Inventory / Merchandising / Supply Chain - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints https://www.retailtouchpoints.com Wed, 22 May 2019 04:49:27 -0400 RTP en-gb Boutique La Vie en Rose Implements Unified Systems To Fuel International Growth https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/inventory-merchandising-supply-chain/boutique-la-vie-en-rose-implements-unified-systems-to-fuel-international-growth https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/inventory-merchandising-supply-chain/boutique-la-vie-en-rose-implements-unified-systems-to-fuel-international-growth Boutique La Vie en Rose Implements Unified Systems To Fuel International Growth

Earlier this year, executives at Boutique La Vie en Rose realized that its backend systems weren’t capable of supporting the retailer’s plans for growth. While the technology infrastructure for the Canadian lingerie, loungewear and swimwear retailer had been adequate for decades, healthy omnichannel growth required replacing legacy systems with more modern tools.

“We are moving away from an Excel-based environment that requires manual input to an enhanced solution that will allow our business to flourish,” said Éric Champagne, Chief Information Officer of Boutique La Vie en Rose in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “I tell my team that this is like a pair of comfortable jeans, which is fine occasionally, but sometimes you need to go to a black-tie event.”

To “suit up,” the retailer deployed a unified system consisting of the Techni-Connection integrated solution with CGS BlueCherry PLM and the Cegid Retail Management & POS Solution. The combination is improving data flow and communication with vendors, as well as providing transparency into logistics and offering new tools for management.

The improved automation will help Boutique La Vie en Rose expand its international presence, which includes 275 locations in 17 countries and an e-Commerce site in the U.S. The efficiency gained by automating standard operations will be a key element for enabling this growth.

“Right now, any added new country means we have more manual requirements,” said Champagne. “In managing different countries, as well as distribution channels, we need a simplified process, as well as a better understanding and flow of data. For example, to be present in other countries we need an international solution that offers multi-language, multi-currency functionality and meets local fiscal requirements, such as taxes and GDPR.”

Moving away from manual processes also will help align the company’s everyday operations with its financial planning goals. The PLM tools will standardize design, development and vendor collaboration, while the unified system will make it easier for Boutique La Vie en Rose to upgrade other solutions in the future.

The company already has a five-year digital transformation program underway, which aims to offer shoppers a seamless user and customer experience across channels. One of the immediate goals is to align customers’ online profiles with their past purchases and interests, both online and in-store, improving personalization capabilities.

The new system also will put Boutique La Vie en Rose in a better position to take advantage of new technologies going forward. Both customer-facing technologies like AR and VR, and backend enablers such as AI and machine learning, could be further enhancements in the retailer’s future.

“While AI is a buzzword, there may be potential integration in the future,” said Champagne. “Whatever the latest new innovation the customer wants and needs from us, we’ll be able to integrate it. Tech is moving much faster than ever before and we want to be able to easily, quickly react. With upgraded systems, we will benefit from the changing tech landscape.”

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Bryan Wassel) Inventory / Merchandising / Supply Chain Tue, 21 May 2019 08:22:12 -0400
TrueCommerce Acquires Supply Chain Management Platform Provider ecUtopia https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/mergers-and-acquisitions/truecommerce-acquires-supply-chain-management-platform-provider-ecutopia https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/mergers-and-acquisitions/truecommerce-acquires-supply-chain-management-platform-provider-ecutopia TrueCommerce Acquires Supply Chain Management Platform Provider ecUtopia

TrueCommerce has acquired fellow cloud-based supply chain collaboration and visibility platform ecUtopia for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, TrueCommerce gains a strategic technology service that strengthens its commerce network in several market segments, specifically home furnishings and apparel.

The TrueCommerce solutions are designed to help retailers connect their business across the supply chain under one global network, integrating processes including Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), inventory management and fulfillment, as well as e-Commerce hubs such as digital storefronts and marketplaces.

There are no immediate plans to rename ecUtopia, but the company will be rebranded under the TrueCommerce banner.

TrueCommerce, based in Pittsburgh, plans to integrate the ecUtopia operations into its own “where it makes sense,” according to a company Q&A posted on its web site. The ecUtopia San Diego office will operate as another Center of Excellence for TrueCommerce customers.

The companies will determine when and how they can extend TrueCommerce’s catalog of products and technologies to ecUtopia customers and offer additional services designed to help improve supply chain operations. In addition, the companies will immediately evaluate incorporating ecUtopia's platform and technology into the TrueCommerce Foundry platform.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) Mergers & Acquisitions Tue, 14 May 2019 12:59:22 -0400
How Retail Inventory Efficiency And Accuracy Impacts The Customer Experience https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-retail-inventory-efficiency-and-accuracy-impacts-the-customer-experience https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-retail-inventory-efficiency-and-accuracy-impacts-the-customer-experience

0aaaCarla Anderson OracleRetailAs omnichannel retailing requires greater and greater precision, the stakes surrounding inventory accuracy — or the lack thereof — are increasing dramatically.

