Retail Supply Chain: Do you really know what’s on your shelves?

By Christian Floerkemeier, Chief Technology Officer at Scandit

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge in online shopping and the roll-out of contactless in-store digital solutions for retail stores. Retail supply chains have seen the biggest changes. During the peak of the pandemic, online grocery stores and retailers have seen a phenomenal increase in order volumes and have worked hard to meet this surging demand. It’s clear that the supply chain and e-commerce customer trends continue to change to keep up with the ever-shifting industry.

With more brick-and-mortar businesses forced to compete with online giants, it’s time to get a good look at optimising their supply chain operations.  In particular, what brick-and-mortar retailers should pay attention to in their supply chain management, why digital technologies beat manual processes and how smartphone scanning can help.

Real-time transparency and supply chain traceability

The rise in online conglomerate giants has forced brick-and-mortar businesses to up their game and create a competitive digital experience.

Customers using these household platforms for their buying needs are also able to access information about product choice, availability, and delivery terms. This, in turn, raises their expectations when it comes to all other retail settings. Customers can directly compare if certain products are no longer available in-store in the evening, fully aware that online marketplaces are never sold out.

To stand out in this market, brick-and-mortar stores must place an added importance on real-time transparency and supply chain traceability to keep up with the competition and rise to the challenge.

Optimising the supply chain process 

A key to effective supply chain management for retailers is to know what’s selling in stores and to ensure on-shelf product availability. Here is one problem, though: retailers often don’t know what’s in their inventory, as their IT systems don’t differentiate between the sales floor and the warehouse.

Further to this, many retailers now rely on in-store picking, and this traditionally takes place without technical help, which can get tricky as manual in-store processes are weak links in their supply chain.

To ensure greater customer satisfaction, retailers need to practice better inventory management. This is where smartphone scanning can help. Deploying smartphones with mobile apps for retail employees is one way to help optimise shelf and inventory management workflows.

Digital transformation begins with people

Employees in retail stores should be equipped with individual smartphones for barcode scanning and be provided access to inventory and supply chain data. This allows retailers to give customers reliable data and enables employees to help with inventory management, for example, to correct price tags. This would usually be a tedious manual process without the use of smartphone-based augmented reality solutions.

Employees must realise the benefits that bringing digital solutions in-store can bring, as they are the ones who interact and service the customer on the retail sales floor. That’s why it is key to involve employees in all technological changes, even if these changes appear to – at first glance – only centre on the customer.

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