4 Ideas to help you effectively compete in today’s Consumer-Driven Retail Environment.

The modern consumer is spoiled rotten. He or she can walk around Best Buy scanning pictures of the latest flat-screen TVs while comparing prices on Walmart’s smartphone app, then eventually purchase their item from Amazon.

In short, today’s consumers are connected. They have the most up-to-date, detailed information available to them via the “usual” media of television, radio, and direct mail—but they also access information through email, blogs, social networks, websites, and mobile ads. Popular e-commerce sites equip consumers with high-definition pictures and videos of an endless assortment of products—and often include free two-day shipping, generous return policies, discounts at checkout, etc., etc., etc.

Once they decide to buy, consumers can make their purchases at the brick-and-mortar store on the corner, or via computer, tablet, or smart phone.

How does anyone outside of the Walmarts and Amazons of the world succeed, when every retailer and “big box” supplier is competing to meet the consumers’ growing needs?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Create an aggressive e-commerce strategy: The benefits of e-commerce are plentiful. Those who do it right are given a great opportunity to land more sales in a boundless market while affording customers superior visibility into the product line. The best companies give accurate and copious information, using several pictures and, when appropriate, videos. Take a look at Amazon for inspiration. Success requires the right support infrastructure, including the ability to fulfill orders with the right inventory from the right distribution center. This is key to meeting customer expectations and optimizing profitability.
  2. Strengthen shipping and warehousing capabilities: Consumer expectations will keep pressure on both retailers and suppliers to get the product on shelves or front steps as fast as possible. It is integral to ensure maximization and flexibility of shipping and warehouse processes to meet each customer’s needs. With the rise of direct-to-consumer orders, free returns, and free shipping, companies will have to bolster their warehouse management with software or enhanced processes. Integrated warehouse management systems (WMS) can help.
  3. Automate as much as possible: EDI (electronic data interchange) is required by an ever-growing number of retailers. The optimization of this mode has changed the speed with which retailers can monitor and react to shipping information, inventory levels, and other data. While there are some benefits of EDI for suppliers as well, the manual entry and precision required for these documents can prove extremely costly for those who do not automate with their system. The same goes for warehouse and shipping information, e-commerce, and many other internal processes. Without automation, companies waste time and risk mistakes that can lead to costly chargebacks from retailers.
  4. Take advantage of analytics: Top supply chain performers leverage sales, product performance, manufacturing, shipping, or other data in order to make quick and profitable decisions. There are many tools on the market targeted for every piece of the supply chain. Even the largest retailers can aggregate their sales and product performance data for suppliers via EDI. This data can be organized by some suppliers’ EDI tools or leveraged within an analytical tool. Point of sale data is often sent out very regularly, allowing for informed inventory and sales decisions.

Don’t lose hope! With determined Internet marketing, robust supply chain control, effective back-office automation, and timely business intelligence, you can stay in front of the modern consumer and effectively compete and grow in today’s fluid retail environment. Contact us today to learn more about EDI and how to integrate it into your ERP solution.

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