93% of Retailers are Transforming Their Supply Chain to Enable Real-Time Retailing

A recent survey indicates retailers recognize the importance of offering customers a seamless shopping experience.

According to a survey released by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), the top company initiative among retail supply chain executives is “to enable a seamless customer experience online and in the store.”

BRP’s 2014 Supply Chain Benchmark Survey defines this “unified commerce” initiative as the evolution of both multi-channel and omni-channel retailing to provide a seamless shopping experience whether in the store, on the Web or anywhere customers choose to shop on their mobile devices.

The 2014 survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current capabilities, planned initiatives, priorities and future trends as identified by each respondent’s top supply chain professionals.

Today’s customer expects a consistent brand experience and accurate inventory availability and visibility in real-time. Real-time retail bridges the digital and physical worlds to empower and encourage customers to fully experience brands whenever and wherever they choose.

To meet this generation of customers’ needs, progressive retailers are shifting their business organization and supply chain away from distinct shopping channels into a seamless, unified, customer-facing experience.

Satisfaction with Supply Chain Objectives
In general, respondents were more satisfied than dissatisfied with their progress in reaching their supply chain objectives. The objective that respondents were most satisfied with (74%) was fulfillment, service and cost (below).

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Warehouse management and supply chain execution systems are mature technologies that have demonstrated value and are recognized as a key component of supply chain efficiency. Similar gains can be expected with order management systems (OMS) and the next wave of supply chain technology.

While supply chain executives were satisfied with their ability to manage and handle supply chain exceptions, nearly half were clearly disappointed by their ability to proactively leverage knowledge of exceptions to communicate status to selling channels and customers. Since the customer is key, retailers haven’t unlocked the true value of their investment in systems to satisfy the customer in real-time.

“We noted an impressive change in priorities over the past year as retailers shift their focus towards enabling the seamless experience today’s customers want,” said Walter Deacon, a Principal of Boston Retail Partners. “However, transforming the supply chain to meet the needs of a buy anywhere/anytime customer requires significant resources and investments. Retailers able to deliver real-time retail as part of a compelling value proposition will certainly reap the rewards.”

Key Survey Results
Key findings that demonstrate the achievements and/or priorities of retailers in delivering a unified commerce supply chain include:

  • Focused On Unified Commerce – 93% are adopting a unified commerce model with 54% in the planning stages and 39% currently implementing solutions.
  • Cross-channel Inventory Fulfillment – 75% of retailers can fulfill inventory across multiple channels.
  • Corporate Initiative – 63% identified “enable seamless customer experience online and in the store” as a top initiative.

While unified commerce is a top priority, there is still a significant amount of work to be done to achieve it, as identified by these findings:

  • Organizations Have Silos – 22% of companies indicated that they have merged their channels into a single organization.
  • Managing Supply Chain With Spreadsheets – 46% of respondents use static spreadsheets to manage their supply chain planning.
  • Limited Cross-channel Inventory Visibility – 40% provide in-store “available to promise” (ATP) visibility to customers yet only 20% have   this same visibility for their internal staff.

“Just as technology has provided continuous connectivity and responsiveness to the consumer, it also provides the tools to create a robust, responsive and information-rich supply chain,” said Ken Morris, a Principal of Boston Retail Partners. “With advanced networks and sophisticated software and analytics, the technology is readily available to enable unified commerce.

Now is the time to align the people and processes with the technology to make real-time retail a reality!”

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