Today’s consumer wants a retail shopping experience that’s fast, easy, flexible and on their own terms. For instance, some want to shop online and pick up their purchase in a store. Others expect items to be delivered on the day and time that’s most convenient for them. And many consumers like to research products at home before buying them in person.
Ideally, consumers want retailers to deliver a unified shopping experience. “Customers don’t think in channels anymore,” Mike Griswold, research vice president of Gartner's Consumer Value Chain team, said at the Retail Industry Leaders Association conference last month.
This shift in expectations means retailers are dealing with more complexity, just as the industry is facing strong headwinds. Toys “R” Us, for example, is folding because heavy debt prevented it from executing changes that would have made it more competitive, including improving the shopping experience, both online and in-store.
Meeting customer expectations, such as viewing inventory online and shipping purchases according to their wishes, can only happen when the retail supply chain is structured the right way. To ensure customer satisfaction, both you and your suppliers must be on the same page, which means adopting collaboration technology.
But collaboration is a challenge. The typical retailer supply chain is large and complex, often extending across state and international borders. Getting a product from Supplier A’s warehouse to the customer’s doorstep also involves numerous distribution partners.
Everyone along the chain must be able to connect and collaborate seamlessly. To power these connections, retailers need communications and collaboration tools that work anywhere, on any device and in all channels. Cloud communications makes that happen with collaboration tools that connect people in different locations, time zones and organizations with a single click.
Here’s a few of the collaboration technologies retailers should consider integrating into their supply chain workflow.
To meet the real-time demands of consumers, retailers have to expand beyond a handful of warehouses. They need stores and distribution facilities in or close to every major metropolitan area, but the difficulty of collaboration increases with every new phone system that’s added. Be sure to work with a vendor that offers flexible phones that can connect with a range of third-party platforms.
Audio, web and video conferencing
Although meetings are a fact of life in every industry, joining virtual conferences can be frustrating. Attendees often have to open multiple apps to obtain the right passcode and then dial into the call. But with unified communications, one app and one click save time and vastly improve the ability to collaborate and share information.
Whether based at headquarters or in a warehouse, everyone along the supply chain is on the move, making mobile communications a requirement. With embedded communications, you can quickly snap messaging, voice calling, video calling, presence and location directly into your business productivity mobile app. Critical information is always available right when you need it, and employees have a consistent communications experience in and out of the office.
The Internet of Things
Retailers don’t just need their human employees to collaborate with each other. They also need humans to connect with smart robots at warehouses. By integrating communications with IoT, retailers can access key data insights early, enabling them to optimize prices, reroute deliveries and bring goods to the consumer faster.
Information silos create some of the most significant breakdowns in the supply chain. They can cause delays in learning about critical production and delivery issues, which lead to unhappy customers. Eliminate these headaches by using APIs to integrate supply chain applications and communications, so your team will know instantly if there are problems.
A streamlined supply chain that makes it easy for retailers to connect and collaborate with their partners and vendors allows you to meet ever-increasing consumer expectations. In turn, it makes retailers more competitive and less susceptible to the brutal dynamics in the market.
As Retail Dive notes: “The big takeaway is, improving one's supply chain while differentiating oneself from other companies is critical for retailers seeking to avoid bankruptcy. In 2017, about 40 retailers filed for bankruptcy, and it remains to be seen how 2018 will shape up.”