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Sep 9, 2022 | 4 minute read

Supply Chain Crisis and Product Catalog Management

written by Emily Kathi


Supply Chain Crisis & Product Catalog Management

With an international supply chain crisis fueled by a global pandemic, the public is left with empty shelves and shortages, plus skyrocketing prices when they do find comparable products. Suppliers face delivery delays, frustrated customers, and the constant pressure of finding everyday solutions to salvage reputation and lost revenue. From a manufacturer or retailer perspective, perhaps the answer lies in product catalog management.

But first things first, I’ll provide a bit more color on the predicament. Content Creator and Analyst Olha Didenko writes in a post dated August 2021 about the perfect storm leading to the supply chain crisis.

An International Crisis in the Making

Once initial COVID lockdown restrictions lifted, customer demand spiked and international shipping has been struggling to get back on track ever since. That translates into a lack of Chinese-based containers available for transport and consequent exorbitant fees. Containers that do make it to the U.S. stay there clogging ports instead of returning to China. Didenko writes:

"At the same time, the COVID-related issues haven’t disappeared into thin air. The lack of workforce, absence of a unified international vaccination certificate, and enhanced border control slow down shipping just as much. The Chinese energy crisis adds to the list of supply chain issues too, considering that China is one of the major world exporters of dozens of vital products like electronic equipment, machinery, medication, plastics, metals, etc."

"The unfortunate combination of these factors leads to the perfect storm situation we are facing right now. However, in the fear of delivery delays, supply chain vendors add fuel to the fire themselves."

"Retailers and manufacturers are over ordering because of these supply chain issues, and that’s just leading to essentially an even worse scenario,” the CEO of Quincus, the international supply chain technology provider tells CNBC."

The challenges do not stop there. With a growing labor shortage, domestic transportation took a massive hit leaving retailers in the lurch when faced with managing their shipping and receiving needs. And with consumers globally spending $5.5 trillion online this year retailers are again struggling to keep up with order volume and the necessary labor to fulfill orders. Chaos ensues. The logistics industry seemingly cannot catch a break.

Innovation in Product Catalog Management

While many supply chain issues are out of the hands of suppliers and consumers, manufacturers and retailers can focus on what’s controllable, and solvable, through a commerce platform with product catalog management functionality. When integrated with an OMS (Order Management System) and the right commerce platform, customized to your specific needs, it can alleviate aspects of supply chain distress.

Let’s look at two examples:

Mitigate Loss with Pre Orders & Backorder

An OMS integrated into your commerce platform automates the pre order and backorder process by streamlining payment, inventory tracking, and customer communication regarding the process. With more automation surrounding these processes, it frees time and resources to continually ideate about ways to wow your customer base - especially critical as you navigate supply chain disruptions largely out of your control.

Greater Control and Flexibility in Merchandiser’s Hands with Product Experiment Management (PXM)

Pranav Bahadur, Elastic Path Product Marketing Manager, shares an industry shift towards product experience management, (PXM), supported by Gartner research. The analyst identifies the shift in their 2022 Strategic Roadmap for Digital Commerce in Direct (D2C) and Indirect Channel report…

“For channels that are long-term strategic investments, manual processes will eventually become insufficient. Instead, companies should invest in more robust product experience management (PXM) solutions, which represent an evolution beyond traditional PIM systems."

What does that mean? More creative control and flexibility for merchandisers struggling to fill orders and solutioning alternatives to supply shortages. Let’s take a closer look at catalogs through the lens of PXM: A catalog is a collection of products with pricebooks specifically designed for a use case (brand, location, channel, etc.). Breaking free from the rigid architecture of traditional catalogs and associated developer bottlenecks, merchandisers faced with product scarcity are able to catalog hot swap and easily create an entirely new product offering with greater availability, and more in line with customer demand.

Another key benefit of catalog hot swapping, made possible through PXM capability, includes the ability to test pricing before going to market in a specified geographic area. There is no one size fits all answer to supply chain disruptions. Manufacturers and retailers must take a hard look at their current technical maturity and create a roadmap based on KPIs and commerce goals. As innovations continue in product catalog management, it’s a great place to start reimagining the customer experience.

Elastic Path launched EP Product Experience Manager for today’s merchandiser. Read more about this product and find out how it’s transforming the eCommerce experience for both brands and shoppers.