Investments in omnichannel retail have been developing for years, with more companies looking to expand the technology they use to broaden their eCommerce activities. In fact, according to Shopify.com, 53% of brands are investing in tools to allow them to sell anywhere. This includes unifying online and in-store operations and adopting or developing global marketplaces to ensure a positive customer experience. As we head into oncoming economic headwinds, this focus will help streamline processes to offset costs and maintain an efficient supply chain.
The Big Picture
Research indicates that omnichannel operations will not be the differentiator for retail but that having unified commerce on the back end will. Unified commerce supports omnichannel sales by providing multiple ways to make a purchase and acquire goods, including data connectivity between those various avenues.
How often have you seen something “in stock” online only to find out that it’s not in stock at the store or that it’s only offered in certain styles or sizes? This is where having integrated and accurate data across systems is critical.
As suppliers are seeing demand and supply chain snags increase, retailers are taking a closer look at inventory visibility and focusing on accuracy. Knowing with certainty what inventory is available on-hand or where particular goods are within transport plays a major role in strengthening consumer confidence as they make buying decisions.
One of the most essential processes in retail is the order-to-cash cycle, encompassing order management, fulfillment, delivery, and payment by consumers or between businesses. Automation is key to getting ahead of supply chain friction and increasing speed to market. Using data from multiple channels, you can determine the ROI of different strategies and streamline processes for a shorter cycle.
As retail moves forward, everyone is being asked to do more with less — less staff, less budget, and less time, but with the expectation of more extensive and meaningful results. Let's take a look at some retail technologies that have been developed to help retailers meet expectations despite having fewer resources.
Popular Technology for Modern Retail Trading
1. Drop Shipping
Drop shipping is one of the many fulfillment models that retailers are deploying to help manage their distribution. In the drop shipping model, retailers market and sell products on their digital platforms, like social media marketplaces or their eCommerce storefront. However, the fulfillment of the orders falls to the manufacturer. The manufacturer gets exposure and increased sales opportunities, and the retailer doesn’t need to worry about inventory investments and management; it’s truly a symbiotic business relationship.
Especially in today's market, drop ship presents various challenges in ensuring that the customer promise is kept. Obviously, outsourcing fulfillment to a supplier can pose some difficulties around visibility, tracking, tracing, and the basic order flow between the supplier and the retailer.
Getting correct inventory positions, especially when doing a dropship campaign with several vendors, is also tricky. Here, automation helps to ensure you're getting those positions regularly. Consumers can see exactly which products, in whichever size/color/style, are available without worrying about an “oops” email post-purchase. This ensures that the end consumer is confident that they will have the product when they want it.
TrueCommerce DiCentral has invested heavily in our solution to accommodate both the retailer and supplier. We provide advanced visibility to the retailer and ensure they keep the customer promise, and the supplier now has all the tools they need to comply with the very stringent, tight timelines that retailers are enforcing for drop ship to the consumer.
2. Product Information Management
If you go to a major brand retailer or an online marketplace and look for a particular item, you might find many variations of that item. As a consumer, the next step is to decide which one you want.
Typically, the more information available, the better. Consumers want to see pictures, videos, specs, and descriptions; this is evidenced by the fact that 73% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video of a product. Acquiring product information consistently and in a standardized form from suppliers is pivotal in this process, but it becomes more challenging the more suppliers you have.
In many cases, product data from suppliers is transferred through spreadsheets containing various formats. It would then require several people to manually rekey this information and reformat it for retail use in channels like eCommerce. Not ideal, to say the least.
To simplify this process, TrueCommerce DiCentral offers a Product Information Management (PIM) solution that allows retailers to standardize incoming data from suppliers in a seamless, scalable way. Not only does this ensure a great buying experience for the consumer. It also helps drive supplier compliance by enforcing product information standards across the board.
Suppliers can also benefit from PIM software directly. Using a PIM platform, suppliers can add, change, or delete product details and collaborate with their partners in marketing on digital assets like images and videos. An approvals process ensures that all necessary inputs are complete and correct, after which suppliers can publish the data to channels and trading partners.
When retailers and suppliers both leverage product information management, the value created is incredible for the entire community.
3. API (Application Programming Interface)
In addition to globally leveraged connection methods like EDI and eCommerce portals, APIs are becoming increasingly popular among retailers. APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are uniquely developed software connections between systems built to execute a series of operations or functions. The uses for APIs can range widely, but for retailers, they can be developed to meet specific connectivity and trading requirements and may offer increased flexibility as a result.
Retailer API requirements can feel intimidating for suppliers, especially those already using supplier portals, eCommerce options, EDI, and other file transfer methods. One step towards success is to leverage API integrations, which provide the “bridge” between a supplier’s ERP system and the retailer’s API. But to truly succeed in managing all these connectivity methods, suppliers should consider investing in a unified commerce platform like TrueCommerce. Our suite of solutions enables you to connect seamlessly to your retail partners from a single integration gateway, regardless of the connectivity method you prefer.
These technologies and integrations allow retailers and suppliers to collaborate more effectively and provide ideal customer shopping experiences. This ideal drives the automation and innovation needed to not only serve the retail industry, but all industries as we move forward.