Retail distribution made easy by mobile and blockchain

By Karen He

| Retail


The year 2017 is a focal one for retailers to shift their business strategies and stay competitive by adopting new technologies. For instance, retailers are shifting to digital and closing more physical stores. Going digital and applying technologies such as mobile, machine learning and augmented reality can improve the customer experience. However, retailers must not lose sight of operations in order to deliver products customers love.

Whether retailers are vertically or horizontally integrated, the consensus is that retail distribution will make or break them. This is especially true during the holiday season, when even retail leaders go scrambling if there are any gaps along their distribution networks and goods don’t make it onto the shelves — or worse, fail to arrive at customers’ doorsteps.

Regardless of all the data and information retailers have on hand, they still face the inefficiencies and costs that happen along the distribution journey. Retailers rely on multiple parties in their retail distribution, and a slight hiccup with any party can disrupt the distribution flow. Another flaw within retail distribution is that retailers do not have full visibility into the minute details of the processes, such as passing goods from one party to another, resulting in higher costs and delays.


Improving retail distribution efficiency

Retailers applying blockchain into retail distribution could eliminate these inefficiencies. Although blockchain took its first breath through bitcoin, the technology is much more than mere cryptocurrency. Blockchain is a secure way to exchange goods, transactions or information within networks. The following are three examples of how retailers can improve distribution with blockchain:

  1. Full visibility: It’s virtually impossible to know exactly where goods are from the moment they leave the manufacturing facilities. There may be multiple hand-offs before they make it to cargo ships. As a result, retailers need real-time data on their goods so they have a better way to track inventory and shipments. With blockchain, retailers can use their mobile devices to track exactly where and with whom their goods are.
  2. Lowered costs, increased efficiency: All parties within the distribution network can lower their costs by reducing the amount of paperwork that’s required between parties. Each party in the network can minimize time spent reviewing paperwork by simply scanning the information within the blockchain, lowering operation and process costs to a fraction.
  3. Security: Fraudsters can alter goods at any point along the distribution process. Blockchain serves as a layer in which only mutually accepted parties within the network can exchange goods in specific touchpoints, helping to maintain trust and security.

In traditional and slow-changing industries, blockchain may not be seen as a disruptive technology that can change business models. However, all brands across industries must think beyond the possible and integrate their technology investments with blockchain. Industry leaders have empowered themselves with mobile applications, and a mobile and blockchain marriage can collapse the barriers by enabling brands to fortify their partnerships within their networks. As supply chains are more integrated and interdependent in today’s global economy, blockchain offers industries a way to fortify partnerships.

Written By

Karen He

Product Marketing Manager at IBM Tealeaf

Karen He is a hands on professional with Product Marketing and Product Management focus. She plays an integral role in IBM Tealeaf's product marketing team, enjoy working closely with Product Management, Marketing Communications, Field Marketing and Sales teams across IBM to formulate…

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