According to a report from the International Council of Shopping Centers, an estimated 151 million people visited a mall or shopping center over 2018’s Black Friday weekend. The vast bulk of spending volume for the weekend — 88% — went to omnichannel retailers, i.e. brands with web sites the consumers at least had the opportunity to shop before entering the store.

So far, no surprises. We were expecting a big shopping weekend, most retailers are at least trying to be omnichannel these days, and we know consumers increasingly do product research on the web site before making their instore purchases. Slightly unexpected, however, was this: 27% of those holiday shoppers were in the store to pick up a purchase they’d already made online. Of those click and collect or buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) customers, almost two thirds — 64% — made one or more additional purchases while they were in the store.

While these numbers are possibly skewed a little by consumers’ urge to nail down a Black Friday special, it seems clear that click and collect represents a genuine and growing sales and customer loyalty building opportunity. Well, it does only if you’re good at it. Here are two questions retailers should ask themselves:

  1. When the customer comes in to collect the order in your store, is the item there and ready for pickup?
  2. Do you have a simple, customer-friendly process? In other words, can the BOPIS customer make their pickup without having to stand in a checkout line and is it easy for your customer to find the pickup area?

When It Goes Wrong

Here’s an example of what can happen when the answer to either of those questions is no. I recently spoke with a friend who’s a long time customer of a large, well-known chain with a very good reputation for customer service. She called the store nearest to her recently and asked for an item she needed for an upcoming trip; she was told it was in stock, gave them her credit card number, and arranged to pick it up on her way to the airport. It will be, she was told, at the special services desk.

When she arrived at the special services desk, not only was the item not there, they had no record of the transaction. They sent the customer upstairs to the department the item would have come from, where there was also no record of the transaction. So she was sent to yet a third place, with the same result. After 20 minutes of this, she left the store empty-handed but with a lot of frustration, and went to the airport. Eventually somebody at the store found her purchase and sent it to her, along with an apology and a store credit. She’s shopped with this company for years, and is still a semi-loyal customer.

That’s the good news. The bad news is this: every day, on her way to work, she passes within a hundred yards of the mall entrance for that store. “I’ll still use them for particular things, but to click on something and pop in and get it? I’m like, no way. I don’t have 20 minutes to spend chasing around.” In other words, she’s not giving them another chance when it comes to click and collect.

The Empowered Associate

Multiply that one instance by the number of people now trying click and collect — nearly 36 million of them on Black Friday weekend, according to ICSC’s numbers — and you have the potential for a lot of lost opportunity. The question is, how do you prevent that from happening?

I’m tempted to say technology — my employer, after all, is a company that develops technological solutions for the retail industry — but that’s only part of the answer. The retailer in the story above, for example, is by no means averse to technology; they were one of the first to put a tablet in the hands of their associates. What may have happened is that they thought, okay, we’ve done that; check the box and move on.

This is not a new story in retail. Retailers, and not for groundless reasons, tend to have a real fear of failure. Trying something new, at least in a pilot program, is common; rolling out to their associates usually follows the pilot; however, ongoing investment in it, making changes as the business and the customers change, is less common. Giving associates (or customer service representatives) the autonomy paired with the right tools and current, necessary information to handle a customer order from end to end is also fairly uncommon. I have seen a few examples of brute force making click and collect ‘work,’ but that is not a long term, scalable solution.

The Loyalty System

The point here is that the associate, the autonomy (“I can fix this for you, ma’am”), and the data the associate is working from are not freestanding elements; they’re part of a larger system. And the purpose of the system isn’t just to save a sale on a Black Friday special. It’s to cement the customer relationship. It’s to build loyalty with that customer so you are first in mind for their shopping decisions. It’s to enable your employees to do the best they can.

And the purpose of a loyalty system is customer retention. According to figures from conversion rate specialists Invesp, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as to keep an existing one — even with the occasional appeasement. Compared to new customers, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products, and to spend 31% more money.

If you’re a retailer and you’re offering click and collect, the in-store pickup is a make-it-or-break-it moment for customer loyalty. If it’s not easy, if the first associate the customer encounters can’t find the item, or worst of all if the item isn’t really there in the store, you’ve lost a customer.

Where Is It?

The core of this system we’re talking about — the thing you have to have to make it work well — is inventory accuracy. Which is a lot rarer than it needs to be. According to the Auburn University RFID Lab, the average level of inventory accuracy for U.S. retailers is 65%, meaning that more than a third of the time, the average retailer can’t tell where a particular item is, or whether they even have it in stock.

