Guest Blog, Daniel O'Toole: The importance of data in supply chain - The Retail & Hospitality Design Forum
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  • Guest Blog, Daniel O’Toole: The importance of data in supply chain

    Changing consumer trends are placing retailers under tremendous pressure, as well as the highest expectation to have exactly what consumers require in stock at the time they want it. Gone are the days of apologising and promising to get an item delivered in store at a later date; if you haven’t got the stock available there and then, your competitor more than likely will.

    Retailers who struggle with managing stock can put it down to their supply chain. Supplies come from all over the world and customer behaviour is predicted by increasingly complex data sets that sometimes can build more confusion rather than provide clarity.

    At Retail Merchandising Services (RMS) we have worked in distribution centres, retailer warehouses and on the shop floor. Thanks to this, we’ve seen all aspects of the supply chain, and the problems that can be encountered. In a demanding environment, it is important retailers accurately track their stock and have the tools in place to help them do so; or risk losing an already indifferent customer base.

    Cloud-based software is something I have personally seen retailers productively use. Stores generate reams and reams of data on a daily basis, and it’s a shame to see it wasted. There are different programmes about, but when retailers use these to manage the supply chain each aspect of the chain can get real-time updates regarding stock levels, and respond accordingly. This, coupled with an electronic tagging system, will allow retailers to effectively manage their stock levels and help to improve the supply chain flow.

    Of course, all this can be as streamlined as possible; however unexpected problems can still occur. Disruptions to the supply chain are fairly unpredictable and extremely hard to overcome, but there are networks that have the ability to predict supply chain disruptions and help companies to adapt their supply chain to lessen the effect on their business.

    When it comes to predicting consumer behaviour, having a supply chain that can instantly respond to demand is the best way to overcome this. Implementing real-time visibility across the supply chain means that manufacturers, distribution centres and warehouses can respond to the demands in store as they happen. Recording data will also help retailers to identify trends that are specific to them.

    I am constantly reading articles encouraging retailers to become omnichannel; meaning customers want to have the same shopping experience online as they would offline. This methodology also applies to the supply chain; the effort to ensure you have a high level of stock in store must be applied online. Customers who load up their shopping baskets only to be told that the item they want is out of stock at the online checkout, or worse when payment has been processed, won’t be coming back to your website any time soon.

    It is much easier for customers to shop elsewhere online, as it is a case of just opening another window, and with image search customers can find a product as close to yours as possible.

    Again, this comes down to collecting data and improving visibility across the supply chain. Retailers must get better at predicting consumer behaviour and delivering the best shopping experience possible, whether that’s in store, online or through a catalogue. Retailers can no longer get away with not utilising the data they generate, and will soon suffer the consequences if they do.


    Daniel is managing director at Retail Merchandising Services (RMS). RMS provides retail support services across the sector, including in- store and warehouse merchandising and back-end technology. Daniel is responsible for ensuring the company’s partners are providing the best retail experience to their customers. 


    Jack Wynn

    All stories by: Jack Wynn

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