Technology in Retail: What You Need to Know Right Now

May 4, 2021

Daniel Kohut, who is Vice President, APAC Solutions Advisor at retail AI solutions provider Blue Yonder (formerly JDA), explains how advanced technology helps retailers manage critical business information.

Q: What are some of the latest developments in retail technology around supply chains?

A: Collecting and using data correctly is critical. Why is data so important? It can improve top-line financial results by supporting the fact-based development of products, pricing, assortments, promotions and personalised services that drive sales and satisfaction.

Data also has the potential to drive bottom-line results by streamlining and automating workflows and decisions, identifying inefficiencies and controlling costs across the supply chain.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and other advanced technologies are making it possible for the supply chain to become truly autonomous – able to predict disruptions and self-correct in real time.

These technologies have made intelligent forecasting a reality. Intelligent forecasting collects and analyses a wide range of demand signals over a period of time, together with corporate strategies and situational actors. It learns how all these signals interact and what combination best predicts change to provide a more accurate forecast.

Q: What has been the impact of COVID-19?

A: For retailers, the impact of COVID-19 and the acceleration of omnichannel has highlighted the importance of more accurate forecasting. Carrying excess inventory/safety stock is no longer sustainable, as it increases capital costs and inventory waste. The challenge is trying to proactively predict change – reacting quickly is no longer good enough.

The new reality of increased demand fluctuations, expanding consumer expectations for personalisation, responsiveness, sustainability, and greater uncertainty over trade and economic conditions is making improved forecast accuracy a top priority for manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Within traditional supply chains, the “bullwhip effect” shows even small fluctuations in supply or demand can send large ripples right along the chain. Embracing technologies such as supply network mapping and multi-echelon inventory optimisation can improve efficiency, optimise inventory levels at each node and increase flexibility to work around unexpected events. They can take into account variables like lead times and transport costs.

This approach allows businesses to move from supply chains to supply webs, extending their network of suppliers to hedge against disruptions.

digital inventory

Q: How can retail technologies assist the natural and organic goods sector?

A: Based on our research and engagement with many of the top retailers in the world, inventory availability and order optimisation sit at the very centre of their transformation efforts. Top retailers have realised that separating inventory availability from traditional front-end and back-end technology stacks unlocks the ability to deliver robust features and provides greater technical flexibility within the overall architecture – all while solving the scale, performance and synchronisation issues faced today.

These intelligence supply chain technologies can also offer end-to-end transparency to support ethical sourcing and provenance. A digitally-verified record of the exact journey from paddock to plate – documenting everything from cold chain integrity to labour conditions – can support provenance marketing and give retailers a competitive advantage as customers become more discerning.

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