Salesforce, IBM Services link up to modernize retail supply chains

15 April 2021

Salesforce, IBM Services and a few others are planning integrated services to make retail supply chains disruption-proof. (Photo by Stephen Lam / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The retail industry is undergoing a vast digital transformation at the moment, and it couldn’t come at a more challenging time as supply chains have been stretched by the same market forces compelling faster retail digitalization in the first place.

To keep up with the changes brought about by the spike in online shopping these days, as well as the challenges affecting traditional brick-and-mortar retail, supply chain issues can impact all aspects of the ecosystem like the logistics fulfillment, returns policies, and omnichannel business.

With outdated supply chains straining to cope, a handful of technology solution providers including IBM Services, Salesforce, Publicis Sapient, project44, and Flooid are joining hands to develop joint retail supply chain solutions that will be made available on IBM’s recently launched IBM Sterling Supply Chain platform.

IBM revealed the development of the solutions on its open technology platform back in January during the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Big Show in New York. At the time, the companies said that the solutions are designed to address the growing importance of providing consumers with a “quick, frictionless shopping experience.”

Research from Google, Temasek Holdings, and Bain & Co. reveals that e-commerce is set to grow from US$62 billion in 2020 to US$172 billion by 2025 in the Southeast Asian region, but the growth of the sector will not only see competition ramping up, but retailers struggle to turn profits in a crowded marketplace. In addition, aggressive investment in shipping infrastructure by the industry heavyweights like Amazon and Walmart will see delivery timelines for online orders shrink rapidly in the intervening years – making it that much harder for smaller retailers and shippers to fulfill orders in time and at a profit.

Thankfully, businesses that were forced to reevaluate their online selling strategies during this period were also looking at disruptive new technologies that were shaking up supply chains and fulfillment strategies to be more economical, but still with a high degree of efficiency.

An integrated supply chain suite that is embedded with Watson AI and IBM blockchain, the IBM Sterling platform is open to developers who want to enhance efficiency of their supply and demand mechanisms, and improve decision-making for the organization as a whole as well.

The technology partners in this retail supply chains include enterprise solution heavyweights like Salesforce and IBM Services, and will be integrating both existing services as well as custom-built offerings on the Sterling platform – the main intention being to help bring retail supply chains to the most up-to-date version, taking advantage of newer technologies that can move up the digital transformation timetable and make full use of omnichannel business opportunities.

Integrated services include Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud; order management and returns services from Publicis Sapient; transportation and supply chain visibility services from project44; and omnichannel capabilities from Flooid, according to the companies.

“The retail industry is poised for a renaissance as companies move away from siloed and legacy applications towards scalable, enterprise-tuned platforms that can holistically address customer-facing and supply chain operations challenges,” said Jeanette Barlow, the vice president of product management and strategy at IBM Sterling, in a statement announcing the partnership.

“This shift is likely compounding the industry’s need to quickly innovate across traditional functional domains and deliver new capabilities that span operations and even third-party supply chain partners,” she continued. “To create the seamless and personalized experience customers expect and provide a true first-mover advantage, companies should modernize supply chains on top of open platforms that can harness technologies such as AI, blockchain, IoT, and hybrid cloud. Our relationships in this space can help our clients to make this shift more quickly.”