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Embracing trends to keep retail supply chains moving

Caroline Ellis, commercial director at Advanced Supply Chain Group, explains how you can embrace the latest trends to keep your supply chain working efficiently

Although it’s increasingly challenging to predict the full impact of global events on supply chains, one of the most influential factors affecting the movement of goods is consumer trends and how changing behaviours can alter retail operations. 

With the right data and strategy, it’s possible to get an accurate view of these factors to create more informed and predictive forecasting. This can provide retailers with a greater degree of agility to enhance their control and increase their supply chain and stock inventory management options during unforeseen events and periods of uncertainty.  

International logistics company Advanced Supply Chain Group (ASCG) understands this and utilises bespoke supply chain software to help e-commerce retailers draw on accurate data about what’s impacting the sale and return of products. This is complemented with industry knowledge and research to pinpoint key consumers trends affecting supply and demand, to help retailers create strategies that make supply chains better, faster and cheaper. 

The company’s latest eBook focuses on the consumer trends that will impact supply chains in 2022 and the actions retailers are taking to embrace online shopping habits. 

Three of six key trends include:

1) Low and no-cost 

Retailers and brands have long contended with consumer demand for deliveries that are free-of-charge or low cost. This demand extends to returns, with growing expectation that sending items back doesn’t cost them anything and is also convenient. 

Making returns free, quick and easy is more likely to reduce barriers to purchase for consumers and avoid abandoned baskets at e-commerce checkouts. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Consumer-friendly returns can also help reduce the time it takes for shoppers to actually send back unwanted goods. Minimising the returns lag can mean items are processed more quickly for resale, making optimum selling prices more of a reality.

It’s increasingly important for retailers to consider the value of the low and no-cost trend, as they address margin dilution in supply chains. Rather than attempting to protect margins by charging for returns or reducing delivery and return options, it’s possible to find other efficiencies throughout supply chains. Having a control tower view of the movement of goods and rich data about the performance of returns can make savings more accessible.    

2) Try before you buy 

An ASCG survey of 2,000 shoppers in October 2021 found that being able to try items before purchasing was the greatest benefit of high street shopping. Almost two thirds (63%) ranked it their top benefit, above being able to get instant refunds and immediately exchange unwanted items. It’s impossible for store changing rooms to exist online but this isn’t dampening the love of ‘trying before buying’ amongst e-commerce consumers. 

Online shoppers feel more and more comfortable buying multiple items, whether that’s different size, colour and style variations of the same clothes or putting ‘alt-products’ in their baskets, which are essentially a back-up choice in case they don’t like what else they’ve ordered. 57% of retailers think they’ll face a higher volume of returned products this year and ‘trying before buying’ will play a big part in this. Technology must be able to seamlessly integrate returns into supply chains as their own stand-alone channel, with returned products treated much in the same way as goods sold.

3) Eco-anxiety 

The growth of the e-commerce market was hugely accelerated during the pandemic, which has in turn intensified the focus on supply chain sustainability. Consumers are more aware of the delivery vehicles and packaging connected to the goods they’ve ordered and are increasingly questioning their environmental impact. 

Online shoppers are paying more attention to the sourcing and supply of the products they are buying and there’s mounting expectation for this to be more resourceful and less wasteful. Supply chain data will prove critical to helping e-commerce retailers enhance sustainability. With the right information, retailers can optimise transportation space to move more products per vehicle to reduce carbon emissions and identify efficiencies that lower energy consumption and minimise errors and product wastage. 

ASCG’s eBook covers more trends and also looks at the three key actions retailers can take to optimise stock inventory management and supply chain strategies in 2022, and beyond. Click here to download a free copy.

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