Chapter 5: Transform B2B relationships

The only thing more efficient than Santa’s workshop? Your business ecosystem.

Your customers might not know much about your business relationships, but they definitely notice it when you have problems like empty shelves or poor merchandising. Especially during the holidays, everyone across the supply chain wants a perfect shelf, display, or promotion. Your job is to mine your data for the insights that will let you optimize assortment and allocation correctly and efficiently.

By operationalizing data and enabling transparency between your employees and partners, you give yourself the gift of agility and the ability to pivot based on changing consumer demand.

Streamline merchandising with generative AI

The last thing you need during the holiday shopping season is an operational headache that affects the customer experience. With generative AI, you can anticipate roadblocks and suggest proactive solutions so products stay stocked on store shelves and relationships with suppliers remain strong. Generative AI helps you:

  • Streamline creation of product information, attributes, and descriptions – in collaboration with suppliers – while developing new products for the holidays.
  • Perform collaborative planning and forecasting to generate allocation and replenishment strategies so the right products get to the right places at the right times.
  • Surface important terms in contracts — like buyback arrangements, delivery capacity and times, and inventory service levels — to avoid operational disruption and poor customer experiences.

Provide data transparency

Right now, 70% of retailers and 58% of suppliers cite limited data transparency as the biggest barrier to collaboration. But, when you adopt a single source of truth and share insights across the supply chain, you can create more accurate demand forecasts and minimize out-of-stocks — and satisfy customers.

Tap into new revenue streams with business buyers

More and more traditional retailers are selling their products and services to other businesses. Whether it’s an office supply retailer supplying desks to a headquarters, a flooring retailer selling tiles for new store openings, or a grocer catering corporate events, retailers are tapping into new revenue streams beyond consumers.

Today, modern operations increasingly mean collaborating with partners over secure digital channels with teams from sales, service, marketing, commerce, and finance. While there is tremendous opportunity in B2B, those retailers that have ventured into this category are often running it with manual processes and spreadsheets. To effectively scale for the holiday season, emerging B2B businesses must serve customers on a wide range of devices and channels — similar to what they experience in their personal lives.

Promote sustainability across your value chain

Seventy-eight percent of customers say environmental practices influence their decision to buy from a company, but today, that means more than greenwashed marketing messages. Instead, sustainability must be a data-driven initiative that’s owned by the enterprise, with visibility and accountability across the entire ecosystem. Increasingly, this includes selling used or unsold merchandise secondhand — a market predicted to nearly double by 2027 to $350 billion.

The adoption of digital marketplaces is one reason why resale is growing so fast. Aside from getting authentic merchandise at low prices, customers appreciate the search and filter tools that let them quickly find unique products beyond the geographical boundaries of their local thrift store. Traditional retailers and vertically integrated brands are getting in on the act with new-to-secondhand retailers like Zara launching their own resale marketplaces.

The bottom line? Sustainability is more than brand differentiation; it’s about brand survival. Show buyers your business has considered the environmental and social impacts of your operations and supply chain: Do business with eco-friendly partners, stay transparent about data, and use carbon accounting to calculate the progress you’ve made on your change journey for internal and external stakeholders.

This holiday season, be the company customers want

Despite tough macroeconomic conditions and rising customer expectations, there’s plenty for retailers to cheer about in 2023. How can you ensure your stocking is filled with treats instead of coal? With artificial intelligence, data, and customer relationship management applications, you can put shoppers at the center of every decision you make and increase customer retention and share of wallet.

The bottom line? Customers need to feel recognized, understood, and valued all the time, and not just during the holidays. Customer loyalty is the key to profitable growth in 2023, so this holiday season, start delivering stand-out customer experiences that feel like magic.


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