If you’re one of those retailers — maybe even one of the ones below 65% — this isn’t a criticism, or necessarily a problem. It’s an opportunity. Let’s just say a 3% improvement in inventory accuracy delivers a 1% overall sales lift. If a store managed to get from 65% accuracy to 93% — which, with the right systems in place, is totally doable — it would net a 9% increase in gross sales, with no other investment required.

It would also vastly improve your ability to execute an omnichannel strategy. If you don’t have 90%+ inventory accuracy, and you don’t have your merchandising and inventory data tied together and easily accessible to everyone who needs the information, you’re handicapping yourself in today’s — and tomorrow’s — retail market.

Single View Of Inventory

For example, retailers such as John Lewis — the largest omnichannel retailer in the UK — realized it was time to embark on a journey to a single view of inventory in order to meet the growing expectations of customers for convenience, choice and experience. They were finding multiple versions of stock information across their various systems and decided to make a change. “John Lewis wanted to implement a full end-to-end solution that fully integrated with the supplier. The new process would give us the information around a product and ability to launch a product online. Fundamentally, the benefits we’re driving will increase the speed to market with a seamless process working with new and existing systems,” said Susan Young, Head of Merchandising Strategy at John Lewis Partnership.

If retailers want to ensure their customers keep coming back, having a customer-friendly BOPIS process seems to be a good start. And to start that BOPIS process off on the right track, they need to put in place the processes and the complementary technology for associates to truly handle a customer order from end to end.


Carla Anderson is Senior Director: Merchandising Strategy at Oracle Retail.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Carla Anderson, Oracle Retail) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 01 May 2019 08:00:00 -0400
Why The Retail Supply Chain Demands Digital Transformation https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/why-the-retail-supply-chain-demands-digital-transformation https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/why-the-retail-supply-chain-demands-digital-transformation

0aaaGraham Parker GravitySupplyChainDigital transformation is at the top of the agenda for many retailers; however, this is only the beginning of the retail industry’s efforts to embrace digital change. According to a 2018 report by SAP, only 22% of retailers investing in digital transformation were within the planning stage, and 55% were still running pilot schemes. Evidently, there was still a long way to go, as only 3% of retail businesses had completed digital transformation projects.

Consumer demand has shifted, with fast-changing preferences seeing consumers demanding the products they want, when they want and where they want them. Today’s consumer lives in an ‘always-on’ world, driven by connected technologies centered around convenience. The retail sector has been slow to keep pace with this changing consumer demand, and unless it can accelerate the pace of digital transformation, the gulf between consumer demand and satisfaction will only grow wider, placing customer loyalty at risk.

If retailers are to protect customer loyalty, and be able to both sustain and also increase sales, they must work quickly to reduce lead times and business cycles to get the products that consumers want, where they want them and when they want them.

The Business Case For Digital Transformation Of The Supply Chain

Attempting to digitally transform without a robust infrastructure in place is a virtually impossible task. Recently, a major U.S. retailer faced escalating complaints from customers who could not find the items they wanted because they were frequently out of stock; this was due to the retailer’s supply chain not being reliable enough to keep pace with what customers wanted.

In response, the management team decided to invest in the digital transformation of its supply chain, to shorten replenishment times, optimize deliveries, and ultimately be able to match supply with demand. Shortly after doing so, they were able to reduce retail cycle times by 20%, leading to increased sales. In future, they anticipate even better results, and the ability to achieve a 60% total reduction in retail cycle time.

However, this is just one example of how digital transformation, particularly of the supply chain, can help retailers meet the challenging demands of today’s consumer, generating business growth and success. The findings of significant research institutes also support this fact. Bain & Company found that retailers that integrate digital technologies into their supply chain rapidly improve service levels while cutting costs by up to 30%. McKinsey discovered that companies that strongly digitize their supply chain could expect to boost their annual growth of earnings before interest and taxes by 3.2% — the most substantial increase from digitizing any business area — and the annual revenue growth by 2.3%.

What Digital Transformation Demands

The business case for retailers to digitally transform their supply chain is compelling. The reason digital transformation can generate such impressive business results is that it provides retailers with the following game-changing capabilities:

  • Real time visibility across the supply network, allowing retailers to view the live status of products no matter where they are along the critical path, e.g. in production, in transit or in inventory; allowing data-driven decision making with certainty and ensuring the timely delivery of products.
  • Automation of time-consuming manual data entry, e.g. keying in data on bookings, purchase orders or sailing schedules. Automated operations streamline the workflow of supply chain managers, saving them hours of time and allowing them to focus on more value-added tasks, such as negotiating better vendor prices or implementing growth strategies.
  • Enhanced collaboration with all relevant stakeholders sees logistics providers, factories, global teams and departments all on one platform, enabling information to be shared quickly and easily, rather than being spread out across multiple sources such as spreadsheets or emails.
  • AI and ML capabilities enable businesses to predict what customers want before they even want them, and make supply chain optimizations to synchronize supply with predicted demand, with little or no need for human intervention. AI and ML will power ‘cognitive’ supply chains, the final phase of digital transformation. Reaching cognitive functionality will take time and requires digitization as the first step (e.g. the points mentioned above such as automating manual processes).

