Recent positive holiday retail sales soundly confirm that omnichannel commerce is no longer a trend – rather the new reality for retailers and their supply chains. It is also clear, however, that many companies are far from confident in their ability to effectively execute in this new era where consumers are demanding greater product innovation, better shopping experiences, greater value, and more – all at speeds faster than ever before.
When discussing the many challenges and opportunities surrounding omnichannel commerce, the conversation often centers on improving the retail customer experience. For instance, what must be done to provide a consistent shopping experience across all sales channels, or how to make physical stores more compelling to today’s shoppers.
On the other hand, achieving sustainable omnichannel success requires the entire supply chain to reimagine and streamline operations – all the way from the product concept through to the order fulfillment. Perhaps the most obvious operational shortcomings manifest in inadequate or inconsistent product information, longer than accepted delivery times, ineffective customer service, out of stock situations, and inefficient returns management.
Success in the omnichannel era requires nothing short of a digital transformation across all retail and supply chain operations. This commitment starts with the realization that we must embrace change to win in a changing environment. We must also recognize that manual processes can no longer deliver the speed, accuracy, and visibility that is needed to sustain growth.
Industry leaders are successfully solving these challenges by improving access and sharing of information across the enterprise, increasing process tracking and automation, gaining inventory visibility and accuracy, and empowering teams and supply chain partners with the next-generation technology they need to make it happen.
The starting point for each company’s transformation depends on their own individual competitive strengths and weaknesses. Some, for example, may already have streamlined their time to market but are challenged with making the move from centralized shipping to complex omnichannel distribution. Perhaps better analytics of sales and other key performance indicators is needed. Others may be just starting their journey. Regardless of their current positioning, all are advised to carefully reassess their current concept-to-consumer processes and develop a prioritized plan of action. Seeking help from companies and technology providers that are experienced in these types business improvements can streamline the process.
From an operational perspective, retailers and their supply chain partners face several familiar challenges as they re-engineer their organizations for omnichannel. Product innovation is often stifled due to the manual tasks and data entry required in the design and product development stage. To increase process and business velocity, internal team and supplier collaboration are critical but difficult to achieve. Sourcing and supply chain management teams often lack the visibility they need to track and manage partner progress. Factory floor activities are typically not transparent due to the lack of real-time data collection and analysis. Once routine order fulfillment and inventory management tasks have become increasingly complex with the rapid growth of e-commerce.
After identifying their shortcomings and priorities, companies must embrace change and leverage the best and most modern technologies to position themselves for omnichannel success and future growth.
In years past, companies focused on supplementing their core ERP business software by adding best-of-breed and single-purpose point solutions to fill their needs. For example, many tried to integrate independent PLM, BI, advanced warehousing, or other systems to their existing infrastructure. While that approach helped address some needs, it often failed to provide the full benefits that were expected. After investing considerable time and money in such systems, they were disappointed to learn that significant functional and process visibility gaps remain. In many cases, stakeholders are left trying to manage valuable information and processes in spreadsheets and emails.
Faced with a new and broader set of omnichannel demands, many companies have since shifted their focus to replacing these diverse systems with an all-in-one, industry-specific solution. These systems can provide the end-to-end visibility and capabilities needed today in a single, natively-integrated platform. When coupled with next-generation technologies, such a solution can be easier to implement, require less time and money to customize and maintain, and get you to the desired benefits faster than the patchwork systems approach.
An end-to-end technology platform that comprises ERP, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Shop Floor Control and other mission-critical capabilities makes it much easier for internal teams and supply chain partners to collaborate and overcome issues and meet customer expectations. When designers, product developers, and sourcing teams are all working from the same, always up-to-date information they free up time to focus on product innovation and overall business performance. The advanced level of visibility and control also ensures that all supply chain, factory floor, logistics and order fulfillment processes and teams are aware of their responsibilities and how they can impact on-time deliveries and improve customer service.
With the right end-to-end technology supporting the digital transformation, the formidable challenges of omnichannel and other market and industry demands can be much easier to tackle.