Stop, Collaborate and Listen: Retail Needs a Brand-New Invention
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the world embarked on a journey toward connectivity and collaboration. The invention and burgeoning popularity of the internet brought together people from around the globe in both personal and professional spheres. Today, technology is still evolving and social platforms have continued to meet the increasing need for in-the-moment communication no matter the time or place. Collaboration and community are more important in the retail industry than ever as consumer preferences, government regulations and other unknowns present constant change and room for risk.
In recent years, technology has made it possible for buyers in one country to quickly and easily communicate with their community — manufacturers, customs officials, designers and suppliers around the world. While convenient, this means the smallest error or miscommunication could have massive implications across the global retail community. A large network of buyers, suppliers and customers is great for collaborative product development, but it also opens retailers up to risks that could send shockwaves through their supply chains.
As consumers, we rarely think about what a product has been through before it reaches our home, but there are numerous factors that could affect its journey and the resulting end cost. Even when retailers are in familiar territory and these variables are relatively predictable, the product development process is complicated. When facing the unpredictable, it can become nearly unmanageable and potentially result in large amounts of time and money lost if retailers don’t have the tools necessary to adjust at the drop of a hat. Increased tariffs and border taxes on imports, economic volatility or political upheaval in source countries, transportation and licensing complications … these are just some of the potential risks that could freeze the global retail supply chain.
We’ve evolved beyond a need for technology that simply enables smooth communication and collaboration. Retailers need a platform that allows them to connect with their entire community and to implement a “what if” costing approach within their supply chain processes. With a holistic picture of the international distribution of demand, such a platform increases transparency and helps retailers make more informed decisions and create more accurate strategies for the future.
To compile all the data in an efficient and meaningful way, retailers need a single source of truth that provides a comprehensive look at all their community of suppliers and global markets, which just isn’t possible with manual methods like Excel. You wouldn’t rely on a landline when you have a cellphone in your pocket, would you? With all the information on a single screen, retailers can more easily assess the what-if scenarios for each option before making a decision, simplifying the complexity that goes into global trade and purchasing. A platform with cost simulation allows retailers to predict the financial impact of executing an assortment against a plan, calculating margins at the item, class, department, season or channel level. By aggregating the potential costs and comparing the results to original forecasts, retailers can ensure accuracy throughout the product life cycle and prevent future risks with the knowledge gained.
In the face of uncertainty, visibility into trends like currency fluctuation, commodity pricing and spread of volume across multiple suppliers is crucial for retailers not just to stay afloat, but to actually succeed. With all parties involved in the product development process well-informed, collaboration can truly thrive.
Sue Welch is the founder and CEO of Bamboo Rose, a B-to-B digital marketplace and collaborative PLM platform that helps retailers discover, develop and deliver products at consumer speed. Follow Sue on Twitter at @SueWelch.