June 30, 2023 By IBM Supply Chain 4 min read

Today’s consumers want to know that retailers and brands are aligned with their values. So, while retailers can—and must—use technology as their differentiator, to win the lion’s share of consumer hearts, retail leaders must deliver on promises and purpose. When it comes to the latter, retail leaders are also facing new government regulations that make sustainability promises a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. Of course, the business unit is always driving toward bigger sales and better bottom lines. The good news is that sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand, especially in the retail supply chain.


Ultimately, every consumer wants to know that their chosen retailer is going to meet order promises. In short: have in-stock the products you advertise as in stock, and deliver what you say you will, when you say you will. Should any unexpected issues arise with the product or its delivery? Simple: communicate!


Savvy sustainable consumers want end-to-end visibility into a product’s origins to ensure that it was sustainably developed and transported every step of the way. Sustainably focused consumers aren’t just concerned with how a product came into the world, and their homes, they want assurances when it comes to a product’s sustainable end-of-life.  

Checking all these boxes is no small feat. So how can retail leaders demonstrate value across the board?

Facts about retail supply chains

According to the IBM Institute for Business Value’s 2022 consumer report Consumers want it all:

  • 82% of consumers would choose a more environmentally friendly delivery option, even if it costs more
  • 73% of consumers said that traceability is important to them.
  • Of those who say traceability is very important to them, 71% would pay a premium for it
  • 48% say they are likely or very likely to shop elsewhere if a retailer does not provide visibility into when they can receive the product they want before they hit the “buy” button
  • Keeping the promise is crucial to a positive customer experience and to building loyalty. 63.7% say they will go elsewhere when the product or service they want is unavailable.

3 Tips for delivering on promise and purpose in the retail supply chain

1. Earn loyalty with elevated options

Customer loyalty these days isn’t a given, but retailers and brands can gain it by offering elevated shopping experiences that provide value, including fulfillment options, promises for delivery, and flexible returns. ​

2. Gain trust with AI-optimized fulfillment to deliver on guarantees

The way to gain a loyal customer is to gain their trust. So make sure that you have real-time inventory visibility to deliver on your promises (what’s in-stock, when purchased items will ship and arrive). Without AI optimization, retailers are forced to deliver guarantees at the expense of their profitability. This means they may lock themselves into expensive and unprofitable choices to meet customer promises. Using IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising, retailers can instead make AI-driven, intelligent decisions about inventory placement, order fulfillment, and last-mile delivery.

​3. Leverage the blockchain to demonstrate transparency and sustainability

Savvy sustainable consumers not only want the ability to purchase what they want, when they want it, but they want guarantees at every step of the supply chain that the product has been developed and shipped sustainably. From origins to ingredients to shelf life, consumers demand a transparent supply chain.

Consumers also want assurances that overstock items will not end up in the landfill. Recirculate returned items into forward fulfillment or identify and release safety stock to prevent end-of-season markdowns, reverse logistics costs, or product waste.

The future of retail is all about exceeding customer expectations and
strengthening shopper loyalty throughout the buying journey. Earn trust, build loyalty, and demonstrate that you can not only deliver products, but a more sustainable future. 

How IBM can help improve transparency and efficiency in the retail industry supply chain

IBM Sterling Order Management System (OMS) with Sterling Intelligent Promising

IBM Sterling Order Management (OMS) is a cutting-edge solution that streamlines operations, enhances customer satisfaction, and maximizes profitability, making it the ideal choice for any retail business looking for a reliable, scalable, and flexible OMS solution. IBM Sterling OMS, which earned multiple market leadership awards as recognized by G2, equips retailers to deliver the perfect order with a complete omnichannel order fulfillment platform built for sustainability.

With IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising capabilities built in, you can: execute orders with minimum errors to maximize profits and customer satisfaction; ensure improved performance by proving out fulfillment scenarios prior to go-live; and intelligently balance omnichannel fulfillment costs against service to protect margins.

IBM Supply Chain Intelligence Suite (SCIS): Transparent supply

A blockchain-based traceability platform like IBM Supply Chain Intelligence Suite can help tell the consumer an accurate story of product provenance to highlight how their finished product traveled across the entire supply chain. Blockchain for supply chain can help retailers address consumer demands for speed, convenience and social accountability, increase operational efficiency, and optimize inventory.

Replacing manual and siloed processes with data sharing on a blockchain platform can drive end-to-end supply chain visibility and empower seamless collaboration across the consumer goods ecosystem.

IBM Consulting: Supply chain services for retail

IBM Consulting is a global leader in supply chain consulting with a global ecosystem of
partnerships, proprietary access to IBM’s own technology, research and Expert Labs. Our industry expertise, end-to-end approach from strategy to implementation, and dedicated sustainability practice, ensures your supply chain can adapt to today’s challenges and prepare for future opportunities, while minimizing risks, reducing costs, and driving continuous improvement in both environmental and social performance.

IBM Consulting helps the world’s leading consumer and retail companies like Kroger and Party City design and build intelligent, resilient and sustainable supply chains that empower each partner in the supply chain with the visibility and insight to act in service to the end customer.

Learn how IBM Supply Chain can help you
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