These features increase efficiency and speed to market, and allow retail companies to satisfy their consumers with timely deliveries.

Culture Must Change Too

A caveat to the discussion so far is that the digital transformation of the supply chain by itself is not enough to improve supply chain performance and take it to the next level. Retail companies must also create a workplace culture that encourages employees across the supply chain and buying floor to collaborate more, share data and not operate in silos, in order to take full advantage of the benefits that a digitized supply chain will provide. Both sets of employees exist to deliver the product to the consumer, and should be aligned and collaborating in tandem.

An Opportunity Not To Be Missed

According to the IDC, there is a gap within the retail sector between retailers that are starting to embark on the journey of digital transformation with a defined strategy, and others that are lagging with no clear goals on how to incorporate digital technology. The IDC warns that retail companies on the lower end of the spectrum are putting their competitiveness at risk; which is why it is critical that you don't get left behind.

A Staged Approach

Trying to digitally transform an entire supply chain in one phase can be a daunting and overwhelming prospect. The best way to start is by identifying and fixing the immediate weaknesses in the supply chain (e.g. time to market), with a long term goal to evolve in entirety. Once people in the organization start to see the benefits from digitally transforming those parts of the supply chain that need it the most, the process of digitizing the rest of the supply chain to achieve even more significant benefits will organically take place. Evolution comes from robust and proactive decision making, vision and openness to change, essentially trusting both the data and the source of the data. Real-time visibility begins to install the trust element, so the rest will follow naturally.


Gravity Supply Chain Solutions CEO Graham Parker has spent over three decades working in the supply chain industry and has seen first-hand how the traditional linear supply chain model has grown obsolete. Heading into the company’s fifth year, Parker is responsible for executing on the vision, leading the Board and the investor base. There are high expectations for the platform, and how Gravity Supply Chain can take its customers on the autonomous journey through digital supply chain management and on to cognitive supply chain management. Of equal importance is ensuring that the company provides a healthy, stable structure for all employees, so they realize just how integral each person is to help the company grow and achieve its targets and objectives.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Graham Parker, Gravity Supply Chain Solutions) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 18 Apr 2019 08:00:36 -0400
Establishing Zero Distance Supply Chains – A Survival Necessity For CPG https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/establishing-zero-distance-supply-chains-a-survival-necessity-for-cpg https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/establishing-zero-distance-supply-chains-a-survival-necessity-for-cpg Establishing Zero Distance Supply Chains – A Survival Necessity For CPG

(Left: Takshay Aggarwal, Middle: Manish Varshney, Right: Kishor Gummaraju)

The key mission of every CPG company is to deliver its brand promise. The Baby Boomer generation drove the growth of packaged goods and made companies like Kellogg’s, P&G and Kraft Heinz household names and darlings of Wall Street.

While the growth in the last three decades has been good, this engine has been slowing and has come to a grinding halt in the last five years, in the range of 0.6% to 1.0% growth. In addition, stocks of major CPG companies hit 52-week lows in a roaring stock market.

What ails these companies? Why is growth a challenge? Is there a way out?

One needs to look closely at what is happening.

Changing Consumer Habits And Preferences

Consumers today expect to be able to buy almost anything, anywhere, at any time and at low prices. Gen Z and Millennials are looking at niche, healthy, organic, local, sustainable and authentic brands. The emergence of direct-to-consumer business models has further resulted in companies like Dollar Shave Club and Amazon being a lot closer to the consumer and their preferences than traditional CPG companies.

Eroding High Entry Barriers To Market

For CPG companies, it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to build a brand, 18-36 months to bring new products to market, and equal time in parallel to negotiate with retailers to get products on shelves. This served as a bulwark against any small companies; the cost of business was too high.

Things changed when Google, Amazon, and Quirky entered the picture. Quirky just needs your idea to design and manufacture on your behalf. GoDaddy just needs your credit card to start up your web site. Search engine optimization (SEO) will make you stand out, Amazon will provide you virtual shelf space to sell your products and drop ship orders as they come in. The barriers to starting up a business have eroded. This has resulted in the emergence of localized niche players that target micro segments and chip away at revenue growth.

