Consumer expectations are higher than ever. But whether it is the rush of seasonal spikes, a new promotion, or peak or trough in demand, retailers and associated stakeholders throughout the entire supply chain are subject to unprecedented changes in demand all year round. They need to be able to react and act in real time to deal with the effects of “bursty data”. Now, in a “post-Covid” landscape, retailers and supply chain & logistics providers have no excuse for not keeping pace. An advanced event broker technology is the solution to prevent the issues caused by the surges in traffic and demand.
Today’s consumer purchasing habits have shifted dramatically, and expectations are sky-high. With over 70% of the U.S. population now purchasing products and services online rather in store, supply chains need to be able to react and act to order volumes quickly and efficiently to keep customers satisfied. The same applies to delivery – over 62% of shoppers expect delivery within three business days when choosing the free shipping option. And it’s not just the big brands we’re talking about– 65% of consumers expect small brands to ship as fast, or faster, than major chains.
The Consumer Landscape Has Changed – Put Planning on the Priority List
When combined with rising production costs, first- & last-mile logistics costs, inventory shortages & overages, and abandoned online shopping carts, retailers are under immense pressure to compete effectively in a volatile landscape.
An effective plan for dealing with significant uptakes in demand is essential. Recent peak planning research has shown 95% of merchants have had to adjust their planning in response to supply chain disruptions and market conditions. Market disruption is not uncommon – in fact, on average, companies experience a disruption of one to two months every 3.7 years. Gartner argues that despite recent global economic conditions increasing supply chain resiliency, it has exposed further vulnerabilities that need addressing and puts the need for resilience and agility as a top supply chain priority.
“Bursty Data” caused by surges and drop-offs in supply and demand must be addressed. It will be those retailers and associated supply chain stakeholders who respond to fast-moving events in the moment, as they happen, that will develop a competitive advantage over those who do not.
No Organization Is Exempt From “Bursty” Data Flows
Sudden and “bursty” flows of data from significant order volumes during peak times are inevitable for all retailers. Increasing consumer demand for real-time services and convenience, combined with increased digitization and interconnectivity, has meant that a real-time view of operations is pivotal, all year round. It’s about how these are dealt with from a data and technology perspective that is key to maximizing resources and ensuring these spikes are managed effectively in real-time.
To meet these challenges, businesses must reconsider how they think about the flow of business-critical data across a complex ecosystem of suppliers, shippers, distribution partners and retailers. The need to operate and share information in real-time to reach the consumer is more important than ever. As Salesforce research finds, “Economic challenges and shifting consumer preferences mean that leading with a data-driven strategy will be critical to reacting to conditions in real-time.”
A New Approach to Underlying It Infrastructure Is Required
Every transaction creates data, from the product purchased and timing to price and customer name. Developers call that transaction an ‘event.’ Other events may include customer purchases on a mobile app, online returns, staffing disruptions, detecting a vehicle arriving for click and collect, or the last of inventory being purchased. The event immediately becomes more complex and the data creating that event becomes more essential to understanding the role of the event in the flow of business processes.
Event streaming and event management, an emerging technology for powering real-time event-driven businesses, can make all the difference. By having an event streaming and management platform at the core of an event-driven architecture (EDA) strategy, retailers can centralize all data and distribute it to every application or system within the organization in real-time and asynchronously.
Case in Point: Grubhub Meant Well – But Wasn’t Well-Prepared
Not being ready to handle volume bursts can prove to be catastrophic to a retailers’ business and reputation. Take the Grubhub food promotion from last Spring – a mission to feed the entire city of New York during lunchtime hours on a Tuesday. Recent research showed that over 96% of workers skip their lunchtime meal, so no surprise the orders flooded in. But with some restaurants not being notified of this promotion, food vendors were facing an unprecedented and unsustainable volume of orders, with many customers not receiving their food at all. Of course, stating “we appreciate your patience” amid complaints while simultaneously taking to Twitter during the two-hour promo period to continue to advertise the offer, did not satisfy hungry and angry customers.
A spike that certainly could and should have been prepared for.
Poor Planning Aside, Geographically Dispersed Sources Do Not Help
Of course, enabling consistently fast, reliable, and robust integration processes across diverse business functions is no easy task for a company – particularly for those that frequently see data come in large bursts from geographically dispersed sources. That “bursty” data flow can overwhelm integration platforms that rely on point-to-point communication via synchronous APIs. This can result in duplicate orders, delayed or lost orders, lost revenue and ultimately, unhappy customers.
An event-driven approach will overcome the challenges of “bursty” data flows. It uses advanced event broker technology to buffer data to help prevent systems from being bottle-necked and overwhelmed due to surges in traffic, and is supported by an event mesh that dynamically distributes data events.
In this way, event-driven architecture (EDA) manages “bursty” data flows regardless of application type or capability of location, and as a result leads to improved response and processing times that avoid any damaging impact on consumer-facing operations.
The dynamic and robust EDA layer underpins legacy integration and API management technology, allowing companies to “see” data from external parties, prevent data loss, mitigate system failures, and guarantee business continuity in the case of cloud or iPaaS outage. It’s a win win for retailers, the supply chain, and customers.
Turn to Tech – And Make Unmanageable “Bursty” Data Flows a Thing of the Past
With the right technology put in place to support and process the volume of orders being created in a short space of time, the scale of demand fulfilment nightmares is mitigated from both a performance and brand reputation perspective. The end result is a happy customer…and a healthy bottom line.