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February 6, 2018

Perfecting the illusion of a single, seamless retail channel with Networked Order Management

By David Dorf, VP of Product Strategy at Infor Retail

In the fight to stay relevant, every retailer's bag of tricks has to be on the cutting edge. Some of the industry's popular retail "tricks" to win your business include free shipping, flexible fulfillment options like BOPIS, or discounts for opting to delay shipping time. One thing is clear: If you want to compete with Amazon, you’ve got to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

You may have read Doug Tiffan's insights from NRF 2018, which included the importance of paying attention to the backend of the retail operation in favor of flashy technologies like VR—and that includes gaining a better understanding of the realities of your supply chain.

The next act in retail is about getting creative with art and science to fulfill demand anywhere, anytime, at the lowest cost possible. Traditionally, retailers have turned to order management solutions to streamline the supply chain and meet seemingly impossible consumer demand. Today, Networked Order Management is rewriting the rules to build the most efficient, flexible supply chains we've ever seen—and these are the new tricks of the trade:

The omni-channel disappearing act

Your customers don't care what channel they're in when they make a purchase. They don't care how the sausage is made, only that their sausage is available and on time when they want it … whether it's online, in store, or some combination of the two. Easier said than done.

The best way to mitigate risk around everchanging demand is to realistically set customer expectations for fulfillment. Better to under-promise and overdeliver than vice versa, right?

Using complex rules engines, the supercomputing power of the cloud, and integrations with supply chain systems, Networked Order Management software provides a seamless, single view of inventory in the cloud—so retailers can see across the global supply chain and react to the unexpected in the most efficient way possible. That means customers can buy anywhere, and retailers can fulfill anywhere—so all shoppers see is a beautiful frontend experience, none the wiser to what's going on behind the scenes to orchestrate it all.

Supply chain sleight of hand

The more personalized supply chains become, the more agile retailers have to become. And while next-gen demand management and assortment planning solutions provide the most accurate assortment forecasts out there, they can't help you redistribute inventory after it's on the shelves.

Imagine a cold spurt hits Miami in May … or an unexpected underdog makes it to the Super Bowl. Issues with in-store assortment and unexpected delivery timelines will most certainly emerge. Whether it's an act of God or the perfect storm of athleticism that upsets your demand forecast, Demand Management is not an exact science. It can get you the inventory you need, but distributed order management solutions tell you what to do with it once you have it.

Modern Networked Order Management allows retailers to fulfill from over-allocated locations based on local events, outages, holidays, delivery reliability forecasts, and even customer loyalty level. This constant assortment rebalancing gives retailers a lower level of inventory, which means fewer markdowns and clearances in the long run. Physical inventory is optimally sourced so delivery and labor costs go down, too. Plus, you can keep your customers updated with item location alerts every step of the way.

In-store smoke and (AR) mirrors

All that controlled chaos on the backend still needs a shiny front end to round out the customer experience. Once your backend is optimized at every level with Networked Order Management, it's time to start adding in-store bells and whistles like VR, AR, and selfie-worthy store designs. After all, your physical stores drive sales in person and online—and once you have networked order management in place, your stores can operate as showrooms and distribution centers.

But what if we extend this paradigm to meet fulfill using inventory that's not even owned? Extending the assortment by accessing the inventory of partners yields even more choices for customers. Vendors can provide products to sell that are drop-shipped directly to customers without the retailers even taking possession.

This concept could be extended to other supply chain participants, including other retailers. If an item is not available in any owned warehouse or store, might the item be somewhere else on the network? Even if it were found at another retailer's store, it could be shipped to the customer with your receipt. In this case, all three participants stand to benefit from Networked Order Management.

The greatest retail show on earth, delivered.

If retailers hope to surpass their competition in the Golden Age of Retail, it's essential they first focus on streamlining the backend of the business—and that includes understanding, optimizing, and taking advantage of every step along the supply chain. Combined with smart, connected Demand Management software, Networked Order Management is the secret to setting, meeting, and exceeding customer expectations.

Leave Your Legacy with Infor Networked Order Management.

David Dorf at Infor HQ
  • Fashion
  • Retail
  • Worldwide
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