Outdated Supply Chain Capabilities

CPG supply chains were built as linear value chains. This linearity brings with it the inherent inefficiency of supply chain latency, impacting the ability of the supply chain to react to real-time changes in demand. Coupled with this, the rise of direct-to-consumer business models has resulted in a need to orchestrate their supply chains across pallets, eaches, drop ship and last mile delivery. This is something that the CPG value chains are not geared for.

Establishing The Zero Distance Supply Chain

All this has resulted in an existential crisis for many CPG companies. It is imperative that they figure out a way to deliver on the needs of the consumer — in her preferred channel, at the right time, and at the right price. This requires a supply chain that is able to sense and respond to consumer needs in the most efficient manner. This is what we call a Zero Distance Supply Chain — a supply chain that is at zero distance to the consumer.

CPG companies will thus need to figure out an effective way to operate in this new omnichannel context. Their supply chains will need to orchestrate brand promise across multiple business models ranging from direct-to-consumer, drop ship for Amazon and Jet.com to traditional retailers. They will need to evolve into highly efficient, loosely held networks across different players in the consumer ecosystem.

Newer capabilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT combined with the improvement in computing capacity have now made it possible to build solutions that are able to intelligently orchestrate the supply chain in near real time. Supply chains can effectively respond to demand signals, weather events and inventory issues in a timely manner without excessive human interaction.

Making It Happen

However, making this happen is no easy task. It involves building new technology capabilities while ensuring that the existing business operations are not impacted. It also involves a significant rethinking of business processes and work practices. The keys to success are best understood by the learnings from partnering with a very large CPG company looking at re-architecting its supply chain planning function.

Delivery in agile sprints: Solving all the supply chain planning functions at once is like boiling the ocean. Hence it is critical to assess all the functions but work on the solution in agile sprints, delivering value at quick and regular intervals.

Rethink the processes and roles: It is not sufficient to put in AI, machine learning and automation. It is also very important to rethink how the supply chain functions would operate in the new context. The new capabilities create bandwidth for planners to be able to perform other strategic and value-added tasks. This also results in changes to job profiles and KPIs, which need to be planned for.

Drive the cultural change: Adoption of these new capabilities requires a culture willing to learn and experiment. CPG companies have traditionally reveled in picture-perfect planning with action items running in hundreds of lines, with a high degree of finality to everything. As a senior CPG executive put it, “Detailed planning and predictable outcomes have made us extremely successful but are the biggest hindrances to adopting an agile culture.”

Results Achieved And New Capabilities

The results we’ve achieved with this CPG firm have resulted in the following capabilities:

  • Real-time planning of supply chain in seconds versus days with current planning applications
  • Autopilot supply planning capability — planners intervene only in case of exceptions not handled by machine, resulting in a significant reduction in planning effort
  • A self-learning system that can anticipate issues and learn from new data

The benefits we have been able to realize have also been substantial:

  • An improvement in service levels by 0.1%
  • A greater than 50% improvement in productivity
  • A one-day reduction in on-hand inventory

Conclusion

Establishing a Zero Distance Supply Chain, which is able to sense and respond in an efficient manner in near real time, is key in the new omnichannel environment.

Establishing this is not a simple task. However, taking a comprehensive yet pragmatic approach of tackling all aspects of technology, process, people and culture can help realize value while establishing the foundation for the future.


Takshay Aggarwal is Associate Partner at Infosys Consulting with extensive experience in supply chain, operations and business development . He helps companies across industries leverage disruptive technologies like AI, ML  and digital capabilities to evolve their operating models and transform their businesses to effectively serve their customers while scaling operations efficiently.

Manish Varshney is a Senior Principal in Infosys consulting in Retail, CPG practice with 18+ years of experience across Fortune 500 companies. He is leading the Automation Practice in Infosys Consulting focusing on CPG processes specifically in Digital Supply Chain and Master Data.

Kishor Gummaraju is a managing partner at Infosys Consulting with extensive experience in consulting, innovation, business development and running business operations. He has been responsible for delivering large business transformation programs and significant innovations in the manufacturing, retail and CPG industry. His current area of focus is driving value leveraging AI and intelligent automation – and scaling its capabilities across key U.S. clients.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Takshay Aggarwal, Manish Varshney and Kishor Gummaraju, Infosys) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 16 Apr 2019 08:07:12 -0400
Kroger Says: Houston, We Have Autonomous Delivery https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/inventory-merchandising-supply-chain/kroger-says-houston-we-have-autonomous-delivery https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/inventory-merchandising-supply-chain/kroger-says-houston-we-have-autonomous-delivery Kroger Says: Houston, We Have Autonomous Delivery

Kroger is expanding its self-driving delivery pilot to two Houston stores in spring 2019. Kroger and robotics company Nuro have operated a self-driving grocery delivery service in Scottsdale, Ariz. for a Fry Food Stores location since August 2018, serving a single zip code with an autonomous vehicle fleet and completing thousands of deliveries, according to a company statement.

