The ability to collect and harness data is a key opportunity for retailers that want to truly enable a consumer-centric supply chain. According to a recent Boston Retail Partners study, 62 percent of retailers named customer identification and personalization of customer experience among their top three customer engagement priorities, more than any other initiative.
However, most retailers still aren't taking full advantage of what data can do to influence demand. Using predictive analytics to shape consumer buying behaviors equates to a new monetization opportunity for retailers and brand owners. Instead of simply analyzing sales, predictive analytics offer an opportunity to identify patterns that lead to effective and highly personalized customer engagement strategies. In this new data-driven era, it’s no longer about just the operational supply chain getting the product to the consumer; it's the whole retail ecosystem that needs to be considered in order to deliver a targeted consumer experience.
A Standardized Foundation
In order to jump into the realm of predictive analytics and demand shaping, it benefits retailers to first create an agile supply chain that's ready to serve on-demand consumers with targeted, data-driven outreach. By implementing GS1 Standards for supply chain efficiencies, the retail industry becomes more capable of making good use of consumer data and predictive analytics models. GS1 Standards include barcodes, electronic product code (EPC)-enabled radio frequency identification (RFID) and other standards already commonly used in the retail supply chain. When manufacturers and retailers leverage these supply chain and data standards to their fullest potential, they collectively minimize cost, maximize fulfillment flexibility and optimize supply chain operations overall.
Improving item-level inventory visibility standards — an essential piece of any omnichannel strategy — ensures the fast and consistent exchange and availability of data to facilitate more effective matches between inventory and consumers. Companies that leverage standards for enhanced interoperability are able to better inform their inventory management processes.
Once a responsibility relegated to marketing and sales professionals, demand shaping is now an integrated team effort, with supply chain managers working to ensure a sufficient inventory set is in place to meet the demand created via predictive learnings. With consumers warming up to the idea of purchase histories and other personal data being used to expedite and personalize the shopping experience, adopting a more agile retail value chain that's able to withstand and anticipate constant readjustments dictated by consumer data is a necessity for omnichannel success.
RFID at the Item Level
Implementing a standards-based EPC item-level RFID program leads to precisely the kind of inventory visibility needed to know what’s available before leveraging predictive analytics. Some of the world’s leading retailers are using EPC-enabled RFID to increase SKU-level physical inventory efficiencies. They've successfully linked item-level visibility from source to store by proactively sharing product information.
Improving on the capabilities of the U.P.C. barcode, RFID allows for up to 99 percent inventory accuracy and more frequent and fewer manual readings. RFID helps the retailer understand “what do I have?” and “where is it located?” RFID's pinpoint accuracy even lets a retailer expose more products online, and sell its “last items” at higher margins, regardless of channel.
Ultimately, with a solid standards-based foundation, retail companies can be confident they have the inventory accuracy needed to leverage consumer insights and valuable analytics, resulting in greater agility and precision in meeting today’s consumer demands.
Melanie Nuce is vice president, apparel and general merchandise at GS1 US, an information standards organization that brings industry communities together to solve supply chain problems through the adoption and implementation of GS1 Standards.
Related story: Go Big or Go Personal With Smart Analytics