IoT, a new factor in supply chain efficiency during sales periods

By Arnaud Tayac, Director Business Operations & Services at Sigfox

While the period from November to February has always been of strategic importance for the retail sector, currently retailers face some truly critical issues following a year turned upside down by the health crisis. Online commerce has been managing a string of key events from Black Friday and Christmas to January sales… but as shopping online grows, this presents a multitude of challenges for the various players in the supply chain: stock availability, product quality, meeting delivery deadlines… To achieve this, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that offer retailers real-time visibility throughout the product journey, and the potential to increase customer satisfaction.

So, how can retailers ensure optimal follow-up from the warehouse to the end customer with this rise in online shopping and the growing number of parcels that it heralds?

New consumer demands

The pandemic has significantly altered consumers’ behavior and their relationship to brands. For example, availability of a product before ordering online or picking it up in store Is commonplace for consumers as click and collect increased, allowing consumers to avoid queues and remain socially distanced when out shopping.

Product quality and price are no longer enough, and customer satisfaction now depends on an efficient supply chain. This requirement is all the more demanding when the number of orders increases exponentially, imposing more pressure on companies to deliver to its customers on time.  This is why retailers must equip themselves with technology capable of delivering accurate, real-time tracking information.

A view of the inventory at any point-in-time

Indeed, what brand would not like to know precisely and at any time the level of availability of its products? Faced with the growing increase in online orders and expectations of successful omnichannel strategies, stores, both physical and online, ideally should be in a position to hold sufficient stock at all times.

The installation of IoT sensors on the shelves (both in store and in warehouses), for example, can provide retailers with valuable information on the actual state of their inventory, but also on the popularity of the products, making it easier to anticipate a possible out-of-stock situation.

The shortest route from the warehouse to the place of delivery

More than just an inventory tool, IoT brings value throughout the supply chain. Placed in the containers or inside the packages themselves, IoT sensors enable retailers to track both the delivery and the condition of the product itself: especially for refrigerated goods or medicines. This data can be useful not only to identifying shipping losses or errors, but also for tracking the shipment in real time.

Therefore, using IoT increases visibility at all stages, reduces product degradation and returns, and finally, helps to meet deadlines. Quality of delivery is defined as a main factor in the purchase decision. Indeed, with a vast majority of consumers, any delayed order arrival would likely adversely influence future purchase decisions with an e-tailer. In this sense, the IoT has established itself as a major logistics partner for all retailers, especially during the sales period at the beginning of the year.

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