Supply chain management is a science, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t evolve, grow and adapt to the socio-economic trends around it. Quite the contrary, every experienced business leader will tell you that supply chain management in the retail sector is very much subject to change in relation to the current demands of the consumer market and the buying trends that prevail.
Allowing your supply chain to evolve with the help of management and technological innovations is the best way to ensure long-term growth for your business, and make your entire company that much more productive in the process. To achieve all of this, though, you will need to learn how to leverage current customer trends, understand how they impact your supply chain and your brand, and then craft a strategy that will set you apart from the competition. Here’s what you should do.
Gathering information to create accurate forecasts
There is a new term making the rounds in the modern retail world – “demand sensing.” Essentially, there is a need for businesses to become more proactive in their efforts to modernize the supply chain structure instead of remaining reactive to consumer trends and only acting on external stimuli as they appear. Demand sensing aims to achieve this through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analysis to generate more accurate forecasts using a number of key variables – the economy, the seasons and the weather, the social buzz in the online and offline world, and many more.
Forward-looking companies that invest in demand sensing will have an easier time analyzing large quantities of data and transforming them into actions they can take immediately to optimize their inventory requirements, the retail experience for the shopper, and evolve along with the consumer market. This will effectively improve the bottom line while elevating store performance across the board.
Creating an omnichannel sales structure
Omnichannel sales is not a new concept anymore, or at least it shouldn’t be given the fact that the numerous platforms in the digital realm have made it possible for the modern shopper to place her order wherever she might be on the web. Whether shoppers are browsing product on your website, scrolling through their social media feeds, or browsing through your retail store, customers want to be able to make purchases wherever they are. This is one of the ways retail is embracing the digital revolution to stay competitive.
On the other side of the sales coin is your sales team. With an omnichannel sales strategy, you are effectively putting the shopper in the center of your supply chain, and accessing the numerous facets and alleyways you can exploit to reach them, engage with them, and nurture them until they become buyers and brand followers. This is an opportunity to not only improve sales across the board, but scale your inventory and supply channels in a cost-effective way.
Scaling inventory with AI and cloud-based solutions
With the rise in demand for products and the blossoming of global commerce, companies are starting to struggle with the traditional, manual ways of warehouse and supply chain management. There is an imperative nowadays to migrate these tasks into the online realm, as managers need to understand the importance of warehouse management system solutions far exceeds the simple need to automate certain processes, and instead serves the purpose of smart inventory management for better cost-efficiency across the board. In other words, you need cloud-based management solutions to optimize a customer-centric operation in the retail realm.
Cloud-based supply chain management allows companies to automate invoicing and accounting, take customer service to the next level, improve transparency, automate data entry, reduce pick and order errors, and more. These and other features give management the tools it needs to deliver an overall better experience to the shopper and enable omnichannel fulfillment in the process.
Enabling omnichannel order fulfillment
Omnichannel sales should be accompanied by omnichannel order fulfillment for the supply chain to run smoothly, minimize errors and delays, and avoid bottlenecks in picking, handling, transporting, and delivery. After all, if a customer can buy products from numerous locations on the web and offline, then the order should be fulfilled in real time as well and shipped as soon as possible. This requires a centralized inventory system that is able to process inventory in real time to avoid the aforementioned delays and errors. In turn, this will raise customer experience and elevate the reputation of the retail brand.
Creating a customer-centric demand network
Lastly, it’s important that companies make the shift from a linear supply chain to a more customer-centric demand network that is more responsive, efficient, and most importantly, demand-driven but with minimal delay. To achieve this, you need to leverage customer, company, and market data to optimize manufacturing, improve inventory management, and expedite shipping and delivery as much as possible. Through the use of AI technologies to collate data, your supply chain can integrate an efficient demand network while boosting sales and marketing as well.
Modern supply chain management needs to put the customer at the center of its strategy in order to ensure long-term business growth and success. By integrating these tips into your supply chain strategy, you will have created a customer-centric operation that will take your retailing business to the next level.
About the writer: Emma Miller is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.
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