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How Omnichannel is Outsmarting Mother Nature

By Scott Fenwick,
How Omnichannel is Outsmarting Mother Nature

How disruptive has this winter season been in the United States? Just last week, there was snow on the ground in 48 of 50 states. The New England region is experiencing record-breaking snowfall totals, and blizzards and slick roads have caused airports and highways to shut down from the Rockies to the Midwest to the southeast U.S.

Logic would dictate that this extreme winter weather would be disastrous for retailers nationwide, grinding their supply chains to a halt and preventing orders from getting to customers. But indicators are that retail revenues aren’t falling along with the snow.

The fact that there has been minimal impact from weather-related supply chain disruption is pointing toward an encouraging trend: more retailers are implementing omnichannel technologies that enable them to be more flexible when meeting the demands of their customers. Because of the growing investment and sophistication, retailers are better positioned to fulfill and deliver orders to their customers in a variety of ways, regardless of obstacles caused by weather or other factors.

Laura Heller, an editor with FierceRetail and a contributor to Forbes, recently interviewed Manhattan Associates’ Scott Fenwick for an article, “Retailers are beating bad weather with better analytics”, to get his perspective on how the industry is changing and the benefits of flexible fulfillment.

“As people make incremental investments in the omnichannel journey, finding ways to better serve [the] customer, these investments put them in a much better position to shift demands when weather hits," said Scott Fenwick, senior director of product strategy, Manhattan Associates.

“There's still no silver bullet, but we've seen some progress. The more forward-thinking retailers that were making investments are in a position to be flexible. They have the right tools to execute at a level of sophistication in the back office and made investments in order management to shift demand to where the inventory is," said Fenwick. "It's always an incremental process, there's something to tackle first."

Independent industry reports are backing that perspective, according to the article. January sales, which include winter storm Juno that shut down much of the East coast, were largely positive at both retailers and restaurants, according to Applied Predictive Technologies. In-store retail sales for January 2015 increased 2.8 percent compared with January 2014. Restaurant same-store sales were also strong for the month, increasing 7.4 percent year-over-year.

Weather can be challenging to predict, but retailers who plan ahead can position themselves to excel when the unexpected occurs. Proactive investment in technology now helps drive flexible fulfillment strategies in the future.

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