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This content was paid for by Productsup and produced in partnership with the Financial Times Commercial department.

Can P2C save the holidays?

Supply chain issues don’t just rear up around the festive season, but they are certainly on everyone’s minds as the busiest retail period approaches. Whatever the time of year, companies need to future-proof their brands

UK consumers are concerned. What if the combination of global supply chain issues and a shortfall in HGV drivers threatens to spoil the upcoming holiday season? People are certainly making contingency plans: a YouGov poll for Manhattan Associates found that 35 per cent aim to do their shopping earlier than usual.1 The impact of this pragmatism on business has been considerable: analytics firm Kantar found that nearly 450,000 customers bought Christmas puddings in September – up 76 per cent on last year – and there have been reports of consumers trying to order turkeys as early as August.2

These unpredictable and localised spikes in demand add a new layer of complexity for companies already struggling to navigate today’s increasingly chaotic online retail landscape, which sees them selling across multiple channels in different territories. In response to this growing complexity, a new commerce approach has emerged that aims to simplify brands’ relationships with their retail touchpoints. Called P2C, shorthand for product-to-consumer, the strategy enables organisations to better manage the flow of data for a product – text, images and video – between suppliers and buyers. Businesses can leverage P2C to streamline the process of marketing and selling their wares across thousands of global channels including social commerce, retailer websites and product aggregators.

Just as P2C harmonises the outward flow of product information, it unifies the inward flow of data from these disparate retail channels. This aggregated real-time touchpoint analysis enables retailers to strategically allocate resources and make updates to product data across all marketing and selling channels as their inventory changes. A recent study of 375 companies found that 66 per cent felt that syndicating data effectively would improve their response to market changes.3

As Marcel Hollerbach, Chief Innovation Officer at Productsup, a leader in P2C management, explains: “To some extent, the supply chain crisis is out of the hands of many brands and retailers. If there aren’t certain materials available, or certain items can’t be shipped overseas in time, there’s only so much companies can do. However, they do have the ability to speed up the flow of product information between suppliers and buyers, which can have a significant impact on sales outcomes and brand loyalty. P2C management enables companies to update the status of their products in real time, communicating stock levels to customers and purchasing information to manufacturers. The free flow of product data in the supply chain can help companies manage order volume and delivery expectations, keeping suppliers informed and customers happy.”

When demand spikes, reactive brands will be the winner. In certain situations – when the holiday season and driver shortages are putting pressure on delivery times – this might mean driving sales through brick-and-mortar retailers. The P2C approach simplifies the process of setting up Google’s local inventory ads (LIAs), which have completely different product information requirements to Google Shopping. Bax Music, one of the Netherlands’ largest musical equipment retailers selling more than 1,250 different brands, achieved a 20 per cent revenue increase and higher conversion rates year on year by streamlining the process of onboarding vast amounts of product information to LIAs and concentrating its ad spend on products that offered the highest profit margin, driving footfall to its physical stores.

And this kind of agility isn’t only advantageous in the lead-up to December: “While there’s no denying the holiday season is still a peak period for retailers, the predictability of consumer demand has become hazier year-round,” says Hollerbach. “Come 2022, the supply chain crisis will continue to disrupt inventory management, order fulfilment and deliveries. Companies need long-term solutions to become agile and reactive in the face of unpredictable demand.”

In addition to offering future-proofing capacity in terms of the supply chain, P2C management ensures that companies will be well placed to navigate any regulatory changes in the always-evolving post-Brexit landscape. And P2C will help companies keep pace with their competitors when the online retail sphere gets even more complex with the anticipated arrival of widespread virtual reality shopping, and the as-yet-unpredictable ways that blockchain and non-fungible tokens may impact the sector.

As Hollerbach puts it: “In tech, it feels like we’re always right on the edge of new realities. For example, right now the idea of the metaverse is getting a lot of attention, with Facebook rebranding as Meta. The metaverse and most other futuristic technologies bring the promise of faster processing times, higher scalability and new capabilities. While all of this should be exciting to brands and retailers, it should also make them take a hard look at their current systems in place and ask, ‘Am I ready for this high-paced digital world?’” It seems certain that implementing a holistic, streamlined approach to managing product data such as P2C will equip companies with the tools they need to be ready for whatever comes next.

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