Retailers are Using this Supply Chain Strategy to Compete with E-commerce

Dustin Caudell
Thu, Apr 21, 2016
A deep product mix provides shoppers with multiple variations of merchandise.
A deep product mix provides shoppers with multiple variations of merchandise.

Nobody understands the ever-changing world of fashion better than retailers - at least they should if they want to carry merchandise consumers demand. Many industries need to constantly change, augment or increase the diversity of their available inventory if they want to stay competitive in a world where consumers know exactly what they want and won't settle for less.

Forbes credited clothing retailer Zara's continuous success to its ability to add a great number of new products on a yearly basis. Sales and profits for the company rose 15 percent between 2014 and 2015, and the brand stands as an example for other organizations looking to create a supply chain logistics management strategy able to keep up with rapidly expanding product mixes.

A business's product mix refers to the amount and diversity of its inventory. Companies - especially those facing online and global competition - can't afford to remain stagnant. As markets shift and audiences evolve, organizations have to shake up their product mixes to respond.

Look for Demand
To compete with e-commerce, many brick-and-mortar locations have to find inventory management solutions to give consumers the choices to which they are accustomed. People can find anything online. While physical stores offer multiple benefits e-commerce can't, they won't remain a viable option if selection is too limited.

Companies need solutions to track audience preferences. This could mean bar code software or other automated data collection systems to create real-time projections of which inventory moves or online surveys to gauge audience preference and interest. These details must become part of an inventory management system so organizations can plan purchases and distribution according to the most recent consumer demands.

Stores must stay vigilant. Business2Community said a major problem with product mix is it becomes irrelevant if it's not updated. Certain merchandise falls out of style, while other items may be replaced by upgraded versions.

Go for Depth
A product mix should be an extension of a company's unique place in an industry. This means inventory doesn't have to be a conglomerate of every possible option, but rather a carefully designed mixture of products relevant to a particular consumer group.

Increasing the variations of existing merchandise is called the depth of a product mix, according to Demand Media. When certain items prove popular, but a business recognizes new consumer wants, there may be similar products offering the best of both worlds. Before a company makes any changes, it should always explore the adjustments closest to its existing brand.

Offering products with small but vital differences could open a business to new consumer markets, but it can make things difficult for inventory workers. It's usually smart to implement automated data collection solutions that can capture specific details about each item on a shelf with the click of a button. When mobile devices help employees quickly and accurately differentiate similar products, organizations can create complete visibility of supply and demand for each variation.

Check for Capacity
A company can't add or subtract from its existing product mix without an accurate look at its current inventory. More importantly, it can't adjust any inventory or warehouse management procedures if it doesn't have the resources or manpower necessary to respond to new products.

Material & Handling Logistics said facility capacity and resource allocation causes supply chain managers to stress out during demand changes - even positive ones. For example, Zara's supply chain success is less about knowing what items to put in its stores and more about the ability to quickly introduce merchandise in its 7,013 locations. When something works, flexible inventory solutions allow managers to progress and avoid future pitfalls.

Mobile data collection devices are popular because they allow warehouse workers and sales clerks to use similar technology. This integrates performance and facilitates for real-time communication between locations and employees.

Collect Data for Marketing
When a store introduces a new product, it should be accompanied by the relevant information consumers look for. It's crucial that businesses give innovative merchandise a fair chance by marketing appropriately and fueling existing demand. This may call for data solutions that are easy to share with the public.

Shoppers need to know when products will be available and what they should expect from inventory supplies. Surprisingly high demand leads to stockouts and new items may replace customer favorites. If business information doesn't integrate with customer feedback and requests, then it will be difficult to for businesses to learn anything from new inventory launches.

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