D3 Retail Supply Chain Summit: Delivery, Data, Disruption and More

At this year’s D3 Retail Supply Chain Summit, supply chain executives of major and fast-growing retailers―which included both brick-and-mortar stores with online entities and e-commerce-only companies―came together to discuss the most crucial challenges and opportunities affecting the industry today. We met with hundreds of supply chain professionals during the course of the conference and the discussions always seemed to be focused (in one way or another) on these three themes:

  1. Home Delivery: As demand for home delivery grows, retailers are learning that finding a reliable and cost-effective delivery partner is critical to building and maintaining their reputations in the marketplace.
  2. Lifecycle Data Visibility: Gathering, analyzing and having the ability to act on data throughout the entire purchasing lifecycle in order to manage and meet consumer expectations continues to be a challenge.
  3. Technology Disruption: Retailers now realize that artificial intelligence is no longer just a pipe dream but a legitimate technology that is positioned to disrupt how they do business. Retailers’ next step: Learning how to harness AI to create the most impact for their customers and operations.

Along those lines, I was honored to kick off this year’s event with a keynote on how retailers can simplify their business with applied intelligence. You can view the full keynote presentation here.

Of course, there were also a number of other retail industry concerns that made their way into the daily conversations we had with retail supply chain leaders from across the country. Among them:

  • Driving costs out of the supply chain. So many e-tailers and e-commerce departments at traditional retailers are struggling in an on-demand world to try and figure out better methods and more cost-effective means for offering home delivery service to consumers for purchases that don’t qualify as small packages. With the right technology and resources, we believe retailers can actually use “home delivery as a service” to further drive costs out of their supply chains. For example, retailers have the staff and the associates working in their in-store environments who, when armed with the right intelligence, could shift in and become part of the home-delivery solution.
  • Continuing to grow their business. In terms of growing their business, retailers should be contemplating a few things. Number one is obviously the continued expansion of the online marketplace. As retailers make more products available on demand to all of their consumers and marry that with the “home delivery as a service” concept, they can drive costs out of their shipping and logistics networks (by delivering directly to the home). This will enable their e-commerce business to more quickly expand. And, for retailers that are making same-day pickup or in-store pickups available for consumers with online orders, they can incorporate a layer of artificial intelligence that can factor in items or products that the online consumer abandoned in their shopping carts. So, for example, when that consumer shows up at the store to pick up his or her order, the customer service associate is empowered with intelligence―through data accessed on a hand-held mobile device―to showcase and maybe (re)recommend items that the consumer originally abandoned in the purchasing process. It’s a great upsell opportunity that will help retailers expand their business.

I had the opportunity to discuss these issues as well as tackle more technology questions in an onsite interview with eft Supply Chain and Logistics Business Intelligence, the host of the summit.