Top retailers’ magic trick revealed: Digital technology

As sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” For retailers that are behind the times when it comes to tech solutions, it might seem like nothing short of supply chain wizardry will relieve the pressures that old, tired tools put on sourcing.

 

In an environment that grows increasingly complex by the day, the only way that retail sourcing efforts can be successful is by using the right technology. More major brands are realizing that their processes need to be brought into the 21st century, and they need the tools to support that shift. American Eagle, for example, sought to replace its outdated legacy sourcing and order management systems to eliminate the silos between product design, sourcing and merchant processes and better serve its more than 4000 suppliers across the globe as its sales ballooned from $300 million to $3.5 billion. While sophisticated retailers like American Eagle are leading the way, our new survey found that when it comes to the latest technology, many retail professionals are more like the titular parents in the iconic DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince song: They just don’t understand.

 

The survey found that the majority of industries are still using generic applications like Outlook and Excel (63 and 72 percent of respondents, respectively) to manage complicated sourcing operations. The fact that email and spreadsheets have been the status quo for a long time might obscure the fact that they’re not collaborative, they’re not visual and they don’t work well for real-time feedback. Nobody scrolls through an email chain reading input from 45 different people and says, “That was fun!”

 

Worse than that? Those of you at a standing desk might want to find a chair before reading this… almost half of respondents said that they use images and handwritten notes – sharing thousands of jpeg files and even jotting down thoughts on napkins – as a sourcing tool.

 

For those that are hopping on the latest technology, it’s still not a perfect world. Many respondents reported that they feel overloaded by the number of different tools they have to use, with more than half saying that they use more than two, and don’t have a single platform they can rely on. Still, that’s probably a step up from the 19 percent that said they don’t use any tools at all and manage the whole sourcing process by memory.

 

So, what did respondents say would make their life easier when it comes to sourcing tech?

  • “Integration is the key.”
  • “Get everything from one platform.”
  • “Some of the smaller companies move at a slower pace. They need to streamline and have newer systems in place to process faster.”
  • “If there was one singular market for all retailers and vendors to do business.”
  • “The sourcing process could be made more effective by streamlining the bureaucratic process and eliminating red tape.”

 

Retailers need to address these gaps by bringing their sourcing into the digital era. Don’t give up on the dream of an efficient, effective and fun sourcing process, with virtual showrooms allowing you to see more product and suppliers, making it easier to collect and compare assortments across all your partners. Through digital channels, true collaboration is possible, which allows you to make better, more profitable operation decisions faster. Digital sourcing helps bring the magic back to the retail backend by saving time for what matters most: Inspiration and differentiation.

 

What else did the survey results reveal about sourcing professionals? Find out how you and your company stack up to your peers in the industry.

About Kamal Anand

Product Technology Strategist

Kamal Anand has deep experience in supply chain and global sourcing software development. He drives the Bamboo Rose product technology strategy. Kamal is an avid traveler and enjoys playing the role of soccer coach and Lego builder with his 2 sons.