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Inside Retail & SPS Commerce

Why do only 9 per cent of retailers have the data they need?

Minimising the number of times a product is handled before it gets to the customer is key to cutting costs and improving efficiency. According to SPS, 91% of retailers aren’t getting the data they need from suppliers to do so. 

Retailers need accurate item data and shipment information to gain a transparent and complete view of inventory. This is used to prepare the warehouse to receive and process orders without a lot of manual work. But many retailers either don’t receive this data from suppliers, or they don’t receive it in a way that is actionable. 

That’s where the SPS global retail network comes in. It provides a platform for suppliers to upload and share data with retailers in a format that is compatible with many popular business software solutions. 

Here are the three most important types of data retailers need to run more efficient and successful businesses.  

  1. Item data 

Item data is critical to running an efficient retail business because it impacts all areas of the business: how and where an item is stored in the warehouse, which stores it is sent to, how it’s displayed and described on an e-commerce site, and how it is shipped to customers. 

A single item can have hundreds of different attributes, ranging from size, weight and colour, to images or videos if it’s going to be listed on an e-commerce site, to storage and handling information if it contains hazardous materials, such as anything with batteries. On top of all of this, items often come either kitted or with accessories that need to be shipped together, and this can be indicated in the item data. 

If retailers don’t have access to this data when they scan orders upon arrival at the warehouse, it means they need to open every single package and manually enter the information into their backend systems. This is incredibly costly and inefficient, and often creates a traffic jam in receiving. 

“If you don’t know the impact that the item coming into your warehouse will have, or the item attributes that you need based on that impact, you open yourself up to a very inefficient warehouse,” said Gizelle D’Silva, APAC Sales Operations Manager at SPS Commerce. 

For instance, an order that is intended to replenish stores may be stored on pallets in the back of the warehouse, while an order that is intended to fulfil e-commerce orders will need to be broken down into individual units and stored at the front. 

“Some retailers have advanced warehouse management systems that can direct inventory to be stored on a top or bottom shelf, or on its own from a hazard standpoint,” said Marco Castelán, Director of Sales, APAC at SPS Commerce. 

“But this efficiency is all based on suppliers providing accurate and complete item data, which most do not.” 

  1. Shipment data

Retailers also need to know when an order is going to arrive and what it contains, so they can ensure the warehouse is prepared to receive it.

“If the retailer doesn’t know when a shipment is coming in, or doesn’t know how many boxes, cartons, or pallets are coming in, they can’t plan their day,” said D’Silva. 

“Retailers struggle to  have the right amount of warehouse staff working, or the right amount of space available to receive all their shipments and this leads to  bottlenecks. Even though it sounds basic, it’s powerful and necessary information.” 

Shipment data is also important to help prevent stock outages. If a retailer knows that an order is going to arrive late, they can try ordering additional stock from another supplier, pulling inventory from another warehouse, or adjusting their promotions  accordingly. 

  1. Scorecarding

Lastly, supplier performance data, such as the history of on-time and in-full shipments, is essential to identifying areas for improvement in the supply chain, according to Castelán.  

Collaboration plays a key role in retail and when there are failure points, it is important to know where they are and how to fix them. By creating a process to review trends and analysis of your shipment data, retailers are able to identify problems and find solutions. 

“At the end of the day, it’s great if your buyers were able to purchase the hottest toy on the market, but if you can’t get it to the shelf, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. 

This information can also be put to use during supplier negotiations. 

“Anytime retailers are negotiating for line reviews, supply chain information is a critical variable,” according to Castelán. 

By having this data available to leverage when revisiting supplier relationships, buyers can create actions to work on challenge areas and use ‘carrots and sticks’ to help bring about change.  

Learn more about how to obtain all three types of data from your suppliers here.

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