March 27, 2012, 1:06 PM

Retailers perk up supply chains with social media

Social media helps merchants improve product fulfillment, Aberdeen says.

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Social media tools like online portals and instant messaging are helping retailers more effectively share with their suppliers such information as consumer demand and on-time delivery performance, resulting in happier customers, fewer out-of-stock products and lower fulfillment costs, Aberdeen Group says in a new report.

“Many retail and consumer markets supply chain professionals are turning to social networking to help communicate and collaborate within their supply chain,” Aberdeen, a unit of Harte-Hanks Inc., says in the report, “An Emerging Social Paradigm in the Retail and Consumer Markets.”

The report adds: “While many are still uncertain of the real value of social networking within the supply chain, our data indicates that companies using social networking to support their supply chain operations perform better.”

By sharing information instantly through social media that can connect with virtually everyone involved in a supply chain, retailers can more quickly take actions such as ordering more of the popular products or alerting warehouses when orders are not getting fulfilled and delivered to customers on time.

The report, released this month, is based on a recent survey of 89 retailers and consumer market suppliers, 44% of which were using social networking among employees and trading partners. It adds that another 37% of those retailers plan to begin using social networking tools within their supply chains within 12 to 24 months.

Among the results of social networking cited in the study:

● Shipments were complete and on-time to customers 94.3% of the time, compared with 92.2% among those not using social networking.

● An average out-of-stock rate of 3.4%, compared to 7.2% for those not using social networking;

● A 2.4% year-over-year increase in fulfillment costs, compared to 4.3% for those not using social networking.

The report, written by Aberdeen analyst Kevin Permenter, says that social networking among supply chain professionals is becoming more important as a communications tool as retailers must react more quickly to changing consumer demand by sharing sales projections and up-to-date inventory status with what is often a widely distributed global base of suppliers.

Managing inventory will be addressed at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in June by Daniel Yen, CEO of MovieMars.com, in a session titled “Managing inventory in a hyper-fast world.” IRCE $200 early-bird discount expires March31.

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