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Future-Proofing the Retail Supply Chain

The modern retail supply chain is increasingly complex. To remain competitive, retailers are building more agile, responsive systems for navigating disruption and change. Effective retail supply chain management has become a key differentiator between retailers who thrive and those who struggle. In this article, we’ll discuss how retailers are using technology to reinvent their supply chains to improve profitability and strengthen customer loyalty.

Why Success in Retail Hinges on Supply Chain Management  

Retail supply chains are struggling to keep pace with today’s rapidly evolving consumer behavior and market dynamics. Relying on a patchwork of standalone systems and processes creates a tangle of data silos, making it impossible to view the retail supply chain as a connected whole and make effective decisions. As a result, retailers are responding to supply chain issues from a reactive stance.

Modern retail supply chain management is proactive, incorporating contextual, relevant and timely data from numerous sources to build a unified view across the entire supply chain. A holistic approach incorporates teams from product design, sales, finance, warehousing and logistics, providing the end-to-end insights needed to boost profitability, deepen customer loyalty, and deliver high-quality products when and where they’re needed.

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Improving Retail Supply Chain Strategy

Rising costs, adverse weather, transportation bottlenecks, and global economic and geopolitical events continue to strain every link in the retail supply chain. Modern supply chain strategy rises to the challenge to create flexible and resilient systems and processes.

Optimize inventory levels

A leading indicator of a well-calibrated retail supply chain is a balanced inventory. AI-enabled inventory optimization helps retailers strike the ideal balance between stockouts and overstocks. With the ability to analyze diverse data sets at scale, these intelligent systems also allow retailers to optimize safety stock levels and improve replenishment planning. 

Lower costs

Overstocks, expedited shipping fees, and inefficiencies in warehousing and transportation  are all symptoms of a poorly managed supply chain. These additional costs reduce profitability, making it difficult for retailers to remain competitive on pricing and service. Retailers with a modern retail supply chain management strategy can lower transportation costs, improve efficiency at each stage in the supply chain and more effectively manage relationships with suppliers. 

Elevate the customer experience 

Consistent product availability, on-time delivery and seamless returns are no longer key differentiators with consumers; they’re the baseline. Behind every satisfied customer is a supply chain that’s being continually fine-tuned and adjusted to exceed customer expectations. 

Improve agility and responsiveness

Changes or disruptions with supply chain partners aren’t a question of if, but when. Timely data collaboration with suppliers is essential to restoring supply chains, providing retailers with a longer runway to respond to raw material shortages or adjust to changing consumer trends. Traditional retail supply chains are tracked and governed through multiple, often disconnected data systems managed by different teams. These data silos hamper end-to-end visibility and make collaboration across functions difficult. The modern cloud data warehouse resolves these constraints, providing a centralized system that connects disparate data systems, and enables the insights needed to resolve supply chain issues before they impact customers or finances. 

Gain greater visibility and control

Real-time data and performance transparency along the entire supply chain enables retailers to actively monitor the flow of goods, enabling better decision-making and forecasting, and more proactive control over operations such as forecasting, purchasing, warehousing and logistics.

Essential Technologies for Future-Proofing Your Retail Supply Chain

Future-focused retailers are incorporating new technologies into every part of their supply chain. These technologies are fundamentally changing how retailers manage their supply chain, from future demand prediction to product fulfillment.

AI/ML and advanced analytics

AI-enabled analytics systems rapidly analyze large and diverse data sets using machine learning (ML) capabilities. They combine historical sales data, customer behavior and market trends with real-time data from point-of-sales systems, weather data and content trending on social channels. With this information, retailers can anticipate shifts in demand with greater accuracy. In addition, prescriptive analytics tools can provide decision-makers with a menu of recommendations for navigating complex and dynamic risk environments, such as supplier bankruptcy, cyberattacks, political unrest or adverse weather events. 


Internet of Things (IoT) solutions allow retailers to monitor the location and condition of products in real time. Smart sensors can monitor temperature and humidity, ensuring perishable products arrive in good condition. Real-time visibility into inventory in motion provides greater control, allowing retailers to reroute shipments to improve delivery times, or intervene quickly when suboptimal transport or storage conditions threaten product integrity. 

Intelligent automation

AI can automate inventory allocation decisions, ensuring the right products are in the right locations at the right time. Using patterns of consumer demand, profitability, warehouse availability,  transportation costs and other factors, intelligent inventory management systems optimize product allocation across warehouses, distribution centers and retail locations.

Optimize Retail Supply Chain Management with Snowflake

The Snowflake Retail Data Cloud gives you comprehensive visibility across your entire supply chain. Snowflake provides retailers, manufacturers and distribution partners with a single source for all operational data so they can collaborate on reducing inefficiencies, optimizing stock levels and making better decisions on logistics. In addition, Snowflake enables more accurate demand forecasts with relevant third-party data from the Snowflake Marketplace. Simplify data architectures and unleash the power of data and AI/ML on your retail supply chain with Snowflake.