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par Emilie Schaefer6 July 20200 commentaires

[Saga 2/5] Data exchange: how data sharing needs to be “parallelized”

Life used to be easy... Let’s just say that life had sequences, order, and clear outlines, with time for each different step. Suppliers were first chosen by retailers, then entered into negotiations, with products being listed at the end of the process. Almost a ritual, this procedure enabled each person to complete a specific set of tasks. However, the past few years have seen this process become increasingly complex, and step by step, they have started to find it constraining.

Unsurprisingly, this is due to changes in the business world and the development of new channels. This transformation affects every department:

  • Supply teams now need additional data to optimise their warehouse operations (stacking information, safety notices, etc.)
  • Marketing teams have begun to develop advertisements that require new types of information to be shared (images, pictograms, etc.) These ads are now weekly, and are regionally or even locally-focused, and have recently even become personalised.
  • CSR and quality teams have been assembled to address consumer expectations. They are developing increasingly detailed requirements, requiring new data to be exchanged (specifications, hygiene certifications, licenses, etc.) This is occurring even faster due to an increasingly strict regulatory context (in terms of allergy information, composition, etc.)
  • Category managers have had to reorganise their operations to adapt to an increase in the number of product launches, as well as shorter and shorter product lifecycles.
    Moreover, the internet has shaken up the status quo. Online product listings have led to the need for new elements such as such as visuals, descriptions, view angles, and synonyms, a need that is often managed on an ad-hoc basis by e-commerce teams.
  • Stores have started taking an interest in digital technologies, launching screens, electronic labels, and more recently, tablets. Each of these require a great deal of product content (such as user guides, tips, etc.) in order to provide comprehensive information to collaborators and consumers.

In addition, consumers themselves have changed. And quickly! Consumer preferences have evolved — and continue to evolve — meaning retailers need to search more actively for new products in order to add variety to the product range.
An undeniable consequence of this complex new landscape is that products’ time to market has become excessively long: up to 120 days for certain retailers. Nonetheless, other retailers have stated they are able to achieve this in a mere 2 days, with some pure players even stating that they can list 1 million products per week. This gap is a clear example of how the existing sequential operational method is no longer adapted to, and does not address, these new challenges.

Of course, teams at both manufacturer and retailer companies are already aware of this. Some have begun to parallelize tasks using an empirical approach, without completely overhauling the entire process. Others have tried a different strategy: collecting all the necessary data at once. This can present challenges, as certain content (like visuals for a pack created for an event) doesn’t exist prior to the product being listed. All of these approaches have led to the same result: a significantly longer time to market, which is unsustainable in a market landscape centered on new innovations.

In order to reduce the time to market while addressing both consumer needs and regulatory requirements, a new collaboration strategy is needed, based on a parallel – rather than sequential – approach to tasks. Especially because communications have increased among teams who, up until recently, rarely spoke to one another. 

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This saga is based on our Supplier Relations 3.0 white paper which analyses retail transformation and propose some insights on organizational models to answer to the new challenges of this industry.