If you missed all or part of the conference (or if you just want to relive the experience and compare notes!), we’ve summarized our top five key takeaways from this year.
1. Retailers want suppliers to help them make better decisions
We often hear from consumer product companies how hard it can be to influence retail buyers and replenishment teams. While that may very much be the case, we heard a slightly different story from retailers at the conference. Both the SVP Replenishment at Loblaw’s (Canada’s largest retailer) and SVP Flow at Walmart (world’s largest retailer) emphasized how they are sharing more data and giving more transparency to vendors in hopes of improving execution.
Retailers are recognizing that manufacturers are in the best position to manage their brand’s business and increasingly willing to listen to them. The recommendations must still be backed by data, of course. But suppliers can really differentiate themselves by how they make use of the shared data. Key use cases they highlighted are increasing forecast accuracy and availability.
For example, Loblaw’s invites its top suppliers to a vendor collaboration workbench. In this portal, vendors can review the retailer’s forecast and suggest recommendations. Using unique insight about how a product performs across all retailers, upcoming promotion activity, etc., suppliers help improve the retailers’ forecast and ordering plan.
Walmart has garnered a lot of attention for raising its requirements (and associated penalties) for OTIF (On Time In Full). At the same time, it’s sharing more data with suppliers, asking them to leverage it to meet those new requirements and help Walmart innovate. This was such a meaty session, we did a dedicated post on it!
2. S&OP is changing, S&OE is the new cool thing
We’ve seen the rise of the term S&OE (Sales & Operations Execution) over the past year, and its buzzy usefulness was evident at the conference this year. It seems very relevant in today’s rapidly changing world. Longer-term planning can feel like a fruitless exercise, while agility and short-term execution are the name of the game.
Gartner acknowledged the need for S&OE for weekly, SKU-level planning, but still maintained the relevance of S&OP as well. Each has its place, and to quote a Gartner client “It’s tough to execute your way out of a planning problem.”
That doesn’t mean S&OP will remain static, though. With the increasing clock speed of business, increasing complexity straining current capabilities, and technological advances, it must evolve.