Customers in four Houston ZIP codes served by the new program will be able to place orders for same-day or next-day delivery via Kroger.com or the Kroger mobile app, based on time slot availability. The service, to be available seven days a week, will carry a $5.95 flat fee, with no minimum order requirement.

In Scottsdale, the company used autonomous Toyota Priuses, which also will be used for the initial deliveries in Houston. Later this year, however, the retailer will switch to the Nuro R1 custom unmanned vehicle.With no driver or passengers, the R1 travels on public roads and only transports goods. The vehicle has been in development since 2016.

For its 2018 fiscal year, the supermarket giant saw digital sales jump 58%, and it expanded online grocery delivery and/or pickup service to 91% of households in its major markets. With this much penetration in grocery delivery and pickup, Kroger has plenty of areas where it can test the driverless technology next.

“Our Arizona pilot program confirmed the flexibility and benefits provided by autonomous vehicles and how much customers are open to more innovative solutions,” said Yael Cosset, Chief Digital Officer at Kroger in a statement. “It's always been our shared vision to scale this initiative to new markets, using world-changing technology to enable a new type of delivery service for our customers. We operate 102 stores in Houston — an energetic market that embraces digital and technology advancement. The launch is one more way we are committed to sustainably providing our customers with anything, anytime, and anywhere, the way they want it.”

Numerous major players have started autonomous delivery pilots designed for same-day or next-day delivery, including Walmart, Amazon and most recently FedEx, which is collaborating with Walmart, AutoZone, Lowe’s, Target and Walgreens in ways that the companies have not yet specified.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) Inventory / Merchandising / Supply Chain Fri, 15 Mar 2019 12:05:27 -0400
Happy Returns Debuts Self-Service Return Kiosks https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/happy-returns-debuts-self-service-return-kiosks https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/happy-returns-debuts-self-service-return-kiosks

1happyreturnskioskHappy Returns, a provider of return and logistics solutions for retailers, has launched a new self-service return kiosk designed to provide consumers with a simplified way to return online purchases in stores.

The kiosks — which can be branded for the retailer — are equipped with an integrated tablet that helps consumers securely look up orders and select items to return or exchange. Shoppers are then prompted to put their returns through a tamper-proof door. According to Happy Returns, the process takes less than 60 seconds per item, and refunds and exchanges are initiated in real time.

Once the return is finalized, retailers can immediately add items back onto store shelves or they can utilize Happy Returns’ reverse logistics services, which are positioned to help manage the inspection, processing and disposition of the items to local Return Hubs.

“Our experience working at HauteLook/Nordstrom Rack and working with dozens of other retailers at Happy Returns informed our approach to managing the growing volume of online returns in physical stores,” said David Sobie, Co-Founder and CEO of Happy Returns in a statement. “The new self-service return kiosk incorporates all we have learned about delivering a return experience that’s delightful for customers and more efficient and cost-effective for retailers.”

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Klaudia Tirico) News Briefs Wed, 06 Mar 2019 09:21:46 -0500
Rituals Cosmetics Deploys Supply Chain Software To Enhance Product Visibility https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/rituals-cosmetics-deploys-supply-chain-software-to-enhance-product-visibility https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/rituals-cosmetics-deploys-supply-chain-software-to-enhance-product-visibility Rituals Cosmetics Deploys Supply Chain Software To Enhance Product Visibility

Rituals Cosmetics, a European home and body cosmetics retailer with 730 stores around the world, has selected Logility Voyager Solutions to establish a robust sales and operations planning (S&OP) process, improve service levels and enhance visibility across its omnichannel operations.

The retailer also is leveraging the AI-based software platform to:

  • Increase its forecast accuracy;
  • Minimize the potential for lost sales; and
  • Support the speed and frequency of new product innovations.

Previously, Rituals Cosmetics conducted its monthly forecasting with a combination of disconnected tools and spreadsheets. This potentially error-prone process limited the cross-functional collaboration and decision-making needed to stay ahead of rapidly changing consumer preferences.

“Rituals Cosmetics’ ability to deliver the highest quality products and exceptional service our clientele expects requires accurate visibility across our supply chain, from sourcing and manufacturing through to customer delivery,” said Mark Hoppenbrouwers, Director of Supply Chain at Rituals Cosmetics in a statement. “It is important to us that our customers have many opportunities to interact with us, for example via our own shops and web site as well as traditional luxury department stores, perfumeries, pure players, airports, spas, hotels and more. Logility will help us omnichannel-proof our retail planning and supply chain processes for each sales channel and product category.”

