How technology is revolutionising the retail supply chain


Concerns over the future of the high street continue to roll on. With high rent costs and customers making savings by buying online rather than in store, it really is a tough market out there even for the most seasoned of retailers. It’s little wonder then, that both bricks and mortar and ecommerce retailers are looking for ways to modify their businesses, to provide additional value and to secure additional income.

As we head into peak season, many are looking to diversify their product offering but are concerned about investing extra resources, cash, or simply having the space to store extra stock. There’s also the worry of what to do if the stock doesn’t sell, and the risk of gaining little return from heavily discounting the items simply to get them shifted. Thankfully, there are many ways of extending retail businesses without extensive amounts of cash being required – adding print-on-demand items and creating digital products are great options to indulge your creative side if you are that way inclined, but they can also be pretty slow burners in terms of seeing return on the time invested too. They are certainly not for everyone.

The concept of DropShipping has been around for some time; it is simply where, when a seller makes a sale, they immediately place an order for that item from a supplier. When the supplier receives the payment, they dispatch the order directly to the customer. Sellers make additional sales with no upfront cost, suppliers make more sales without having to manage an eCommerce or bricks-and-mortar location, and customers get what they’re looking for, at a better cost. Although this was a great idea in principle, DropShipping was traditionally plagued with technological and logistical issues and each supplier tended to have their own setups and arrangements, further adding to the complexity.

There are thousands of pages online talking about DropShipping and how you can make huge profits from it. It’s definitely a great way to add to your inventory, without needing to invest in stock – you only pay for the item when your customer makes payment. And because your supplier holds the items, you don’t need to worry about storage costs, and shipping on time.

However, there’s also thousands of pages of misinformation, and pages of options for online retailers to sell inexpensive items from China that take weeks to be delivered. If you’re looking to diversify and offer additional value to in-store customers, ordering from overseas suppliers isn’t likely to be the answer. Customers will simply head online to find a cheaper price, and a faster delivery date.

Clearly, using local suppliers that can deliver in the same timeframe as Amazon Prime will help. But what if your local supplier doesn’t have all the products you’d like to sell? But engaging with more than one supplier gets complicated, especially when it comes to connecting to different systems.

Thankfully, technology has progressed significantly and now there are many platforms emerging that completely automate the DropShipping process, offering you the opportunity to engage with multiple suppliers. This means no more struggling with CSV files, manual uploads or messing about with bespoke setups for different suppliers – the system does it all for you. A good platform will automate everything – from sourcing your products, connecting with suppliers and sending shipping updates. You don’t want your business to be limited by your technology, and neither should it be.

By creating a DropShipping setup, you can offer a limitless inventory to your in-store customers, simply by having access to your inventory and website on a tablet or PC. It’s easy to add and remove seasonal items, without risk. You can take payments in-store, and arrange for the item to be delivered directly to their home, or to your store. Your customer gets the most convenient solution for them, and you (and the wider high street) benefit from additional footfall, and more potential sales opportunities.

The best platforms provide integrations with multiple sales channels, so you can expand your eCommerce offering, through your website, or on whichever marketplaces your customers prefer. This provides you with additional income that you can use to increase your business, to diversify further or simply to take as profit.

There are a number of platforms that might suit your business and your objectives so it is worth doing your homework before committing to any one solution. As always, do your research carefully – many platforms will provide what you’re looking for, but there may be additional costs for extra integrations and functionality. Ultimately, those retailers who are able to adopt DropShipping into their existing operations will undoubtedly reap the benefits of diversifying their product lines for what is effectively zero outlay. As competition continues to heighten, can you afford not to embrace it?