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Survey: 93% of retailers are adopting a unified commerce model

BY Ryan Chavis

BOSTON — Boston Retail Partners, a retail management consulting firm, released findings from a survey, which offer insights into what retailers are doing to transform their supply chain. The firm's 2014 Supply Chain Benchmark Survey says the "unified commerce" initiative is a result of both multichannel and omnichannel retailing evolving to provide a seamless shopping experience anywhere a customer chooses to shop.

According to the results, customers in today's market have come to expect a consistent brand experience as well as accurate inventory availability and visibility in real time. To meet these expectations, retailers are shifting away from distinct shopping channels and moving toward a more cohesive customer-facing experience.

“We noted an impressive change in priorities over the past year as retailers shift their focus towards enabling the seamless experience today’s customers want,” said Walter Deacon, a principal of Boston Retail Partners. “However, transforming the supply chain to meet the needs of a buy anywhere/anytime customer requires significant resources and investments. Retailers able to deliver real-time retail as part of a compelling value proposition will certainly reap the rewards.”

Key statistics that illustrate the achievements and priorities of retailers in delivering a unified commerce supply chain include:

  • Focused on unified commerce: 93% are adopting a unified commerce model with 54% in the planning stages and 39% currently implementing solutions;
  • Cross-channel inventory fulfillment: 75% of retailers can fulfill inventory across multiple channels; and
  • Corporate initiative: 63% identified “enable seamless customer experience online and in the store” as a top initiative

And while unified commerce is a top priority, BRP noted that there's still more work to be done to achieve it:

  • Organizations have silos: 22% of companies indicated that they have merged their channels into a single organization;
  • Managing supply chain with spreadsheets: 46% of respondents use static spreadsheets to manage their supply chain planning; and
  • Limited cross-channel inventory visibility: 40% provide in-store “available to promise” (ATP) visibility to customers yet only 20% have this same visibility for their internal staff.

“Just as technology has provided continuous connectivity and responsiveness to the consumer, it also provides the tools to create a robust, responsive and information-rich supply chain,” said Ken Morris, a principal of Boston Retail Partners. “With advanced networks and sophisticated software and analytics, the technology is readily available to enable unified commerce. Now is the time to align the people and processes with the technology to make real-time retail a reality!”

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Amazon.com launches 3D Printed Products store

BY Michael Johnsen

SEATTLE — Amazon on Monday announced the launch of the 3D Printed Products store Amazon.com/3dp, a marketplace that gives customers access to more than 200 unique print on-demand products, many that can be customized by material, size, styles and color variations, and personalized with text and image imprints. 
 
The new store is one of the largest online destinations to discover 3D printed products featuring convenient search tools, interactive 3D preview functionality and a product personalization widget. At launch to start, customers will find a wide range of items to browse including jewelry, toys, home décor and fashion accessories.
 
“The introduction of our 3D Printed Products store suggests the beginnings of a shift in online retail – that manufacturing can be more nimble to provide an immersive customer experience," stated Petra Schindler-Carter, director of Amazon Marketplace Sales. "Sellers, in alignment with designers and manufacturers, can offer more dynamic inventory for customers to personalize and truly make their own,” she said. “The 3D Printed Products store allows us to help sellers, designers and manufacturers reach millions of customers while providing a fun and creative customer experience to personalize a potentially infinite number of products at great prices across many product categories.”
 
“The personalization widget empowers customers to make something unique in seconds without knowing how to 3D model. A product personalization platform on Amazon has the potential to become the app store for the physical world,” commented Nancy Liang, co-founder for Mixee Labs, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. “Customization gives customers the power to remix their world, and we want to change the way people shop online. It also makes the shopping experience more fun, creative and personal.”
 
The new store will feature easy-to-use design templates for customers to put their individual style on an item they create and 3D preview capability to enhance the customer experience. With the 3D product preview function, customers will be able to preview a 360 degree rotation of a virtual model of a product to tailor the item from every angle. After an item is personalized and the customer has finished the checkout process, the item is 3D printed on-demand by a manufacturing provider and shipped directly to the customer.
 
“The online customer shopping experience will be redefined through 3D printing. When you take into consideration the investment needed for manufacturing products, 3D printing offers a cost effective alternative that benefits customers by limitless product options,” said Clément Moreau, CEO and co-founder of Sculpteo, headquartered in San Francisco and Paris. “Amazon’s deep understanding of customers coupled with Sculpteo’s fast, high-quality manufacturing process offers an unprecedented level of product possibilities for customers. With 3D printing, a customer’s wants are no longer limited to what is in stock but instead by what they can imagine.”
 
The 3D Printed Products store enables every customer the opportunity to be a product designer. From pendants to decorative vases to bobble head figurines, the new store features a broad selection of items to foster creativity. The store includes modestly priced customizable items sellers are currently offering for under $40, including cufflinks, bobble head figurines and funky wine glass holders. In the $100 price range, customers can design customized fashion accessories like pendants, earrings and necklaces.
 
“In the past, inventors and designers had to spend hefty sums to get their products to market and that initial investment created a significant barrier. Digital manufacturing eliminates much of the upfront cost, giving consumers easy access to a wide range of unique and potentially customized products at great prices,” said John Hauer, co-Founder and CEO of 3DLT, headquartered in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. “Amazon has a history of valuing innovation and 3D printing has the potential to evolve manufacturing in general and consumer products specifically. By embracing this opportunity and offering a diverse catalog of 3D printed products, Amazon has positioned itself to be one of the first mainstream retailers in this growing and exciting space.”
 
The new 3D Printed Products store also provides an entry point for designers to offer print on-demand product designs. Sellers, designers and manufactures interested in the Amazon 3D Printed Products store can visit Amazon.com/sell-on-3d-product-store/.

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Bill aimed at speeding FDA’s sunscreen approval process moves forward

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — Legislation that would speed up and streamline the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for new sunscreen ingredients passed the House on Monday, according to published reports.

The FDA has not approved a new sunscreen ingredient in nearly two decades. The Sunscreen Innovation Act would require that pending and new applications be completed in a more predictable and transparent manner.

“The Sunscreen Innovation Act will allow Americans access to the best sunscreen products on the market and spur innovation in an area of significant public health importance,” said Congressmen Ed Whitfield , R-KY-01, in a statement. “By establishing a regulatory framework with achievable timelines, we can ensure all sunscreen ingredients receive a transparent and timely safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Senators Johnny Isakson, R-GA, and Jack Reed, D-RI, have introduced similar legislation in the Senate, S. 2141. According to published reports, the Senate is expected to vote on a version in September.

The Sunscreen Innovation Act will also help shed light on the FDA’s approval process by requiring the agency to periodically report to Congress on the progress of the program. In the past 40 years, melanoma rates have increased by 800% among young women and 400% among young men, according to the Melanoma Research Alliance.
 

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