By now, you’ve probably heard numerous accounts of how retailers are transforming their businesses with new supply chain technologies. And you might be wondering if now’s the time to update your solutions, too.
In this article we’ll look at thirteen tell-tale signs that a business is ready to rethink its supply chain strategies.
1. When you’re waiting for batched reports to run to know your inventory levels
“Let’s wait until tomorrow and see where we are.” Ever hear something like that in a conversation regarding the inventory of a fast-moving sku? If so, you’re not alone. Until recently, most inventory systems relied on a series of batched reports and updates, often compiled overnight to preserve bandwidth and processing power during business operations.
The challenge with these systems is that you never really know right now what’s happening on your shelves – especially when it comes to fast-moving products. Hot trends can start and stop on a dime, and if your timing is a bit off on both ends, it will cost you.
2. When your suppliers are implementing cloud-based systems with your competition
You’re not the only one who could benefit from a modernized supply chain system. Your suppliers could, too. Some suppliers might already be asking you to integrate with their cloud-based systems. If so, take a serious look at upgrading now, because chances are you’re not the only retailer they’re working with. What happens to that relationship when one of your competitors starts integrating seamlessly and you’re still weighed down with your legacy systems? [link to Cement Overshoes article] Your bargaining power will start to erode and you may no longer be considered their “ideal customer” if the technology gap continues.
3. When your competitors are getting better fill rates for in-demand products
Do you see the competition’s shelves filled with the latest hot product while you struggle to keep yours from being bare? Sometimes this is due to vendor relationships, of course, but sometimes it’s a matter of supply chain logistics. Retailers with real-time data access can predict out-of-stocks with greater accuracy. They can then use that data to optimize their reorder points. Some retailers are now using AI solutions to widen their prediction windows, allowing them to look even deeper into the future.
If you’re consistently struggling to keep the latest trendy products in-stock, updating your supply chain strategies and systems could make a world of difference.
4. When your competitors are pricing closer to your break-even points
If your cost structures aren’t changing, but the competition’s prices keep creeping lower and lower, you might need to upgrade your systems capabilities just to compete.
Consider that half of the companies transitioning to the cloud in IDG’s Enterprise Cloud Computing Study said they’d reduced their IT costs by 25% or more. Maybe your competition is using supply chain technologies to reduce overhead costs, allowing them to reduce their pricing. Or maybe not – but you could.
5. When you’re making business decisions based on stale data because you don’t have real-time access
Compared to what most companies do, even the previous week's data seems fresh. GetApp Labs reported that 46% of small to medium businesses rely on previous month reports in making their business decisions.
Once cloud-based systems start giving companies a glimpse of real-time data, however, decision-making changes for them. No longer do they need to wait a few days – or a month – for all their data to “cycle through.” With real time data flowing in, retailers can jump on and off trends quickly, based on live snapshots that are nearly instantaneous.
6. When you can’t get clearance items from individual stores to online customers who want them
Are your stores loaded with clearance items? Online buyers will often grab those deals up if they can. But when those items are “landlocked” into specific store locations – as with the inventories in most legacy systems – making them available to the larger online community can be difficult.
Omnichannel solutions turn each store location into a distribution center. Instead of the laborious and expensive procedure of transferring stock from store to store, with omnichannel you could package, label and ship a product directly to any customer from any location.
7. When you have to call another store and ask them to hold a product
If you’re still calling other stores and asking them to hold product, it’s definitely time for a change. This lengthy, arduous process is a complete waste of many retailers’ time. All too often, it ends in customer dissatisfaction anyway.
With real-time cloud-based inventory systems, you’ll know if the product is still there. And with omnichannel solutions, you can sell it yourself and have it waiting or have it shipped to the customer without having to deal directly with the other store at all (although you may still want to in some circumstances).
8. When you’re carrying too much in-store inventory “just in case”
The less timely your data is, the more padding is typically built into your inventory levels. By adopting a cloud-based solution with real time inventory data, you can transform your warehouse from storing products “just in case” to a more efficient “just in time” rhythm.
9. When a significant part of your supply chain IT budget is tied up in the installation, maintenance, and updating of software
These three software tasks are traditionally allocated a huge chunk of IT labor. But with cloud-based systems, they’re virtually eliminated. What would your overhead look like without those costs? Better yet, what mission-critical projects could you put those IT resources on instead to grow your business?
10. When you need to update your supply chain solutions because your OS is no longer supported
This one’s a no-brainer. If the very platform you’re operating on is no longer supported, it’s definitely time to implement a new solution. Case in point: Surviving the Death of Windows 6.5 in Retail.
11. When you have to keep rewriting and customizing software to scale your business
Cloud-based platforms were built to accommodate the throughput of thousands of companies. No matter how big you are, you won’t “break” the cloud. Scaling up your business is often as simple as selecting a new subscription plan from your provider’s menu.
Many existing supply chain systems, however, do not scale so easily. New features and business growth often require extensive customizations to make them work. If you’re dealing with those kinds of headaches, know there is a cure: a cloud-based system.
12. When your competition’s online sales are growing at a much faster pace than yours
If you notice your competitor’s online sales rocketing while yours, well, aren’t… it could be because they’ve invested in cloud-based systems. Just about every segment of retail is experiencing online growth. And even segments that weren’t traditionally thought of as “online compatible” are now finding customers through the internet. The grocery industry is a prime example of this, as seen in Amazon Swallows Whole Foods.
Cloud-based inventory systems give your online sales the flexibility they need to operate and provide the customer experience your online shoppers have come to expect.
13. When you keep having to say “no” to technology requests from the business because your current architecture won’t support them
If your business leaders are asking for new capabilities in your supply chain, you don’t want to tell them “no” very often. Especially when they see competitors doing those same things they’re asking about.
You want to say “yes” to the business, and that might require designing a whole new system architecture… or moving to the cloud.
If you want to learn how you can say “yes” to your business leaders and offer modern supply chain solutions and strategies, contact us at DecisionPoint today. We specialize in mobile and cloud-based systems for retail, and we’ll not only show you why you should rethink your supply chain strategy, but also how.