How Supply Chain Tech Became Fundamental for Retail Success

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A changing landscape

Consumer expectations have been changed by the pandemic and whether they are browsing online or shopping in-store, they want a service that’s easily accessible.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2020 online sales rose to a record high of 33.9 per cent as a share of all retail spending.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) recently partnered with Retail Week to better understand the potential benefits of continued digital transformation for the retail industry. CEBR found that ongoing investment in digital change could transform the UK economy and increase the UK’s GDP by up to £232bn by 2040.

Their findings suggest that the retail sector alone could see an uplift of £21bn – a 6 per cent boost to the sector, but only if retailers choose to seize this opportunity by investing in technology.

Whether they are shopping in store or online, consumers have grown to expect a seamless buying experience, and this highlights the importance of technology in every stage of the retail supply chain.

So, over the past 18 months, how has the use of technology changed for retailers and what impact has it had?

 

Electronic point of sale integration

The ability to integrate retail software with an electronic point of sale (EPOS) device is increasingly standard fare. Many models of retail software come with a pre-built list of which EPOS they are compatible with and this is often their own specific EPOS brand.

Integrating an EPOS system with pre-existing software can instantly improve supply chain processes, providing an overview of stock available for distribution across retail, ecommerce and mail. Designed to connect solutions that collect and exchange data from a central server to operate, manage and analyse transactions, EPOS systems can help ensure a streamlined end-user experience.

The interface used to process orders in-store or online is connected with your ERP system, meaning that stock levels are automatically adjusted, pricing can be accessed by staff and customer order history can be viewed within the same platform.

To ensure the customer is never disappointed, the allocation of stock can also happen in real time, with predictive analysis tools able to track demand and trends to ensure that products are available and distributed accordingly.

 

Stock intelligence

Pre-pandemic, most retailers had their supply chains optimised for their stores, with online often treated as a separate business or bolt-on. Not only could this lead to poor cross-channel coordination across inventory management and fulfillment processes, it also created confusion in the early days of the pandemic.

Consumers now want to be well informed and expect to know as much as possible about the products and services before they make a purchase. Often, they expect this information to be made instantly available or they may approach another retailer altogether.

Long before the pandemic, experts estimated that 80 per cent of UK consumers have gone to an online store to buy a particular item and found it unavailable. This figure was even higher in-store at 83 per cent, and 65 per cent of shoppers who experience online stock issues will go elsewhere to buy the product.

When you look at this in terms of monetary value, stock unavailability costs retailers approximately £420bn worldwide, with £108.4bn lost in profits in Europe alone.

Acutely aware of this issue, businesses are now seeking stock control solutions that can make projections based on the data their retail software supplies, as well as being able to adapt and adjust how their storage facility keeps goods in response to new purchases.

The ability to keep all of the different orders from an array of online marketplaces coordinated is also a challenge and one that is almost impossible to achieve without intelligent software.

 

Courier connections

Demand for courier services was already soaring prior to COVID-19, with the value of the market increasing by 44 per cent between 2014 and 2019 from £7.6 billion to £11 billion. This growth is set to continue, with the sector’s market value forecast to increase by 92 per cent between 2019 and 2024 to reach £21 billion.

Getting the shipping process as streamlined as possible is vital to ensure a positive end-user experience. With the right systems in place, you shouldn’t be thinking about the headache of paperwork that’s about to ensue with a flurry of online orders.

Instead, when a customer places an order, your retail software should process it seamlessly. Retailers are now looking for software systems that can integrate seamlessly with any kind of courier, from Amazon logistics, Palletways, FedEx, DPD, Royal Mail, and many more, to prevent the endless cycle of orders and rekeying of information.

While some confidence is returning when it comes to in-store shopping, looking ahead retailers will have to ensure they are set-up to effectively manage their bricks and clicks and investing in specialist technology is key to achieving this aim.

 

To find out more about how OrderWise could help optimise your supply chain, visit www.orderwise.co.uk