The Unsung Hero of Retail Technology: Supply Chain Innovation
Chances are you’ve never heard of supply chain and fulfillment technology, or don’t give it a second thought unless your business requires it. However, supply chain technology is advanced and integral to retail, as the logistics of inventory planning, supply chain and fulfillment are enormously complicated.
Through every sector of the retail industry circle (e-commerce/e-tail, marketing, POS, online payments, etc.) we see that technology has shifted the power and dynamics from an “us vs. them” attitude to one of conversation and collaboration. The same seems to be happening behind the scenes with infrastructure technology. By offering a wide range of technology solutions at all sizes and price points, even the tough logistical parts of retail are now feasible for everyone.
There are myriad examples of these solutions: PAR SureCheck, for example, listed on Advancing Retail (an index of retail technology solutions), specializes in automated temperature control checks to avoid food-borne illnesses in grocery store supply chains. Shipwire will handle your small business e-commerce fulfillment, and provides dozens of software integrations to further streamline your supply chain. Companies like Shipwire, Fulfillrite, Whiplash, and others move the supply chain and fulfillment segment of the retail industry towards a more inclusive and collaborative future wherein anyone can afford to set up, run and grow a business.
The story of the Glif provides a clear narrative of how these solutions optimize the product development circle. The founder wrote a fantastic start to finish account of how he got his product off the ground and into customers’ hands in a matter of months. As he says, the fact that this was even possible, “signifies a shift in the way products are made and sold – a shift only made possible in the last couple years.” They point out that the retail industry is going through a massive shift, led by technology. The shift in power from the one to the many and opens up a brand new universe of possibilities, from top to bottom. The company that developed the Glif leveraged 13 different retail tech solutions to get their product from idea to consumer, including a fulfillment service. The founders note that this problem was one of their biggest, second only to manufacturing.
On the other end of the spectrum is Walmart. What has made them so wildly successful, in part, is mastering the task of getting the right amount of the right products to the right place at the right time. This is the foundation of their ability to move the most products at the right prices. Since Amazon expanded and improved their supply chain management (they even acquired an entire French delivery service in Q1), Walmart has been trying to catch up. They announced a 50%, or half a billion dollar, increase in budget between 2015 and 2016 for e-commerce and digital initiatives alone.
Up until recently, fulfillment was one piece of the retail circle that could not be tackled without a massive amount of resources. Now, supply chain and fulfillment technology behind the scenes is galvanizing large retailers to catch up and allowing the small guys to stitch an entire process together.
As with all the stories I've shared here, this is just one piece of the puzzle. Once we achieve an ecosystem of integrated technology solutions for every step in the product development circle, the way that products come to market will be forever changed.