When anyone who’s not professionally involved with retail hears statements to the effect that their sector has changed in nature over the last ten years or so, their immediate assumption is that such assertions refer to the so-called “Amazon effect,” and the dominance of online retail over smaller, brick-and-mortar concerns.
However, any retail professional will tell you that although online retail has indeed shaken up the retail vertical, it’s only a small part of the overall picture.
The fact remains that shoppers prefer a mix of online and physical interactions with retailers. The majority of purchases over a nominal value, for example, are researched online before a physical journey to the store gets made.
Furthermore, it’s a common occurrence for shoppers to undertake a little “live research” while in-store, comparing online prices with those in front of their eyes, both from the same retailer’s online facility, and the same product from other retailers. (Some may remember the Amazon Fire smartphone, which came with a facility whereby objects anywhere could be identified live with the Amazon online store price, via the phone’s camera and the Amazon cloud’s backend compute power.)
In addition to the mix between on- and offline shopping, many consumers also opt for in-store delivery using click-and-collect, a facility that combines consumers’ convenience and a store’s chance to present attractive offers while the customer is physically present. Similarly, returns can often be started in-store, or a combination of local drop-off, in-store returns or courier collection from the customer’s home. In retail parlance, omnichannel retail is where it’s at, for many retail segments.
But non-retail professionals’ assumptions concerning online’s dominance are partly true. In most countries, the big retail presences in malls and High Streets have shrunk at least a little, and those outlets that have suffered least are the ones with a significant investment in online commerce. The retail history books are littered with the names of large retail companies that have gone bust because they ignored online shopping. It seems illogical, but it’s invariably true that investment in e-commerce maintains physical stores — and vice-versa.
The losses suffered by the large retailers have usually been at the hands of small, digital-first companies, often start-ups, whose commitment to new technology has spearheaded and made possible their disruptive nature. Capable of sudden change, ability to scale, and having an agility that comes from having few physical assets like (expensive) storefronts to maintain, the new breed of online-first retailers are also finding — in time — value in some form of physical presence.
Even at the level of the biggest global players, physical stores for Apple and Amazon are hugely popular with consumers and are an integral part of those companies’ offerings.
It’s clearly difficult to predict the future of retail, but there are a few givens and assumptions that can be safely made. The first is that omnichannel is here to stay (physical, brick-and-mortar stores plus e-commerce), and the second is that for even the most traditional sectors that have always been relied upon by customers to be represented physically in the mall or downtown, technology throughout the supply chain will remain central to success.
Retailers of any color need to get their supply chain technology ducks in a row by adopting new-generation platforms like those featured below. These come recommended by TechHQ as vendors whose offerings create the type of digital environment that will actively promote agility, scalability, and autonomy, for inventory, HR, space management and trend prediction.
Already the technology giants are pouring many billions of R&D dollars into projects specifically for retailers’ supply chains, including (and certainly not limited to) artificial intelligence, 3D printing on-demand, sensors like beacons and near-field Bluetooth, IIoT in the supply chain and in-store, and high-definition computer vision and displays — for workforce safety and for warehouse optimization.
Once these new technologies begin to prove their use-cases and provide significant advantages to early adopters, it’s essential that the technological groundwork has been well bedded-in for these breakthrough products to be deployed. That’s where the following three suppliers can help. Each one will help any size of retail supply chain outfit adopt the new tech, scale and gain the ability to pivot quickly, as and where its customers demand it. Because the one thing that even the most traditional store-based success story has, without doubt, is the technology throughout its supply chain and across its customer-facing points to achieve great things in the coming few years.
It’s no secret that while supply chains may produce and move physical inventory, it’s actually the digital data that holds the key to success. With RELEX, organizations can break down previously silo-ed data to help plan and forecast, manage stock levels, organize the workforce, and optimize retail processes.
As long-term major players in the retail tech space, RELEX offers the kind of highly specialized, focused technology that’s capable of moving and pivoting at retail speeds. Its Living Retail Platform uses accurate demand data to unify retail processes from space planning to workforce optimization within a single system. The platform enables the kind of agility and scalability essential to succeed in today’s environment by autonomizing these processes, freeing human operators from repetitive tasks so they can focus on more value-adding work.
With the amount of data retailers generate and process on a daily basis, it can be difficult to find a solution capable of processing large data sets while being flexible enough to adapt to change. This became abundantly clear as retailers struggled to manage extreme supply chain strain during the coronavirus pandemic. The RELEX technology’s processing power comes from an in-memory database, though, so the system is capable of supporting business decisions quickly and efficiently, even when working with retail-scale data sets.
The platform leverages what RELEX calls “pragmatic AI”: self-optimizing machine learning algorithms and technologies designed to quickly improve outcomes specifically within a retail context. The system helps decision-makers see the full picture and gives them the ability to plan intelligently and quickly.
There are plenty of supply chain optimization systems out there, but RELEX is a pure-play retail supply chain platform that’s designed and attuned from the ground up by retail specialists. To learn more about how the Living Retail Platform can create the type of supply chain that the future will demand, check out this article on Living Retail.
Rebranded from JDA, Blueyonder’s Luminate platform offers a range of solutions across manufacturing and distribution, retail, and even service industries.
In manufacturing and distribution, the solution stretches from the store floor, offering layout planning and planogram generation. Warehouse management, fed by logistics data, is united by enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions and what the company terms intelligent fulfilment, which uses AI to track demand forecasting, fulfillment and warehouse labor management requirements.
Blueyonder helps companies create a predictive and preventative supply chain, a facility which comes from organizations’ supply chains becoming digitized from end to end.
One to watch, then, as the next stage of Industry 4.0 bases itself even more heavily in technology, with the emergence of deep learning technologies to better predict trends and manage data. In multiple verticals Blueyonder is helping partnerships develop between supply chain players, retailers, established stores and disruptive e-commerce start-ups.
Headquartered in Arizona, USA, the company has global co-ordinating offices in Mexico and India, and offices in over 40 locations across the globe. With a global customer base numbering over 4000, Blueyonder is a market-leading concern.
Rapid change is defining many verticals in retail and supply chain operations. With new competitors, business models, markets and technologies, older, disconnected systems can’t support the rapid transformation necessary. Being able to anticipate and adapt to consumer preferences, new materials and products, and supply chain changes is critical to reduce operational costs, streamline processes and increase margins. Successful companies are using the Bamboo Rose platform to modernize all operations — from design and discovery, to development, through delivery.
Comprising one of many parts to the overall Bamboo Rose infrastructure, Bamboo Rose Digital Sourcing, for example, unifies the global sourcing process for retailers and manufacturers. Companies can plan and source across channels, initiate requests for quote, analyze costs, compare bids, selectively share information with suppliers, and even complete negotiations – all in one platform.
Retail operates on a global scale, and business never stops. So in today’s consumer-driven, connected world, retailers need to collaborate with partners anytime, anywhere, effectively never missing a trick. Via Bamboo Rose, operators can work directly with over 35,000 suppliers to discover, develop, and deliver innovative products quickly.
Bamboo Rose connects the B2B and B2C retail communities from discovery, development, to delivery, allowing hardlines, general merchandise, and home improvement (amongst others) specialists to bring products to market faster, at lower cost, and with higher margins.
*Some of the companies featured on this editorial are commercial partners of TechHQ