Using technology and data to reduce overstocks and provide customers with real-time inventory to ensure they receive deliveries promptly.
The past decade has seen the rules of the retail industry fundamentally change, with the next ten years set to take the industry even further into new territory. The one standout fundamental that have emerged and will continue to rise is that high-quality customer experience remains essential for business success, with expectations rapidly evolving.
Retailers will need to achieve this at increasingly efficient speeds and effectively use data to deliver a service at a hyper-personalised level, while at the same time contending with higher expectations around sustainable delivery and procurement practices.
Underpinning all of this is order management. Successful retailers in this decade won’t rely on discounting; they’ll focus on their customers’ convenience. Order management software today can provide retailers with a real-time view of inventory so they can ensure products are delivered to customers most quickly and cost-effectively.
Everyone has had poor experiences, particularly with online retail. An order set for Christmas or a birthday that isn’t delivered on time, or worse, is belatedly found to be out of stock, is a fast-track to an outraged customer, and a high potential for poor word-of-mouth and review.
Australian retailers have a unique challenge about how to meet customer expectations for free, same day, next hour, and next day delivery affordably. Having one huge warehouse somewhere in Australia and trying to dispatch goods around the country is not only slow, expensive and bad for the planet, but also unnecessary when the technology exists to enable retailers to dispatch from store and route products from the customer’s local area.
Retailers in 2020 and beyond need to tailor a personal experience by showing a customer what is available to them where and when; and offer more convenient ways to shop, collect, and return orders. They need to unlock the power of their store network and turn them into mini distribution centres to reduce time, costs, and environmental impacts in the last mile delivery. Good order management software can help here and therefore improve the customer experience, reducing costs for retailers, and increasing customer loyalty.
Successful retailers will need to continue to invest in order management systems that orchestrate orders for fulfillment and route products from an optimal inventory location. This system will provide real-time inventory visibility for both staff and the customer, so employees can process returns, and provide controls and feedback to management.
Failure to capitalise on this has already heralded scaremongering of the retail apocalypse over the past few years, as we have seen many retailers struggling to keep up with new consumer expectations, increased global competition, and escalating expenses.
Increased visibility and understanding of customer behaviour will also provide data that will power better decision making for retailers. We will be better able to predict supply and demand, with the potential for auto-replenishing supplies directly to customer’s homes.
It also reduces the overbuying of inventory, overselling, cancelled orders, and the need for more discounting to move stock. This data will also be used to predict future behaviour habits better, shaping products down to details like colour and style, to create bespoke offerings.
Those retailers that successfully mesh digital and physical presences are likely to thrive, with stores acting as mini distribution centres and places to return and collect items. Even previously online-only, players are increasingly opening pop-up or even permanent stores to leverage the power of the store network.
The next decade of retail will rely on investment in technology, such as order management software that can underpin these retail and customer service essentials.
The retail rules of 2020 will likely be significantly different from those in 2030. Still, to get ahead in the next decade, retailers must continue to adapt, move forward, and always ensure the customer experience remains a fundamental business priority.
Written by By Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce
Read this article on pg 16 in the latest edition of our magazine The Retailer, Issue #68 out now!