River Island has revealed it is going to begin trialling RFID technology so that it can improve the quality of its stock data across its supply chain.
Having accurate stock availability data is key to enabling retailers to deliver products to customers where and when they want it. Although River Island has real-time stock data information, it is not accurate, according to its CIO.
"We have to get the accuracy up to even get the chance of fulfilling orders from stores. We know that it's [stock accuracy] not good enough now. The only way to really nail that is to implement RFID across the [supply] chain to get that accuracy up," Doug Gardner, CIO at fashion retailer River Island told the Oracle Retail conference in London this morning.
Consumers increasingly expect to be able to order items online to be delivered next day or, if a retailer has a physical stores presence, to be able to collect the item from a store. The click and collect model has been cited as being successful strategies for retailers like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, for example.
Gardner explained: "They've got used to next day delivery, every conceivable form of delivery option, they're used to a lot of interaction with brands through mobiles. We were very much a bricks and mortar. Now we're opening up to web, mobile and interaction and lots of different channels.
"The consumer is driving this. They're demanding how they interact with us. They don't understand if you can't deliver the way they want."
At present, when a customer orders an item from River Island's website to be collected in a shop, the item is picked from a central distribution centre and delivered to the store.
"Our organisation is very good at giving the message that the chain is a single view across the business. We're working in the background to make it more efficient to deliver the stock," Gardner said.
"In the future, we want to pick an item from a store if the customer is buying via click and collect."
Another area of future investment for River Island will be in the 'social commerce' space, generating sales from the brand's presence in social media. Gardner said that the company is first putting in "a lot of effort" into getting the basics right on the operational side, in terms of things like the website and delivery options.
"We realise there's a very big battlefied in terms of social media and turning that into sales. We realise it's incredibly important, so we'll be investing in that going forward," he said.
To keep up with trends in the social space, Gardner said that his IT team have had to learn to work faster and with a different, marketing-led focus.
"Our IT teams have to refocus to align themselves more with marketing than with operations. The approach you take to IT is more marketing-led and creative-led. We're now having to deploy things in the space of months, instead of years," he said.