At this point, omnichannel may not be a new concept, but there are still plenty of apparel companies grappling with how to make it a reality. For those relying on outdated processes, the solution is likely in the tech.
There are some ways legacy ERP structures can function in an omnichannel world, but no amount of tweaking can alter the fact that old-school systems aren’t built to last.
“Brands feel the need and the urgency to uplift their operations in order to provide customers with seamless omnichannel shopping experiences,” said Kim MacIntosh, SVP and general manager of attune Americas. “Legacy systems and processes are often restrictive: siloed, non-real-time, and rigid.”
That’s why attune took the must-have aspects of its existing technologies and built them into a platform that was crafted with true omnichannel in mind—one that can change along with the retail landscape.
Last year, attune debuted its SAP S/4HANA suite for fashion and vertical businesses. The fashion suite may seem familiar to those who’ve used SAP Fashion Management, a collaborative initiative between SAP, attune and a few select customers. The S/4HANA fashion suite evolved from that collaboration and was rebuilt natively on the HANA platform to simplify processes and increase capabilities for wholesale, retail and manufacturing.
The suite’s exclusive focus on fashion has created a robust profile of pre-configured solutions that brands can roll out immediately. By using pre-configured solutions on the HANA platform, attune can help brands migrate and get started right away.
The nexus of the fashion suite is real-time information: by consolidating inventory data into the cloud, retailers are able to provide customers with more up-to-date information, and allow retailers to plan or change assortments on the go. The tool allows users to view inventory in real time, across multiple channels, including e-commerce, in-store retail, and wholesale. Brands can allocate inventory to the channels that are performing best and adapt if an item is in high demand. In doing so, MacIntosh said, brands can keep a hold on customer satisfaction and reduce inventory costs at the same time, by virtually pooling inventory and fulfilling customer demand from any location.
“Getting inventory management right is one of the first steps in running omnichannel operations efficiently,” MacIntosh said. “It protects a brand’s ability to ensure their most profitable channels are being serviced.” To that end, the fashion suite enables companies to monitor margin, inventory turns, sell-through, and other metrics at any level of the merchandise hierarchy, and to identify top performers and areas that need attention.
Agility and insight are necessary for brands to survive in an omnichannel environment, MacIntosh said. In one potential scenario, a customer might choose a shoe in store that isn’t available in their size. Using a traditional ERP, the store associate could help the customer find the item online, or even place an order to buy online and pick up in store, but it would take time to locate the inventory in another channel, and even longer to order it. With attune’s S/4HANA fashion suite, says MacIntosh, inventory is kept in a common stock pool, then segmented out where it’s needed. In other words, as soon as a customer asks a store associate about an item that’s out of stock, the associate can order the item, at a kiosk or the point of sale, and have it shipped directly to the customer’s home—instantaneously—by pulling from the same inventory an e-commerce distribution center would use.
According to MacIntosh, the attune team is pleased to see its retail partners utilizing every tool the SAP S/4HANA suite has to offer, and retailers are glad for the heightened customer satisfaction. Still, the company will continue to improve its offering and expand the range of pre-configured solutions it offers, implementing and testing them based on customer demand. Adapting with the digital market is necessary for retailers, and ERPs, to remain functional. “Antiquated systems were never meant to bear the weight of the current digital, omnichannel landscape,” said MacIntosh.