Agile data can leap silo barriers

Learn why supply chain visibility is critical in the retail industry, and how retailers can leap the single biggest technology challenge – siloed data.

Oliver Banks Oliver Banks

Supply chain visibility is critical in the retail industry, but retailers must first leap the single biggest technology challenge they face – siloed data.

Global supply chain challenges today have made it important to have visibility and flexibility, so retailers can rapidly adapt to continual changes driven by customers – who are demanding product provenance, freshness and, increasingly, sustainability.

Keeping in mind that customers also live in our changing world. Cross-channel engagement is now critical across all stages of the customer lifecycle – and you must think much more broadly than just the transaction and fulfilment elements. And with the advent of technology-enabled changes like checkout-free stores, automation, robotics and ultra-fast deliveries, customers are now spoilt for choice with new, exciting, convenient and speedy ways of shopping.

So, given this focus on visibility and flexibility alongside the changing behaviors and market dynamics, it’s increasingly important to build your harmonized retail strategy. One that genuinely links, connects and blends the channels and touchpoints of your business to serve your customers in the way they want to be served.

Harmonized retail strikes a chord

I’m sure that, as a consumer, you can think of times where you’ve experienced a natural, flowing shopping experience. Everything just worked and it was easy and enjoyable. But I’m equally sure that you can recall those times where your experience was disjointed and disconnected. You probably found friction and frustration waiting for you at every turn.

So, you know getting that customer flow just right strikes a chord. It feels great for you the customer – as shopping should do – and it delivers results for the retailer too.

The greatest barrier to harmonization

If the goal is to connect the touchpoints of your retail ecosystem, there remains a sizeable challenge to overcome – data silos, the single biggest barrier to being truly connected.

Data silos lead to information mismatches, duplication, delayed access, and not having a single version of the truth. In fact, data silos are the archenemy of developing a single view of the customer, stock or business.

Siloed data is probably the single biggest technology related challenge retailers face.  The impact is huge – affecting daily operational decision making, driving up inventory and customer-response time.  But, more importantly, it impedes your ability to create new customer offerings that enhance their journey – that make it as harmonious as possible, irrespective of engagement channel.

It is essential to recognize that you have data silos present – because you’re basing wider decisions and actions from that knowledge. And, if you are making decisions on incomplete, out-of-date, or incorrect data, then this could have truly tragic consequences. Whether that is for an individual customer or as a strategic direction for the whole company.

Instead, in our digitally enabled world, being able to immediately access and use all of your data will be the key to thrive and outpace your competition.

Don’t focus on more data, focus on data agility

At the start of the digital revolution, the trend became to gather as much data as possible.

However, it is no longer enough to be merely collecting more and more data. You must also be cleaning and processing it. You must be analyzing and drawing relevant insights. And ultimately you must be driving meaningful actions. Oh – and all at exactly the right moment. Waiting for the end of week reports or daily system syncing isn’t responsive enough anymore.

You’ve probably had countless internal discussions about making the most of your data. Especially considering the differing types, volumes, variety, and variability of your data. And perhaps you realize your ability to gather and store data has grown faster than your capability to process, analyze and use it. Especially given the rapid explosion of different SaaS solutions whilst also maintaining your trusted legacy systems.

Data agility in action

Take Belgium’s Colruyt Group, who has partnered with Software AG to connect its 600+ stores with online and app shoppers, to quickly grow collection services. In addition, it built data agility to serve real-time product and stock info to store colleagues, process 10 million service transactions plus enable a loyalty scheme.

Read more about how Colruyt Group used Software AG’s webMethods for application and B2B integration, as well as to automate processes and manage services lifecycles.

 But you must remember, the customers of your data – be it business executives or consumers – only want the output from the data. They’re just not bothered by the journey or the complicated aspects behind the scenes that you must deal with. So, by developing strong data agility, you can both proactively and reactively respond to changes in customer preferences, market conditions, competitive actions, plus improve your operational excellence.

Your data agility is a measure of how fast you can process new or existing data and data sources and the pace that you can turn raw data into specific actions. And assuming that a complete system overhaul is off the table, you must think how you’ll connect and integrate your different data sources and systems – both now and in the future.

Eliminating data silos and building data agility is the first stage in delivering urgent transformation in the face of a challenging retail market, with squeezed margins and demanding customers.