Logistics needs to transform in parallel

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High streets don’t look like they used to, and haven’t done so for a while, with brand names disappearing and empty shops making streets look like broken mouths. 

Everything I watch or read tells me the High Street is dead, indeed watching Newsnight only the other week, one commercial property expert claimed that 40% of retail floor space will be surplus. I’m told logistics is the new retail but if that’s the case, as one expert reflected, why are the likes of Amazon opening high street stores?

While a good many pundits are predicting the imminent demise of our good friend the high street, there are an equal number of retailers evolving to meet new customer needs. Experiential seems to be one way of differentiation, giving customers a reason to visit by creating theatre and entertainment. I’ve heard of collection centres with dressing rooms for customers to try clothes on and return them there and then if they don’t fit.

This quiet evolution was reflected in Zebra’s study* which reported that in a shopping world where consumers could buy anything they wanted on the internet, retailers are being forced to give shoppers an enriched in-store experience they can’t get online. It talked of retailers adding immersive, interactive, customised shopping elements to the retail experience to bring new services, customised offerings, entertainment and even consumer education into the purchasing decision.

So we’re starting to see technology enabling more widespread clienteling; in-store tailoring and alteration services; on-site cafes and eateries; fitting-room technology enabling shoppers to select items to try on from the fitting room; in-store parties; even classes ranging from beauty and exercise to cooking. 

Zebra’s study reported that 66% of surveyed shoppers were happy with the overall in-store shopping experience, which means that a third weren’t. They cited chronic out of stock scenarios and mass marketing messages as reasons for their dissatisfaction. But thankfully some retailers are rising to the challenge and empowering their front line staff with tools to enable them to act more like concierges in locating inventory and recommending products in line with buying patterns and personal preferences.

And where is logistics in this evolution? How is it rising to the brave new world of retail? As I travel around, I see some good examples of Board-room buy-in to completely transform the supply chain operating model to truly service the omnichannel customer. But more frequently, I see logistics operations with legacy systems developed over many years bolting on capability to try and optimise store delivery. This could prove a false economy in the long run as the costs of applying a technological sticky plaster to an ailing supply chain could be far higher than full integration from the start.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll have seen me mention in the past about starting NextGen digital supply transformation small but in the context of thinking big. Full integration can be broken down into bite-sized chunks with the express aim of piloting, learning fast, refining and rolling out more widely. And renting hardware like mobile printers and scanners can help as not only does it enable firms to pilot such programmesbut it alsoeliminatesthe capital outlay of upgrading equipment.

*Zebra 2018 Shopper Vision Study 

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…


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