Blue Yonder is committed to helping its customers face the unexpected. To provide insights into the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on supply chains around the world, we are delivering a blog series to help anyone looking for support and advice. Our experts, who have spent years in the supply chain industry, share their insights. 

During times of distress, nothing brings comfort like returning to basics and simplicity. As the impacts of the COVID-19 continue to evolve, consumers are faced with unprecedented disruptions to these basics while retailers are scrambling to understand impacts on their supply chain.  The one constant, though, in all the chaos: retailers remain focused on servicing customers and keeping their employees working.   

Retailers looking to provide for consumers by getting their basics restocked have several main considerations:

  • Customer Service: Customer experience remains a high priority for retailers. Customers expect products they need to be in-stock when they want it. For retailers, this is challenging given the spikes in demand. Having strong demand planning tools is imperative to help retailers navigate these spikes and obtain inventory to stay in-stock while not having too much in the pipeline for when demand tapers off. 
  • Seasonal Inventory: Retailers reflect often in earnings calls about launching seasonal products too early. Given the current state of the industry, we will continue to see lifecycles elongate, especially for softline retailers. Spring/Summer products that were scheduled to be in stores have a longer shelf life beyond the floorset so retailers will have to redefine their product seasons to avoid markdown. This will involve a relook at product flow through strong assortment planning.
  • Pricing: Pricing strategies will be critical for retailers. We have just hit an equilibrium of retailers finding optimal pricing vs. promotional cadences to drive sales. Customers will be looking for consistency of pricing across channels and ways to find a bargain. Retailers will need to be targeted to maintain margins and to not drive pricing wars on excess inventory. 
  • Partnerships and Fulfillment Scale: These will both be important as retailers see demand shift in the short term toward online impacting data center operations, transportation and shipping. Retailers should continue to seek out new channels and collaborations such as aligning themselves with mega-marketplaces to avoid a price game and widen their brand accessibility to new customers.

Ultimately, retailers who have begun a digital transformation will win. Retailers that have enabled technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) driven forecasts, autonomous pricing, and end-to-end visibility are armed and ready for anything this virus throws their way.  Technology will be the enabler to drive organizations to react to the ever-changing retail landscape. 

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