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Supply Chain Takes Its Power Position in the Retail Industry!

Analyst Insight: Retail is in a dramatic transformative phase. Consumers' multichannel access and shopping and web commerce vs. in-store shopping have retailers experimenting with many new approaches and technologies. Multi-merged channel expectations put fulfillment front and center as a major concern - no more relegating supply chain to the backwaters of retail management! - Ann Grackin, CEO, ChainLink Research

Plenty of noise remains from the mobile holiday season, and although mobile and social are big priority areas for retail, more dollars are being spent on operational challenges: customer experience touch points (single view of the customer, POS, store and web design); IT infrastructure challenges from web to wireless in the store; and supply chain - which includes inbound merchandise allocation, replenishment, inventory management, and fulfillment to the customer.

Beyond "omni", multichannel madness is a merged channel nirvana, that heavenly state of perfection:  when the customer "calls" we recognize them no matter what channel they access through, and we can see inventory across the entire trading network to fulfill demand. [Note:  This problem is not exclusive to retail.  The sheer scale of dealing with the "one each" business can be the ultimate proof point of superior and precision management whose lessons are transferable to most industries.]

Areas of consideration for replenishment of the IT portfolio in 2013 retail include:

Various warehouse technologies to support inventory management and omnichannel fulfillment. The past model of web-only or catalog-only inventory infuriates potential buyers. Amazon has shown the way: pass-through shopping with inventory status from partners - merchants and manufacturers to locate the specific products - puts private label retailers to shame. Private label, who own the end-to-end - from manufacturers through to point of sale - still can't provide seamless inventory locating and fulfillment.  Yet Amazon can, without owning the back of the supply chain. Voila - collaboration and process mastery!

Source tagging and B2B transacting - RFID, bar-coding and EDI will continue to grow to provide seamless communications and visibility across the trading network.

Transportation and Trade - Logistics technology and process methods such as collaboration for carrier consolidation to reduce inbound coordination and bottlenecks.

Mobile and Wireless - Our research showed more mobile for supply chain than the shopper experience!  End-to-end visibility, coordination with third-party services, direct store delivery, and same-day service to customers will grow.  Wireless infrastructure in stores will grow not only to support mobile checkout and tablets for sales assistance but store operation such as inventory management and pricing.

Demand Management - Demand process and technologies continue to evolve. One method yet to master is how to make sense out of the great customer insights coming from social. There are solutions that provide these, but they are  "newbies." Few traditional demand forecasting players provide these - at their peril. Retailers and brand companies are reaching beyond the traditionalists to access these.

Social Enterprise - There are three flavors of social: one for customer facing marketing and customer support; one for B2B collaboration; and one for knowledge sharing in the enterprise. The latter two we call Enterprise Social Networking. Retailers will begin to understand the differences and not just use social for marketing.

                                      The Outlook

In 2013 chaos will still reign on the mobile and social side, but retailers will leverage more concierge cloud solutions to access customers.  Savvy supply chain players" retailers as well as business "developers" - can inspire radical change in this market. The most important factor to survival, and winning, is to make sense of things for customers in a rapidly changing world.


Keywords: retail supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain management IT, value chain, value chain IT, omnichannel retailing fulfillment, multichannel retail fulfillment



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