Retail 2018: Technology, Hypercuration and Transparency

This is another of our articles exploring supply chain trends in various sectors for this year. Bamboo Rose is a B2B marketplace that connects retailers, suppliers and manufacturers to accommodate consumer expectations, speed to market and product lifecycle management. Sue Welch, CEO of the firm, talks to us about her retail community and supply chain predictions for 2018.

Retail is not dead. Evolving? Absolutely. But not dead. A month into the new year, retailers’ minds are already considering all of the emerging technologies, anticipating consumer behaviour, and getting their houses in order to adapt and innovate. 2018 is set to be the year of technological advancement, hypercuration in product design and development, and transparency in the supply chain. Considering global trends and consumer desire for the personalised and unique – here’s what we’ll likely see in the coming year and beyond.

Technology in the supply chain

Virtual showrooms and digital sourcing powered by collaboration and blockchain-inspired traceability are helping retailers bring new products to market at speeds previously unimaginable – speeds that are necessary to meet consumer demand for near real-time fulfillment. In 2018, we’ll see the next layer of tech applications in the retail market, with advancements in augmented reality, 3-D modeling, and AI/machine learning becoming more than novelties and having actual practical use. AR tech will allow sourcing professionals to interact with products digitally, from their own offices. They will be able to see details like stitching up close, log changes faster, and communicate with partners instantly, in a verified and documented process. This advancement will fundamentally transform the retail supply chain in speed and collaboration at each step.

Hypercuration

In any given month, Amazon has nearly half a billion products on its site, making true product curation impossible. Sure, shoppers get more variety, but the trade-off is that they have to search through endless items to find what they want. This trend has paved the way for a movement towards hypercuration from niche brands, who focus on a much lower volume of products targeted to a very narrow audience. To achieve that model, these retailers need to design, develop, and source more unique products at the same pace as Amazon – because consumers are used to that speed.

Transparency and traceability

Increased transparency and traceability across a product’s lifecycle is a constant goal for retailers – and for good reason. The obvious benefits of design and development agility, better collaboration among partners, and enhanced quality control through a supply chain make achieving better visibility well worth the effort and investment in technology. As consumers demand greater transparency about the source of all products – similar to what we’ve seen in the food industry – retailers need to add mechanisms to trace products in detail. For example, a t-shirt should be traced back to the where the cotton was grown, how it was harvested, the labour conditions of the person who made the shirt, and every detail up to the point of sale. This level of traceability will require an investment in technology that can provide granular detail at every stage of the supply chain.

Despite the rumors of retail dying a slow death, in reality, the opportunities are enormous. Retail is transforming, and while the companies who don’t respond quickly enough will fail, the innovators are continuing to make retail an exciting world in which to work. Retailers need to find a way to work through increasing uncertainty; Brexit, for example, has and will continue to have a monumental impact on retail, not to mention the other vast number of geo-political, technological and consumer-driven what-ifs ahead. The only sure way to do that is by embracing speed – in innovation, creativity, design and development. Retailers need to embrace technology not just keep pace, but forge ahead, in 2018.

If you would like to know more you can contact Sue via  bamboorose@corporateink.com

 

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