Business continuity is so important for retailers that face disruption to their supply chain. Between overseas shipments decreasing and physical stores closing, it’s no secret that the retail industry is coming face to face with the changing business landscape. Retailers that have solely relied on in-store offerings are now looking to quickly take their business to the web with a secure network. Luxury brands that rely heavily on global supply chains are particularly looking to creatively pivot their business model. Some sectors of retail are experiencing an uptick, particularly those leveraging delivery services and curbside pickup (such as quick service restaurants). The surge in remote workers and the need for visibility across both the network and across business operations, calls for agility for all retailers alike.

retail supply chain distribution

The largest question for retail brands around COVID-19 quickly becomes how to manage resources when they see interruptions to their supply chain. The best way to combat these disruptions is to engage employees, associates, suppliers and consumers with the right digital solutions. The goal of course being to find business continuity and a rhythm across the value chain, however manageable. Here’s a look at what how retailers can leverage the power of IT, and even look ahead to the increasingly evolving end consumer.

  • Information and communication Real-time insight around product availability levels is especially important, as the continuous flow of updates requires up-to-the-minute inventory management. Retailers that can leverage a unified communication platform to support timely product information is key for all workers across the distribution center, to the customer service centers, to those managing stock in stores, and newly remote workers supporting retail operations from home.  For broader internal communications, collaboration and video conferencing enables retailers to ensure alignment around priorities and company strategy. Ramping up additional licenses to scale efforts aimed at helping organizations move as a unit has become top of mind as well.
  • A whole new network A timely approach to setting up virtual firewalls is another beneficial move for retailers. A newly mobile workforce that can leverage a VPN connection allows workers to more effectively help customers in their online purchase journey while keeping transactional data secure. That in mind, threat detection and protection for an increasingly remote workforce is the best way to not only protect customer information but, to keep integrated retail systems secure as well across the network.
  • Lock down on secure data Increased online presence for shoppers who are no longer visiting physical stores means online retail platforms may have to support a higher volume of traffic. An agile IT infrastructure and the right data storage for your network can up-level digital capabilities to grow that ecommerce channel and improve overall customer sentiment.
  • Unified commerce The right contact center solution can help get customers the answers to their delivery or pickup questions more quickly, and location awareness can speed up the pickup process. From an omni-channel perspective, direct to consumer communication such as click to chat features can improve that customer experience and awareness around their order. This simply pushes the envelope around click-and-collect fulfillment methods that the industry has seen consumers gravitate to for years. What was a convenience has just become more of a necessity. Retailers that can support unified commerce are able to remain fluid during dynamic and uncertain times, as the consumer behaviors continue to evolve.

Most importantly, retailers can know that Cisco is here to help. We are all in this together. Retail is no stranger to change, and with the right support we can see the industry as being even more equipped for what the future has to offer.


Nicki Vereschagin

Global Retail Marketing Content Strategist

Global Industries Marketing