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Mobile drives prioritization of unified retail supply chains: report

July 30, 2014

Amazon's mobile wallet.

Amazon’s mobile wallet.

Mobile marketers must strive to create consistent customer experiences across channels, respecting that mobile is at the center of the unified commerce world, according to a Boston Retail Partners supply-chain survey.

The survey found that 93 percent of retailers have prioritized unified commerce for their supply chains this year, with 85 percent using inventory across channels compared with a much lower 32 percent in 2013. For mobile shoppers, this means that they can make a purchase from their smartphone, and pick up their purchase from a bricks-and-mortar location in the same day.

“Progressive retailers are working to create a seamless customer experience, in their organizations at large and, specifically, in their supply chains,” said Dimitry Erez, vice president and practice lead, Boston Retail Partners. “Across their businesses they are ensuring that their presence in the marketplace reflects one vision whether you are in their Milan flagship or browsing with their mobile app.

“From a supply chain perspective, retailers must support this notion by making inventory positioning more flexible without overinvesting, or over spending on logistics costs,” he said. “So, the inventory in the Milan flagship has to be visible to the mobile shopper in Paris. Utilizing established business rules and software logic, that order could now be fulfilled.”

Key findings

Other findings demonstrated retailers’ achievements and priorities in delivering a unified commerce supply chain. Fifty-four percent said they planned to bring seamless commerce to their supply chains while 39 percent said they were currently implementing solutions. The survey also highlighted the 75 percent of retailers who are embracing cross-channel inventory fulfillment and the 63 percent who identified enabling a seamless customer experience online and in the store as a top initiative.

Although unified commerce is a top priority, a significant amount of work remains to be done to achieve it. The study found that 22 percent of companies indicated that they have merged their channels into a single organization, while 46 percent of respondents use static spreadsheets to manage their supply chain planning.

The study also found that 40 percent provide in-store available-to-promise visibility to customers yet only 20 percent have this same visibility for their internal staff.

Growing movement

The findings reinforce the idea that mobile marketing has become a movement, rapidly diffusing through retail organizations and into supply chains.

“Mobile is, without a doubt, at the center of this shift,” Mr. Erez said. “From an inventory and supply chain perspective, it has leveled the playing field between the customer and the retailer.

“If one is standing in a store with their tablet and the Web site says the store has three units but the associate cannot find the product, it creates a negative experience for the customer,” he said. “Real-time inventory visibility is a must in the mobile world. This is very different than when the online experience was tethered to a desk.”

Mobile represents the intersection between electronic commerce and bricks-and-mortar stores, allowing the customer to bring the online experience into a store, according to the study. Transforming the supply chain to meet the needs of a buy anywhere/anytime customer requires significant resources and investments, in people, processes and technology.

Lord and Taylor app.

Lord and Taylor app.


“Transforming a supply chain, from a siloed one-dimensional fulfillment engine to a unified model, requires investment in all three,” Mr. Erez said. “People must be re-trained as their roles and responsibilities change.

“Processes must be revised and improved to meet the accelerated pace of 24/7 commerce,” he said. “And technology must be improved to support flexible warehouses, improved inventory visibility and advanced analytics.”

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

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