AI in retail: 5 practical tips for supply chain resilience

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3 Minutes Read


Every supply chain manager strives for efficiency, cost reduction and visibility. And while the last couple of years raised particular challenges, the push towards efficiency in the pre-pandemic years shaped supply chain management, and not always for the better. In an effort to reduce redundancies and increase efficiencies, there was a noticeable casualty that compounded the immediate- and short-term effect of the pandemic on supply chains: flexibility.

For retail supply chains to be resilient in 2023 and beyond, they must be flexible. The pressure to fulfil fast is felt in the retail industry like no other. Consumer expectations have drastically impacted business-as-usual in the short-term and are a major influencer in longer-term strategic planning. Technology has played a large role in balancing the efficiency-flexibility tradeoff, especially where data analytics drives decisions, like with Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Why focus on resilience?

Simply put, resilient companies win. The ability to shift quickly and make fast decisions means companies can withstand stress and recover from external shocks faster and stronger than competitors. Here are five key optimisation areas which can impact supply chain resilience for the better:

Learn more: Mastering disruption— the ultimate supply chain strategy guide

 

Increase your supply chain visibility

Leaders like you need to have visibility into what’s happening throughout their supply chain. Tools that process and analyse the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data within the logistic networks can identify trends, and make optimised decisions. Being able to effectively use your data will be a real area of resilience in 2023 and beyond.

If you want to really enhance your supply chain, it's best to start with getting your baseline data into a state that is both manageable and useable. To get started, you could use a tool like the baseline & benchmarking layer to establish your baseline data, benchmark it against others in the industry and start getting fast insights into how to make quick win changes.

 

Get ahead with scenario planning

ai-in-retail-demand-planning

When there’s a disruption, whether that’s a sudden bottleneck in the supply chain, a legal change, or a natural disaster, make sure you can adapt smoothly without customers having time to notice. Expecting the unexpected has become something of a societal norm over the last few years. So many businesses are trying to get ahead, or not get left behind, by trying to plan out all of the contingencies.

But rather than maintaining a 400-page business continuity plan, you could use AI simulations to respond to new challenges and find solutions that are actually better in that moment. Because continuity plans can't account for all scenarios, but using a live digital version of your supply chain can take enormous and wide-ranging changes into account. Even during your peak times.

Watch more: Supply chain secrets— mastering Black Friday disruption [On-Demand]

 

Move to dynamic carrier switching

ai-in-retail-dynamic-switchingAnother impact of the pursuit of efficiency in recent years, like opting for “just-in-time” models, was that companies became over-reliant on sole suppliers and carriers. Supply chains suffered because companies, at the mercy of carrier disruptions and tariffs, had no spare capacity and inventory buffers.

Unlike single-sourcing, a multi-provider carrier strategy spreads logistics activities across multiple providers. Instead of relying on one provider to fulfil all orders, organisations work with 3-5 providers to find the best value route taking into account the relevant criteria like cost, delivery service, appropriate delivery date, performance reliability, special handling requirements, and customer communications.

This approach delivers resilience through savings on shipping costs (up to 30% according to our market study), avoiding potential surcharges, the ability to switch away from vulnerable carriers at the touch of a button and improved delivery and return metrics. 

Not sure how your supply chain would cope with that? Test it out without risking your supply chain in our simulation layer.

 

Improve CX with real-time delivery and returns updates

ai-in-retail-improving-cxWe all know how stretched customer service and experience teams have been over the last two years dealing with order tracking and customer complaints. Sometimes, having an answer with an exact location even if a shipment is late, is enough to de-escalate a bad customer experience (CX) ticket. Knowledge, as they say, is power.

Investing in a real-time monitoring delivery and return solution lets customers follow their order in real-time via a fully white-labelled tracking link. It removes uncertainty and puts an end to the frustration of tracking goods via third-party sites. It can also lower indirect costs and employee stress levels, by reducing the burden of order tracking internally.

Read more: Better supply chains, better experiences— how retailers excel with 7bridges

 

Use smarter dispatch and routing

Make sure your supply chain always chooses the best route, has your paperwork squared away (even tricky customs papers) and pick the best packaging for your item. With the 7bridges automation layer, you open up the possibilities for major time-saving changes. You'll be able to get your packages to the right person at the right time every time without having to manually review each shipment.

You can be sure that goods will be sent balancing for cost and performance every time, enabling you to deliver quicker and more reliably to your customers, improving satisfaction rates and turning your logistics into a competitive edge.

 

Investing in tools, like AI, that enable better visibility, decision-making and processes is the key to resilience. And it’s only going to continue: an Accenture study found that in 2022, 79% of executives wanted an increased use of automation and AI to create full supply chain resilience.

 


 

Want to learn more? Get in touch with one of our experts who can help your retail supply chain become even more resilient.


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