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Omni-Channel For Retail: A Scientifically Refreshing Perspective

Omni-Channel for Retail: A Scientifically Refreshing Perspective

Crazy enough the ongoing conversations and debates surrounding omnichannel for retail (including retail consumers, suppliers & service providers) hasn’t lost momentum or for that matter interest level.  With that in mind, Dr. Jim Tompkins presented some exceptionally thought provoking ideas at the Tompkins Supply Chain Leadership Forum in San Antonio – Link Here  

Dr. Tompkins kicked off this topic where many have landed:  A common perception is retail omnichannel is defined as any product, any where, any time.  As Dr. Tompkins pointed out, while this definition certainly captures a customer centric approach it lacks the balance we seek as supply chain professionals.

At what cost and complexity of systems and processes do we provide the ultimate customer experience?  How do we discover the optimal balance resulting in expectant sales growth while maintaining acceptable margins?

Advanced analytics can be used to determine where the standards of service innovation and profitability intersect.  Extensive data analysis and iterative scenario development provide a platform to define an executable operational model supporting omnichannel business objectives.

The evolution of omnichannel execution typically starts with a “save the sale” mentality.  The “save the sale” approach is the initiation of the concepts of seamless inventory, seamless channel engagement, as well as defining the role of stores with e-commerce and e-commerce with stores.

Throw in what I will optimistically call channel cooperation (as opposed to conflict), massive amounts of merchandising data representing the consolidated forecast for the full assortment of rationalized SKUs and integrated order / inventory management and we have successfully arrived in Wayne’s wORld!!

Successfully engaging this problem, let alone optimizing the infrastructure design and supporting processes, is a daunting undertaking with limited opportunity for success without valuable analytical support.

Most analytical tools were designed before the omnichannel problem (solution) existed.  In general, the various components of this complex problem can be analyzed independently with different applications.  While this approach is useful, the total value is limited and many times difficult to implement due to integration issues.

Fortunately, today we have easy access to advanced analytical tools that can handle massive data requirements and complex mathematical structures.  Furthermore, understanding the interaction of multiple forecasts, complex replenishment & fulfillment alternatives and optimal deployment & consumption of inventory in a single model provides a significant competitive advantage.

Consumers will continue to require exceedingly more demanding service alternatives and expect the highest levels of product availability in every channel.  Comprehensive analytical support for every aspect of retail supply chain design and planning is available to aspiring professionals seeking market differentiation.

I know I’ve said it before and will reiterate it again now … as difficult as this problem is to formulate and solve, don’t sell your enterprise short by not assessing your potential to provide unparalleled ongoing support.  Analytically aligning strategy, tactics and operational execution will elevate your retail business to levels of growth and performance previously not considered possible.

A quick reminder that even though it’s still September, Oktoberfest is in season and in full swing (the official kick-off in Munich was Saturday, 19 September)!  While it’s still quite toasty here in Texas, there’s a hint of fall in the air if you close your eyes, smell the smoking meat and imagine colorful leaves.  If you can’t find a biergarten or local festival set one up on the deck or patio with some brats, kraut, Marzen Lager (Ayinger and Hofbrau are just a couple traditional examples) and Fest beer.  Prost!

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