Consumers have low tolerance for friction in the buying process today. They’re used to one-click purchasing, and they expect items to be shipped to them right away or to be available for in-store pickup immediately. This instant gratification is great for consumers, but it creates huge backend challenges for retailers, especially those who rely on global supply chains to ensure that supply matches demand.
Supply chains can be incredibly complex, especially when they stretch and interlock worldwide, and unless the various participants find a way to share data efficiently and effectively, lack of information can lead directly to lost sales. One major problem is that distributors and manufacturers often use their own enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that are not connected to retailer ERPs.
When systems aren’t connected, it’s virtually impossible for anyone in the supply chain to gain a big-picture view of operations and to make sound business decisions. The data silos created by disconnected systems make it difficult to maintain adequate stock levels at retail locations and to efficiently track orders, confirmations and invoices — ultimately impeding product flow and affecting bottom-line results.
Accurate forecasts make it possible to get the right product to the right customer at the right time. But data silos also hinder accurate forecasting, leaving popular items in short supply at retail outlets and causing stores to have to return unsold items. Pre-sales data can help manufacturers estimate the amount of stock they need to produce and deliver, but that requires integrated data.
The solution is a fresh approach to data integration and management. Supply chain operations that combine both data integration and data management on a single, unified cloud-based platform that can handle structured and unstructured information can consolidate data from any source up and down the supply chain. That means retailers and vendors can integrate and manage data centrally, sharing information on SKUs, product attributes, and more in real time.
A unified platform solves many problems in a complex supply chain. In one case, a manufacturer was able to integrate approximately 50 separate inventory management systems, allowing everyone in the supply chain to see data in real time. This enabled the manufacturer to bring new retailers into the system quickly, track deliveries precisely and manage customer relationships effectively.
A unified data integration and management platform facilitates collaboration across the supply chain, allowing sales and operations to act on trends sooner and position products for sale efficiently. It also allows users to integrate data in multiple formats, eliminating the need for manual entry of data streams. That capability reduces errors and streamlines operations across the supply chain.
Retailers with supply chains that operate on a unified data integration and management platform can also bring niche players like smaller manufacturers and suppliers on board. These businesses are less likely to have sophisticated technology resources, but since a unified platform can ingest and integrate data in multiple formats, lack of ERP resources with smaller partners isn’t an issue. That can help retailers keep costs down and access niche products more efficiently.
Retailers are increasingly realizing that data is the new business currency. Better data practices allow retailers and their supply chain partners to collaborate to ensure supplies arrive in time to meet demand. With a modern approach to data integration and management, retailers can make sure products reach the right customers at the right time and gain a significant edge over competitors.
Dylan Hogan is a senior account executive at Liaison Technologies. In this role, Dylan leverages more than two decades of sales, e-commerce, and consulting experience to develop and expand Liaison’s data-inspired solutions for the retail vertical. Hogan’s unique blend of supply chain, technology, and business expertise has helped many retailers innovate and grow.