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 31 Jan 2019 17:44:52 -0500
Direct-To-Consumer Brands Set To Soar In 2019: 3rd-Party Logistics Firms Help Fuel Growth https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/direct-to-consumer-brands-set-to-soar-in-2019-3rd-party-logistics-firms-help-fuel-growth https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/direct-to-consumer-brands-set-to-soar-in-2019-3rd-party-logistics-firms-help-fuel-growth

0aaaEsther Kestenbaum RubyHasFulfillmentWe’ve all heard the radio ads and seen the TV commercials — from socks and bedsheets to bras, hair color and more — brands that are bypassing Amazon and major traditional retail and online resellers by selling direct-to-consumer are revolutionizing the retail industry. This trend will continue in 2019 as direct-to-consumer brands expand beyond e-Commerce to brick-and-mortar. Despite predictions of a “retail apocalypse,” it’s evident that both online and even brick-and-mortar retail is alive and well, especially when compelling and experiential.

Why are these brands so successful? Because they’re listening to their customers. Today’s customers expect an excellent product and a personalized experience, and successful brands are taking note. But there’s more: According to Epsilon research, eight out of 10 customers prefer to buy directly from a brand when shopping online. They want choices, but not too many. They want ease of access and demand top-notch customer service. Customers want it all, and to stay competitive, brands must deliver.

Successful brands understand the need to control the brand messaging all along the customer journey, and not just online. That means extending and being true to their brand promise in the real world, including correct and on-time delivery, packaging, inserts, ease of returns, customer service and more. In an age when Yelp and Google reviews can make or break any brand, it is crucial to work directly with the customer to address any issues that come up between purchase and fulfillment.

Digitally-driven direct-to-consumer brands don’t grow linearly, rather, they experience growth spurts and surges, including the well-known “hockey-stick” curve, where scaling happens dramatically at an inflection point. One day there are a few dozen or a few hundred orders per day, the next day there’s a mention on TV or a celebrity wears an item, which then gets captured on social media, and suddenly there are tens of thousands of orders. It’s not always possible to predict exactly when this kind of surge will happen. So when direct-to-consumer brands anticipate growth, scalability is critical.

Because the devil is in the details, many of the top performing direct-to-consumer brands have thoughtfully chosen to fully outsource their fulfillment services so that they can focus on what they do best — developing and marketing wonderful products. They want to give their customers low-price shipping options while delivering a top-tier, personalized customer experience.

When selecting a third-party logistics company here are a few questions brands should be asking:

1. Do they offer seamless API integrations?

Can the third-party logistics company you are considering seamlessly integrate with major e-Commerce platforms and order management systems?

2. Are they bi-coastal?

Your business is national and your options for shipping and storage should be as well. Find a fulfillment company with East and West Coast warehouses so your business can scale with a single software system, single point of contact and one single, unified provider.

3. How is their reliability?

Research. Research. Research. Find a fulfillment company that is reliable, and that can get the job done on time, every time. Do not settle for less. How can this be measured? Ask about their retention rates. How many of their customers stay with them year over year? How much attrition do they experience?

4. How do they scale?

As a direct-to-consumer brand, you are in a unique space. One day you can have 20 orders, and the next two thousand. With a newer brand, there may not be enough data points to know when a larger volume of orders will come through, and your fulfillment provider has to be prepared to scale with you. This is where things get tricky, and many fulfillment companies fail. Choose a third-party logistics company that works with brands like yours — one that understands scalability and will act fast to provide the same exceptional quality regardless of the number of orders placed. Ask providers for anecdotal stories of how they have scaled through sharp growth.

5. Do they truly provide customer satisfaction?

Your customers are your bread and butter. They believe in your product, often promoting your brand through word-of-mouth, online reviews and social media. Retention is just as critical as growth. Keep your customers happy. When it comes to fulfillment services, customers want orders delivered as promised — a quality product in the size/unit they purchased, neatly packaged with a timely arrival. Finding a company that gets it right virtually 100% of the time? Impossible. Select a fulfillment company that gets it right 99% of the time, and that will handle all customer service concerns directly — a company that stands by your brand promises and services customers with sensitivity and efficiency.  

6. Can you schedule a visit?

Whether you end up actually visiting or not, a fulfillment company worth its salt will welcome and encourage a visit. They’ll be proud to show off their scale, robotics and systems. The response to a request to visit, and what you see if you actually do, will tell you volumes about how they will be to work with.

Making the switch to a third-party logistics company, or switching to a new and more effective one, can be liberating and may transform your business; that is why the most successful and innovative brands understand that it’s the best way to fuel both growth and longevity.


