Sales force transformation in the omnichannel era - focus on logistics and IS

Procurement - Retail Universe

The first part of this article enabled us to understand the transformations taking place in the sales force. These transformations have a direct impact on sales staff and their relationship with the customer, their mode of operation and their place in the company's overall ecosystem. But this is only the tip of the iceberg: for such a transformation to work, particularly in terms of the resources made available, the logistics and management of information systems (IS) must also be in place.

When the logistical challenge is to control key points in the supply and distribution chain, the IS approach is much broader in the sense that it involves a complete paradigm shift. We're moving from a siloed, compartmentalized approach to one that aims to make the various systems flow more smoothly and communicate with each other, within a unified logic.

Companies must adopt an omnichannel approach to logistics

Inventory management - Retail universe

The aim is to streamline the supply chain and inventory management by anticipating demand as accurately as possible, so as to be able to respond appropriately when it arises, and this on any channel. To achieve this, several aspects need to be mastered:

  • Inventory control

Stock management is a crucial issue, since it's essential to avoid stock-outs. Stocks used to be compartmentalized by channel (dedicated stocks for e-commerce or retail, for example): nowadays, we often see the implementation of centralized stock management to optimize sales on the different channels.

Using a unified repository also simplifies omnichannel inventory management. All the more so as it can be very fine-tuned. In particular, we are seeing the development of adapted pickings (integrating, for example, the notions of reserved stock or safety stock), reflecting the actual state of stock. Clearly, data plays a key role here, as it is the key to informed decision-making.

The challenge is to ensure that the various systems are synchronized so that the data is always reliable, whether it's for direct exposure to the consumer on an e-commerce site, or simply to enable the salesperson to implement a phygital strategy.

  • Controlling supply

Efficient inventory management requires a fluid, responsive supply chain. This includes, but is not limited to, good demand forecasting, in order to have good order proposals. Here again, it's vital to have a real-time view of the different supply "stages", and of the goods that are actually going to be delivered, as well as their origin.

Procurement - Retail UniverseOmnichannel allows us, if our management is fine-tuned enough, to operate as close to just-in-time as possible, and to prioritize demand. This is all the more important now that we are seeing the development of purchasing actions that are uncorrelated with stock decrement, such as e-commerce orders picked up on D+3. Smooth supply management therefore makes it possible to prioritize requestsand to meet the needs of as many people as possible. But the challenge here is also to bring value to the end customer. Meeting demand doesn't just mean having the goods in stock.

The liability responsibility is one of today's most scrutinized value criteria for consumers, it's easy to see why traceability (and above all, the ability to return it to the consumer) has become a major concern in the retail sector. Real-time visibility of the entire supply chain, and the collection and integration of data supplier data into internal information systems, helps to reduce the opacity of operations and guarantee transparency for the end customer.

Where this may be a legal requirement (e.g. for butchers in supermarkets), certain players have not waited to fully exploit the potential offered by such visibility. Here again, the Etam brand can be considered one of the pioneers in this field, since it introduced a system of QR codes on product labels as early as 2020 (80% of the lingerie offer is concerned) which, when scanned by the end customer via their smartphone, provides direct and instant access to video and information about the factory in which the product was manufactured. Initiatives in the Fashion Sector are also under development, with Maje recently conceding that they are working on a similar technology.

  • Controlling demand

In order to control the supply chain, it is essential to control demand, whether immaterial (as seen above) or in terms of products or volumes, whatever the market. As far as products are concerned, trends are by their very nature volatile, and differ from one market to another (not least because of cultural differences), so it's important to know your market in order to be able to source accordingly within reasonable timescales. As far as volumes are concerned, numerous solutions (some of them based on artificial intelligence) can be used to produce reliable and fairly accurate sales forecasts, by processing historical data and integrating various parameters (exceptional events, seasonality, etc.).

The aim is twofold: to enable the right decisions to be made concerning overall sourcing, but also concerning the sales channel to be favored. Omnichannel means optimizing sales through different channels, and making them work seamlessly together to enable the consumer to move from one to the other. But it doesn't necessarily mean exploiting these different channels in a similar, undifferentiated way. It's all about personalization and differentiation, even within a unified omnichannel strategy.

  • Consumer control

As we saw earlier, the consumer is once again at the heart of the sales force's new role. While supply and inventory management act as facilitators, it is ultimately consumer knowledge and the ability to make personalized recommendations and optimize the customer journey that make the difference.

But beyond customer data (consumption habits, personal information, etc.), which must be collected, restored and exploited as accurately as possible, the challenge is also to improve the customer experience through the technical means made available. For example, we are seeing the development of payment solutions on tablets, in-store ordering (when the product is out of stock but available through other channels, hence the importance of centralized stock management), and virtual booths.

Information Systems: "conductors" of omnichannel strategy implementation

SI - Retail UniverseThe importance of information systems is clear: from mass retailing to the luxury goods industry, the commitment of information systems departments is crucial to the success of omnichannel strategies for all retail players.

This is one of the reasons why IS projects aimed at optimizing business and/or technical processes in order to accelerate information processing and thus respond more effectively to customer needs are currently legion in the retail world. As a result, we're seeing a growing number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects.ERP(enterprise resource planning, e.g. NetSuite, published by Oracle). These are more or less complete, and are often complemented by the implementation of WMS(warehouse management system, such as SAP or REFLEX),OMS(order management system, such as SALESFORCE) or TMS(transport management system, such as LIS or ANDSOFT).

Even if the tools are not unique, the challenge is to be able to interface them so that they communicate with each other in real time, thus providing global visibility on a unified front, particularly for the sales force. Above and beyond the technical efficiency of information systems, it is their ability to work together and synchronize with each other that will enable the right data to be collected, distributed and restored from end to end, at the right time, and thus enable the right decisions to be taken by all the players involved, from salesperson to consumer.

In fact, the resources made available must serve as facilitators, and not disrupt the sales force. That's why the CIO's role doesn't stop at making these resources available. Customer service takes on even greater importance, as the sales force needs to master all the tools at their disposal (hence the importance of business involvement in screen design), and be able to resolve any technical problems quickly. Real end-to-end support must be put in place to fully exploit the potential offered by the technical resources made available.

Paris_Retail_Week_2021Visit Paris Retail Week was also an opportunity to discover a number of solutions, such as the " Octave Unit "A ERP sales management system providing centralized inventory management, a single repository thanks to PIM tools, with integrated digital interfaces (e-commerce and vendor mobility), a cash register for points of sale and numerous functions specific to retail and/or digital (e.g. CRM or operational and decision-making reporting tools).

The appeal of this type of solution is that it enables you to :

  1. Accompany the transformation of the salesperson's role, by providing him or her with the means to be more efficient, both in day-to-day practice (managing deliveries, orders, inventories, etc.) and in customer relations (having a good level of information).
  2. Facilitate unified, decompartmentalized management of the information system, to make it more coherent and better able to meet different business needs.
  3. Streamline the customer journey, making it seamless and optimized

By Léa Veryepe