Executive Briefings

How to Use Data to Compete in the Digital Marketplace

Analyst Insight: Defining success for retailers today is pretty straightforward: Respond more rapidly and efficiently to customers' demands, at a price they are willing to pay, regardless of order platform or physical location of the products at the time of purchase. - Karl Manrodt, logistics and supply chain management professor, Georgia College and State University, and Mary Holcomb, supply chain management professor, University of Tennessee

Defining success may be easy; the hard part is determining how to do it. Execution isn’t just key - it's everything. Recent financial performance suggests that the digital world may be more about survival than succeeding. How we respond matters.

A digital economy runs on data.

For supply-chain management professionals, the discussion around the digital transformation has revolved around omnichannel and the impact of e-commerce on traditional distribution networks. Retailers are working to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop, a tablet, a telephone, or visiting a store. The complexity that multiple platforms create can only be effectively and efficiently managed if the data is timely, accurate and robust. In other words, it needs to be ready, real and granular. Timeliness involves the creation and availability of data that supports a dynamic, 24/7 supply-chain environment. Where the product is can be as important as information about the product. If data can’t be trusted for decision-making purposes, it has no value. Further, the granularity of the data matters. Can a customer shop for a product on their phone, order it, and pick it up at the closest retail outlet in a few hours? Digital economies and the supply chains that support them depend on these data characteristics. Timely, accurate, and robust data about product availability, and not product price, will be the competitive differentiator.

But with all of the changes in customer demands, technology and competition, how can firms prepare themselves for an era where excellence in execution becomes the new strategy?

Simply put: Start at the bottom.

Determine which elements need to be more flexible and responsive to compete in the digital marketplace. And, just as importantly, what can be put in place now that won’t be obsolete tomorrow. For some, the value-added service of application program interface (API) providers linking carriers, shippers, customers and suppliers falls into this category. They are a fundamental way of communicating between multiple parties, and are essential to timely information flows within a flexible supply chain needed to support an omnichannel approach in today’s digital environment.

APIs matter because we are starting to see the emergence of a new supply-chain strategy. While traditionally we have focused on cost, service and differentiation, a new strategy is excellence in execution. It is the ability to deliver to the customer what they want, when they want it, at a competitive price. It could be anything ranging from a chocolate bar to an office chair. The customer will have a relationship with a provider who can supply their needs better than a competitor.

Too futuristic? Look to Amazon. Buy a waffle iron, waffle mix, syrup and have it delivered to your home using Amazon Prime Now. What they sell is not nearly as important as how they use data and their logistics infrastructure to continuously transform how they meet and exceed customers’ changing expectations.

The Outlook

The digital economy is changing the way firms, and most notably, retailers compete. Traditional approaches will not enable retailers to achieve the new success metrics which are fulfilling customers’ demands for whatever, whenever and however. The emerging strategy — excellence in execution — fills this void. It is predicated on a foundation of timely, accurate and robust data that leads to success in the eyes of the customer and the firm.

Defining success may be easy; the hard part is determining how to do it. Execution isn’t just key - it's everything. Recent financial performance suggests that the digital world may be more about survival than succeeding. How we respond matters.

A digital economy runs on data.

For supply-chain management professionals, the discussion around the digital transformation has revolved around omnichannel and the impact of e-commerce on traditional distribution networks. Retailers are working to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop, a tablet, a telephone, or visiting a store. The complexity that multiple platforms create can only be effectively and efficiently managed if the data is timely, accurate and robust. In other words, it needs to be ready, real and granular. Timeliness involves the creation and availability of data that supports a dynamic, 24/7 supply-chain environment. Where the product is can be as important as information about the product. If data can’t be trusted for decision-making purposes, it has no value. Further, the granularity of the data matters. Can a customer shop for a product on their phone, order it, and pick it up at the closest retail outlet in a few hours? Digital economies and the supply chains that support them depend on these data characteristics. Timely, accurate, and robust data about product availability, and not product price, will be the competitive differentiator.

But with all of the changes in customer demands, technology and competition, how can firms prepare themselves for an era where excellence in execution becomes the new strategy?

Simply put: Start at the bottom.

Determine which elements need to be more flexible and responsive to compete in the digital marketplace. And, just as importantly, what can be put in place now that won’t be obsolete tomorrow. For some, the value-added service of application program interface (API) providers linking carriers, shippers, customers and suppliers falls into this category. They are a fundamental way of communicating between multiple parties, and are essential to timely information flows within a flexible supply chain needed to support an omnichannel approach in today’s digital environment.

APIs matter because we are starting to see the emergence of a new supply-chain strategy. While traditionally we have focused on cost, service and differentiation, a new strategy is excellence in execution. It is the ability to deliver to the customer what they want, when they want it, at a competitive price. It could be anything ranging from a chocolate bar to an office chair. The customer will have a relationship with a provider who can supply their needs better than a competitor.

Too futuristic? Look to Amazon. Buy a waffle iron, waffle mix, syrup and have it delivered to your home using Amazon Prime Now. What they sell is not nearly as important as how they use data and their logistics infrastructure to continuously transform how they meet and exceed customers’ changing expectations.

The Outlook

The digital economy is changing the way firms, and most notably, retailers compete. Traditional approaches will not enable retailers to achieve the new success metrics which are fulfilling customers’ demands for whatever, whenever and however. The emerging strategy — excellence in execution — fills this void. It is predicated on a foundation of timely, accurate and robust data that leads to success in the eyes of the customer and the firm.