 

Esther Kestenbaum is President/COO, Ruby Has Fulfillment. She has been in leadership and C-Suite roles within venture-backed e-Commerce and retail technology companies for 20 years, including several exits — both acquisitions and IPOs. Prior to her role as President and COO at Ruby Has, she was CEO of DayOne, a baby and prenatal e-Commerce and retail as well as B2B services company, and prior to that was founder and CEO of TheShops.TV, an e-Commerce company leveraging QVC-style video. Prior to that she was in SVP and VP roles with retail marketing technology companies including Mobile, Ad tech, and Data Analytics. In addition to all qualifications for C-suite operational roles, Kestenbaum has a strong background in fundraising, corporate governance, and media relations along with significant supply chain background and certifications such as Six Sigma Black Belt and the APICS CPIM certification.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Esther Kestenbaum, Ruby Has Fulfillment) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 31 Jan 2019 08:56:40 -0500
Rise Of Returns: How Retail Can Combat Its $351 Billion Problem https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/rise-of-returns-how-retail-can-combat-its-351-billion-problem https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/rise-of-returns-how-retail-can-combat-its-351-billion-problem

0aaaValerie Metzker RoadieThe next time you think about returning an item to Amazon, be forewarned: Return too many items in a year, and you might just be exiled for good.

Retail returns have become such a nightmare that even the world’s third largest retailer has recently made waves by changing how it handles customers the company thinks abuse the system — despite touting a free and easy returns policy.

There’s no doubt Amazon’s decision is a controversial one. But its choice to ban return-happy customers, in an effort to reduce returns costs, shows the lengths retailers are willing to go. Last year, total merchandise returns cost US retailers a staggering $351 billion in lost sales. With e-Commerce return rates as high as 30%, that number will only climb as online retail becomes the default choice for convenience-craving customers.

Just take a look at popular online clothing seller Revolve, which made $400 million in net sales last year, but shelled out $385 million for returns. That doesn’t even take shipping costs into account.

Revolve and Amazon are just two of the hundreds of retailers grappling with these losses. Despite growing concerns, many retailers see free and flexible return policies as an essential part of staying competitive — ignoring (for now) the risk that this billion-dollar “ticking time bomb” might one day go off.

That’s why many retailers are finding new alternatives to speed up resales, create more convenient returns experiences and use flexible policies as a customer selling point.

Crowdsourcing Delivery For Faster, 1:1 Customer Returns

The rise of online retail has created new customer expectations for fast, flexible services that cater to their needs. While many retailers are ramping up same-day delivery, few have focused on returns. Even Amazon requires most customers to drop off returns at the post office, despite customer demand for more convenient options.

So why not offer customers at-home pick up? Retailers schedule a pickup through a crowdsourced delivery fleet, customers leave items outside their doors, and then someone picks it up that very same day.

More than convenience, crowdsourcing returns allows for faster, and even same-day, restock and resell. Given that less than half of returned items are resold at full price, margin-conscious retailers are under enormous pressure to turn around product while it can still be sold a full ticket value.

Investing In Return Optimization Technology

Instead of abandoning returns at a distribution center or landfill, retailers are looking to emerging startups to help solve their reverse logistics issues.These tech-enabled partnerships have become increasingly important since retail’s omnichannel transformation.

Based on real-time data, Optoro predicts where to route returned items and determines the most profitable resale price. While at the same time, Happy Returns provides centralized, in-person return locations for online retailers.

Some companies even try to prevent a return from happening in the first place. Supply.ai’s ReturnSense tracks customer behavior in real time and detects the likelihood of a future return, giving retailers an opportunity to intervene and suggest a different product.

Taking Advantage Of Your Physical Footprint

The emergence of omnichannel e-Commerce has made way for major U.S. retailers, from Walmart and Macy’s to The Home Depot, to use brick-and-mortar stores for speedier delivery. Now, top retailers are leveraging ship-from-store capabilities to expedite returns, restocks and resale.  

For example, Best Buy has leveraged ship-from-store to accept returns at retail locations, list more “open-box” products online and speed up its resale process. That means when a customer in Atlanta returns a laptop in-store, Best Buy can then resell it online to a customer in New York that same day.

Rather than letting distressed inventory end up in waste piles, retailers stand to gain something out of their billion-dollar returns reality.  By implementing a strategic returns policy, retailers can quickly restock shelves, resell items at profit and build a more loyal customer base.

Who knows? Some may even start lifting the ban on customers who simply change their minds.


 

Valerie Metzker is the Head of Business Development at Roadie, the first on-the-way delivery service that connects people and businesses that have items to send with drivers already heading in the right direction. Roadie works with top retailers, airlines and grocers for a faster, more efficient, and more scalable solution for same-day and last-mile deliveries nationwide. With over 80,000 drivers, the company has delivered to more than 11,000 cities and towns nationwide — a larger footprint than Amazon Prime.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Valerie Metzker, Roadie) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 28 Jan 2019 09:23:08 -0500