however, far easier said than done.
The best way to mitigate risk around ever-changing demand is to realistically set customer expectations for fulfilment.
Using complex rules engines, the supercomputing power of the cloud, and integrations with supply chain systems, Networked Order Management software provides a seamless, single view of inventory in the cloud—so retailers can see across the global supply chain and react to the unexpected in the most efficient way possible. That means customers can buy anywhere, and retailers can fulfil anywhere—so all shoppers see is a beautiful frontend experience, none the wiser to what’s going on behind the scenes to orchestrate it all.
Supply chain sleight of hand
The more personalized supply chains become, the more agile retailers have to become. And while next-gen demand management and assortment planning solutions provide the most accurate assortment forecasts out there, they can’t help you redistribute inventory after it’s on the shelves.
This becomes a critical issue when the unexpected arises. Unpredictable weather patterns, someone famous makes a hitherto unknown brand the new must-have, or even just the pace of customer preferences.
Issues with in-store assortment and unexpected delivery timelines will most certainly emerge and demand Management is not an exact science. It can get the inventory a business needs, but it takes distributed order management solutions to tell a business what to do with it once it arrives.
Modern Networked Order Management allows retailers to fulfil from over-allocated locations based on local events, outages, holidays, delivery reliability forecasts, and even customer loyalty level. This constant rebalancing gives retailers a lower level of inventory, which means fewer markdowns and clearances in the long run. Physical inventory is optimally sourced so delivery and labour costs decrease and a business can keep customers updated with item location alerts every step of the way.
In-store smoke and (AR) mirrors
Backed up by this controlled chaos behind the scenes, in-store bells and whistles like VR, AR, and selfie-worthy store designs will help drive sales in person and online because such stores can operate as showrooms and distribution centres.
But what if this paradigm extends to meet fulfill using inventory that’s not even owned? Extending the assortment by accessing the inventory of partners yields even more choices for customers. Vendors can provide products to sell that are drop-shipped directly to customers without the retailers even taking possession.
This concept could be extended to other supply chain participants, including other retailers. If an item is not available in any owned warehouse or store, might the item be somewhere else on the network? Even if it were found at another retailer’s store, it could be shipped to the customer under the auspices and receipt of the retailer that owns the customer relationship. In this case, all three participants stand to benefit from Networked Order Management.
The greatest retail show on earth, delivered.
If retailers hope to surpass their competition in the Golden Age of Retail, it’s essential they first focus on streamlining the backend of the business—and that includes understanding, optimizing, and taking advantage of every step along the supply chain. Combined with smart, connected Demand Management software, Networked Order Management is the secret to setting, meeting, and exceeding customer expectations.