Consider innovative approaches to accelerating speed to basket

November 17, 2021By Views

By Angela Nicloy, director of marketing, as seen in Mass Market Retailers

Speed to shelf is vital at brick-and-mortar.

As Amazon, other retail leaders such as Walmart and Target, and worldwide circumstances continue to disrupt established business models, and shopper behavior increasingly favors an omnichannel experience, the focus for all retail supply chain stakeholders has become agility, speed and resilience. Many retailers have teamed with partners to manage the final-mile delivery; however, focus must also be given to speed-to-shelf ­execution.

Vulnerability across the supply chain precipitated unacceptable levels of out-of-stocks, causing many consumers to switch brands, retailers or channels. To regain shopper confidence and ensure that items are reaching the shelves in a timely manner, efficiency matters, and innovative, new approaches should be considered. Let’s look at where bottlenecks have crippled traditional supply chain processes and identify potential ways to get retail product fulfillment running faster.

In this rapid-paced, pandemic-stressed retail world the traditional supply chain can no longer be viewed as a chain at all, rather it’s an intricate web of systems all leading to the consumer. The linear thinking of supply chains needs to give way to a system that works more like interlocking gears. These systems need to be powered by predictive analytics to get a product in front of a consumer before they even realize they need it. With an ever-churning marketplace, suppliers need to engage earlier in the supply system to protect against understocked shelves and unhappy consumers.

Recently I had the privilege to sit in on a strategy session between four companies with the same goal…increase speed to basket. As I observed, these companies had many blurred lines of potential competition, but they decided partnering to highlight each other’s strengths would actually offer rewards by ultimately delivering greater benefit to their common customer. Their goals consisted of minimizing or eliminating the parts of the process that cause the slowdown of getting products on the shelf, such as in-store resource limitations, difficulty locating new items within the shipment, and inability to get to the reset in a timely manner. The discussion highlighted great possibilities and led me to research the importance of partnerships. This excerpt caught my attention, “Suppliers must become partners rather than simply low-cost providers in bidding wars. The relationship with brand owners will go beyond contractual to relational as brand owners will commit to helping supplier partners grow. Trust will become the operative norm as vendor-managed inventory and forecasting and replenishment modeling will naturally evolve, all accelerating demand-focused speed to market.”

The companies I referred to came up with a reset solution to alleviate the burden on store labor resources as well as drive incremental sales. Just the idea of store resets immediately causes pause for all store managers, as they have to juggle shopper disruption, additional staffing and bare/incomplete shelf sets. The groundbreaking idea brings greater coordination to the merchandising execution process before the product even arrives at the physical store, facilitating the reset to be much more plug-and-play. According to Paul Murphy, vice president of retail strategy and sales at Menasha Packaging Co., “We have worked with several industry partners to develop a fresh approach to managing new product launches by improving efficiency, reducing duplicated efforts and exploring innovative ways to get products onto the shelf. All of this focuses on one thing — improving speed to basket.”

The pendulum always swings back, bringing a resurgence of brick-and-mortar traffic, making speed to shelf even more vital now as consumers expect a different shopping experience. The sense of urgency, immediacy and brand consistency is here to stay.