Mobile Shoppers & the Retail Supply Chain

It’s no secret to many retailers that mobile is transforming the shopping process.

Study after study shows more people are using their phones and tablets not only to transact, but to research, compare, analyze and expand their knowledge base before and during in-store visits.

Consumers want to order digitally and pick up in store. They don’t want to get to a store only to find out the item they want isn’t in inventory at that store.

In many cases, they have more product information at their fingertips than sales associates, since they’re diving deep into the details around a small number of products while salespeople are responsible for at least knowing about most if not all the products.

It’s a case of mobile consumer expectations meeting the practical ability of merchants to deliver.

The brick and mortar store traditionally was the final destination for inventory. With the push to real time, anytime ordering and delivery, the stores now not only receive inventory but also ship it.

On the inventory front, retailers are looking at transforming how they manage this entire system, based on a new study.

Over the next five years, the majority (65%) of retailers say they’re going to have to completely rethink their supply chain design because of emerging cross-channel fulfilment, according to the Retail Supply Chain Strategy: The Next Big Thing study conducted by Retail Systems Research for Manhattan Associates.

Retailers agree that store inventories are not accurate enough, though the two options they face are risking customer dissatisfaction from an out-of-stock item or carrying excess inventory as a buffer to poor visibility and accuracy, according the survey of 89 retail executives.

The leading organizational inhibitor for improvement for the majority (51%) of retailers is the lack of coordination between supply chain, merchandising and marketing while many (47%) see the biggest opportunity as realigning the company’s organizational structure to be less channel specific.

The study points out that the traditional operating model is based on the assumption that consumers begin and end their shopping experience in one place, typically the store.

That assumption is obviously no longer valid, with smartphone consumers having shifted to anytime/anywhere shopping behaviors.

Now the retailers need to figure how to re-invent themselves to catch up with their mobile customers.

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