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Keeping the right products on the shelves (whether virtual or in-person) and getting those products into shopping carts is more of a challenge today than ever before. Retailers that want to survive the pandemic and shifting economy need to make adjustments to adapt quickly in areas like supply chain management and replenishment. In a recent webcast, ArcherPoint’s retail experts recently hosted a discussion about how retailers are adapting their strategies to meet unpredictable demand and conditions. Here are 7 tips.
Getting creative with suppliers is a great way to start. These are typically strong, long-term relationships, and they, too, are dealing with similar issues, so they’re likely to be willing to work with you because it will benefit them as well. For example, during the pandemic, some restaurants pivoted to or added a “pop-up” grocery store component because they could receive deliveries on staples that were running low or out of stock at grocery stores.
A tip to help prevent a crisis: Set up reoccurring meetings with your vital suppliers—particularly those in hot spots—to monitor their activities more closely to be able to act when conditions change. You can also use these opportunities to adjust your shipping requirements—reduce shipments, reduce the number of items you stock (even temporarily), extend delivery windows, or give suppliers some flexibility as to what and when they can deliver. You can even discuss different payment terms or other arrangements that will help ensure you receive your deliveries during critical shopping times.
Another good opportunity is with merchandising—revising buying plans. Take the opportunity to review upcoming orders, including auto-orders, to determine what you really need. Now is not the time to be on autopilot. Review your KPIs and even filter on new ones during times of disruption. Look not just at the movement of products, but also at the movement within each store.
Seeing the movement of specific products (or categories) and specifically where they’re moving can tell you a lot about how you should distribute the inventory you already have, removing the fear of not receiving a shipment on time.
If you closed some locations during the pandemic, you have staff available to use in the warehouse or in these makeshift centers. They can also be redirected as customer service reps working from the safety of their homes or as delivery drivers. You might need to consider increasing wages temporarily but get creative. Another advantage: You have coverage if any of your employees need to be out due to illness or issues with childcare/home schooling. This all contributes to productivity, sales, and your bottom line.
Your capacity to transport and contain stock to fulfill demand needs to be in place; otherwise, all your planning will be futile. Look at capacity by store and even by category. Can any of your stores be used as a hub? Assuming you use third-party carriers rather than your own delivery trucks/drivers, be sure you have the best relationship and service possible. These services are busier than ever, but you should still expect service and delivery as promised.
Another area to consider changing is your returns policy. You might want to be more flexible because many consumers are ordering online for the first time. Make it easy for them to buy from you, and you’ll have a loyal customer for life.
Typically the last step in providing the goods to the customer, concerns about fulfillment during times like this center more around efficiency. Make sure your routes are improved for the current situation. Some stores might be closed but have inventory being transported to other locations or fulfilling online orders; some locations might be so overwhelmed with traffic and orders that inventory doesn’t stay on the shelves. Put a delivery platform in place to leverage the intelligence of a solution that can suggest optimized routes and delivery slots. If you can reallocate your staff to delivery driver or to the fulfillment center, your processes can remain efficient with technology powered with human knowledge.
Technology is powerful, and the right technology, designed for retailers, can be a huge asset to making the right decisions about your supply chain and replenishment strategy; however, there is still that human insight that cannot be replaced (yet) by artificial intelligence. This is particularly true with replenishment. Replenishment is a store-level activity that drives the supply chain. Redistributing stock between stores to avoid stock-outs in locations while overstocking others is key.
To properly adjust your supply chain and replenishment strategy to accommodate changing conditions and demands, look both to technology and the power you have with your human resources—and that includes a partner that understands retail and the technology that supports it. No one can predict the unpredictable, but we can prepare so that we’re ready for change.
Watch the entire webcast, How Retailers are Adapting Their Supply Chain and Replenishment Strategy, then contact the retail experts at ArcherPoint to discuss how we can help you put technology to work.
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