With retail supply chains growing more complex by the day, it’s no wonder retailers are struggling to get their products to market faster and at a lower cost than their competitors. The industry is evolving at a rapid pace, producing intense competition like we’ve never seen before. As a result, retailers are finding it necessary to speed up their sourcing processes — but how?
The answer is digital sourcing, according to a recent Bamboo Rose survey report detailing key challenges facing the retail industry today. Bamboo Rose surveyed 250 retail and supply chain professionals across the U.S. to find out how digital sourcing can affect the supply chain and where it can help.
63% of Retailers Are Using Antiquated Tools for Sourcing
From the survey responses, it’s clear that retail professionals want more efficient sourcing practices. However, there’s a severe lack of understanding about the digital tools that can help make sourcing easier.
Most retail professionals are still depending on generic programs, such as email and spreadsheets, to manage their intricate sourcing operations. In fact, 63 percent of survey respondents cited using applications like Outlook as their go-to sourcing tool, and 62 percent of $5B-plus enterprises said they use Excel for sourcing efforts. Most startlingly, nearly 50 percent of respondents rely on images or handwritten notes.
The real problem here: Retailers don’t have a single sourcing platform to rely on, and are feeling the fatigue of tool overload. In fact, just over half of respondents said they use two or more tools for sourcing operations regularly. Further, nearly one-fifth of retail professionals aren’t using any sourcing tools at all, and are managing efforts completely by memory — likely losing critical information along the way.
Retailers Seek Clear, Consistent Communication, Yet Only 28% Look to Suppliers for New Ideas
Considering a resounding number of respondents cited using email for sourcing efforts, it’s understandable that retailers aren’t communicating well with their suppliers. Communication is key to collaboration and innovation in the supply chain, and without it, retailers might be forced to close shop. Despite the need to continually innovate, only 28 percent of respondents said they look to their suppliers for new ideas.
What’s more, 93 percent of retail buyers and merchants noted that they work with at least 10 new suppliers each year, and most said they work with five or more. Onboarding new suppliers takes crucial time away from running a competitive retail brand, and better communication between vendor and supplier can cut down on the time needed to get suppliers up and running.
Yes, Sourcing is Complicated … But it Doesn’t Have to Be
It’s simple: retailers and supply chain professionals aren’t using the tools that are essential to their success. Digital sourcing can help brands innovate and collaborate using a digital platform to increase their products’ speed-to-market. The approach also allows retailers to work with their supplier communities before a product idea is even conceived. Retailers can take shopping trips through virtual showrooms, making it easier than ever to collect and compare items across suppliers. As a result, retail pros can better stay on trend and make more profitable operational decisions.
The possibilities presented by digital sourcing are endless; it’s up to retailers to implement them or stunt their supply chains growth. Retailers must work to discover, develop and deliver great products to diverse markets around the world at consumer speed.
Ann Diamante is the chief product officer at Bamboo Rose, a product lifecycle management software provider.