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Conclusion – December 2013



One of the key lessons that’s shone through our research into the supply chain, which underpins this special report, is the sheer disruption that new ways of shopping are causing. Customers now want to find, buy and take delivery of a product at the time and place that suits them, in the spirit of omnichannel shopping, and that has profound implications for every part of the supply chain.

In this special report, we’ve mapped some of the ways in which retailers are already starting to adapt sometimes longstanding supply systems to modern needs and desires. Some words have recurred throughout our descriptions of these processes. Our liberal use of ‘challenging’, ‘daunting’ and similar adjectives underlines the fact that this change isn’t easy to manage.

The foundation of the supply chain that increasingly underpins what we might call the new retail lies in the single view of the product, and in having systems that can tell retailers where every product in the inventory is at any given moment in time, and how it can best be delivered to where it has to go. Just reaching this starting point is difficult.

It is also, however, very necessary. As the new retail develops and matures in years to come, customers will continue to demand accurate information about inventory, posing questions that can only be answered through systems that fluently join the online, the store and all channels in between.

A major difficulty in moving towards the single view of the product is that so often retailers are still using systems with roots in the analogue, offline world of 20th-century shopping. We take heart, however, from the fact that once achieved, the modern supply chain, and its transparent view of stock, inventory and both incoming and outgoing supplies, will underpin new processes that simply work better. The results will lie in greater customer satisfaction, reduced frustration in the business, and ultimately rising profits.

This has to be a goal worth working towards. It may be challenging, but retailers starting today on the journey are in good company because this is an area that’s of increasing concern to some of today’s most successful retail businesses. Companies starting early will be putting themselves ahead of competitors and getting a flying start in the future world of connected retail. We wish you a ‘bon voyage’.

Each of Internet Retailing’s series of special reports explores key questions facing retailers today. We welcome your ideas and suggestions for future themes at

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