CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
June 26, 2019
Forward Thinking

Retailers sharpen their focus on the supply chain

Companies made bigger investments in supply chain efficiency in 2018, tech vendor survey shows.

The most successful retailers are separating themselves from the pack through efficient supply chain management, according to a study sponsored by logistics technology vendor SymphonyRetailAI, released this month.

Four out of five retailers say they view their supply chain as a strength, according to the benchmark report Supply Chain Management 2018: In Service of the Customer, but they also say it's getting harder to keep up with forecasting and fulfillment demands, putting pressure on them to step up their supply chain investments.

"For as long as we've conducted this particular supply chain benchmark, we've called the supply chain the 'next big thing,'" said Brian Kilcourse, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, which conducted the study on behalf of SymphonyRetailAI. "This year's findings show that statement is still true, with retailers making serious investments in supply chain efficiency. Retailers understand that they are challenged to assess demand with a greater accuracy than ever before and to fulfill that demand in the ways that consumers expect."

The study points to two key problems that continue to put pressure on retailers: speed of fulfillment and the changing pattern of consumer demand. Although pervasive in 2017, the issues have become more pressing this year, the study authors said, with 59 percent of respondents listing fulfillment speed as a top concern and 51 percent citing changing consumer demand.

The study authors say "retail winners" are accelerating their investments in new data and technologies aimed at improving forecasting and execution, in particular.

"As the divide between those who address concerns and those who maintain the status quo becomes starker, consumers become less forgiving," the study authors said. "With shopper loyalty hanging in the balance, the requirement for retailers to identify areas of improvement and deploy innovative solutions at a more aggressive pace becomes more critical."

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