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Could Streamlining Data Workflow Improve Your Retail Supply Chain?

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Streamlining your retail supply chain involves more than inventory or vendor management. As a retailer, you must also look at the efficiency of your data workflow. 

Consider this: A customer buys a sweater from store A of an apparel retail chain. However, the sweater doesn’t fit, so the customer returns the sweater at store B, a different location in the same apparel retail chain. Store B must somehow verify that the customer purchased the sweater from store A.  Processing returns at a store where the original transaction didn’t take place is only possible if each store has access to all sales transactions. 

That’s when a streamlined data process really helps. Traditionally, individual point of sale (POS) software only managed data — like sales receipts and merchandise returns — that occurred at each individual register. Now it’s possible for stores to sync sales receipts data with every POS register in a retail chain. However, ensuring that every receipt from all stores is accessible to each POS register isn’t always simple. 

Here’s a way around that: Each POS system should sync its sales receipts to the head office system. That way, when a customer returns an item to a store different from where the item was bought, the local POS register connects with the head office system to verify the receipt.

Inventory replenishment and centralized buying are among the common operations that run through the head office rather than at the local store level. But when it comes to databases, many stores maintain their own database instead of relying on the home office database. Stores want to make sure that they’re able to perform certain operations, such as sales transactions, without needing to connect to the Internet. Syncing to the head office database often requires an Internet connection. 

Having head office control over specific data workflows generally does improve operational efficiencies for individual stores. But the key is to determine which data operations make sense to run through the head office and which are best maintained by the individual store

Here’s an example of how you could improve transferring data between stores if the stores sync with a centralized database from the head office. Your ERP system contains inventory information of items sold at your store. Your POS system also has its own database of store inventory, but the data structure is different from the data maintained on your ERP system. 

Now let’s say that your store starts carrying a new product. The inventory data gets updated in the ERP system, but that update doesn’t transfer easily to your POS system unless both have the same database structure. You might have to separately update the inventory data in your POS system. 

With identically structured databases across your retail management software, such as drawing from a central head office database, you don’t have to worry about the compatibility to get information from one system to another. 

When certain database workflows run through the head office, stores are able to run more efficiently because other aspects of their supply chain naturally follow. For instance, consider gift card programs. A customer uses his gift card at store A, and later that day, uses the gift card again at store B in the same retail supply chain. For a gift card program to work at multiple store locations within a retail chain, each gift card transaction must sync in real-time with a central database maintained through the head office. 

If individual stores maintained gift card data and balances, the individual stores must be able to send updated gift card balances to other store locations in real-time. Otherwise, if the data is not sent in real-time, store B won’t know the remaining balance on the gift card when it’s used later that day. So, if the gift card balances are only updated at the end of each day, theoretically, a customer could use his gift card multiple times without the balance reflecting the transactions. 

These are just a few examples of how streamlining data through the head office helps to make store operations more efficient. As a retailer, you should analyze your own data workflows, and decide which areas are best maintained by a centralized database and which should remain at the store level. 

Are you read to jump in? Contact ArcherPoint today to learn more about improving your retail supply chain.

Author: Wm. Matthew Street, Solutions Consultant/Retail Product Lead at ArcherPoint