Running a retail business in the present milieu essentially means obsessing over ways to improve customer experience, making it more seamless, pleasant, hassle-free, and multi-dimensional at every step on the way. An integral part of this endeavour is mitigating the challenges posed by supply and purchase phases of retail.

The end goal is being able to compete with online shopping by keeping those in-store visitors trickling in and. Eliminating stressful situations, cutting back on time-intensive processes and making the customer feel in control of the shopping experience are the key pursuits for retailer.

The answer to these lies in embracing tech-based solutions. Besides streamlining operations from the customers’ point of view, tech innovations also have a promising scope in bringing about cost-effectiveness through increased efficiency and reduced labour costs.

Here are five reasons why retail businesses should seriously consider supply chain inventions and the five tech solutions that can affect the desired change:

Retail today rests on a nimble logistics system

Retailers today need to collaborate with logistics providers and distributors that are committed to reducing delivery timelines and costs.

In the hope of securing a competitive edge through efficient logistics systems, many retailers today are engineering their processes of order fulfilment, stock maintenance and deliveries, by accelerating shipping timeframes.

Even the biggest names in the retail business, do not shy away from mergers, acquisitions, and collaborations to make this logistics system a reality.

Amazon.com, for example, took over robotics firm Kiva Systems to use robots for accelerating order workflow at its distribution centres. Google acquired Canadian locker operator BufferBox to help retailers reduce shipping time by storing their inventories in strategic locations across a cross-section of areas.

Customers expect fast deliveries

Most retail businesses today have a multi-channel presence. As customers turn to online extensions of their preferred stores, they expect fast and seamless deliveries. The answer to this is often found in automating the methods of delivery with drones, self-driving delivery vehicles, robots, and more.

A study carried out by McKinsey in 2016 predicted a retail system where 80 per cent of all deliveries would be carried out by robots. Four years later, that prediction doesn’t seem like a distant reality.

Amazon successfully completed its first drone delivery in 2016. Google’s Project Wing, set up with the same objective, has secured FAA clearance in the US for drone-based delivery of packages. Starship Technologies has developed a self-driving vehicle to service a 2-mile radius for deliveries. These developments can contribute to fostering a last-mile model, where a mix of drones, robots and automated vehicles will be used to complete deliveries within hours of purchase and minimal human interference.

Data overload affects Supply Chain efficiency

Supply chain today is expected to be efficient, effective, and transparent. However, data overload with rising amounts of deliveries often acts as a stumbling block for professionals within the retail industry to make real progress in this area. Artificial intelligence can be a viable solution to bring about end-to-end visibility and improve the outcomes.

With AI capabilities, there can be easy access to information without the need for elaborate IT systems. This will, in turn, facilitate greater transparency and better decision-making.

Retail businesses can use this technology to track their supply chain logistics in real-time, adding greater value to the system as opposed to the established manually processes.

Inventory integration is key to efficient Supply Chain Management

A substantial 70% of retail business today is already in the process of transforming the supply chain. A key element of this process is efficient tracking of in-store inventory – that can be streamlined to a great extent using solutions based on Internet of Things (IoT). IoT can be used to integrate inventory with other aspects of the supply chain, bringing about efficiency in operations.

Many stores today make use of smart shelves with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to achieve this integration. These chips automate the process of tracking the inventory and locating different items within the store as well as the process of placing orders to replenish stock.

In addition to this, internet-based trackers can also be used to track the movement of incoming inventory from a supplier in real-time, minimising risk of losses.

Supply Chain losses can hamper financial health of retail business

Maintaining the efficiency of the supply chain is not only essential for pushing through a well-rounded customer experience, but also plays a vital role in the financial health of the retail business.

A single lost shipment or broken link in the supply chain can accrue huge losses that businesses may struggle to recover from. This constant risk can be mitigated with the help of predictive analysis.

Using analytics for supply chain reinvention can bring several operational, strategic and tactical advantages – partnering with efficient logistics partners, forecasting cost and timelines of deliveries, predicting demands and stocking up inventories accordingly, risk assessment, to name a few.

This data-driven intelligence can go a long way in reducing costs and improving service efficiency of entire supply chains.

The Bottom Line

The changing landscape of the world around us presents many challenges to the retail sector. Curiously, the solutions for these often lie in the same technological developments that are held responsible for a decline in traditional retail setups.

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Dinesh Shevale

Posted by Dinesh Shevale

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