In a previous blog post, we described how what IDC termed as ‘Third Pillar’ solutions which embraced cloud, big data and mobile technologies would continue to transform retailers’ relationships with their customers in 2015.

But what about retailers’ relationships with their product suppliers? In many ways, this set of relationships is symbiotic to a retailer’s relationships with its customers. After all, well-merchandised and well-marketed products are a joint effort between retailers and suppliers, and without this coordinated effort, the customer experience will suffer. Even a perfectly targeted offer to a consumer on her mobile device can drive that customer away if that offer leads her to an empty shelf in store.

How will smart retailers be leveraging Third Pillar principles of cloud, big data and mobile with their supplier partners to ensure that both sides of their business – the supply and the demand side – sing together in harmony?

The truth is that the same mobility drivers that characterize today’s consumers also characterize today’s suppliers. These same employees who are working the aisles of retailers doing the in-store retail execution activities are the very same people who are shopping for their own purposes after work hours. And the same expectations of accessibility to information that they bring with them as consumers are increasingly being brought to their workplaces as they go about their jobs.

We’ve written in the past about this ‘business intelligence’ vs. ‘consumer intelligence’ gap that exists where mobile workers like in-store field teams and salespeople are frustrated by the lack of information they have about their product performance at retail. In some cases, they’ve even seen first hand the kind of information that’s available to them as consumers of that same retail chain (e.g., real time on hand inventory available on the web or on a mobile app). And yet, these same consumers-turned-suppliers are, at best, dealing with week-old information from out-dated reporting systems when they’re executing merchandising programs in store. At worst, they’ve got no information at all and are flying blind.

Forward thinking retailers are eliminating this intelligence gap by providing their suppliers with real-time sales and inventory information to enable a higher level of retail execution that ensures that consumers can find the right product at the right time in store.

An example of this is Walmart’s new Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage (SPARC) which is available to suppliers using Walmart’s RetailLink portal. According to Walmart, SPARC provides real-time insights on product performance when in store, enabling its supplier in-store teams to “not only spot problems sooner, but take action themselves.” By providing the same information to suppliers that its store managers have, Walmart hopes that suppliers can enable the type of collaboration with store staff that will keep product in-stock more often and reduce the out-of-stock levels that have been plaguing the retailer of late.

In launching SPARC, Walmart is once again using technology to give it a leg up on its competitors. As it did with the launch of its supplier data-sharing portal, RetailLink, in the early 1990s, it has upped the ante in efficient and effective in-store retail execution by recognizing that supplier collaboration makes good business sense.

So what about everyone else? Without Walmart’s massive IT budget, are all other retailers doomed to play catch-up in this area of supplier collaboration once again, as they have been for the last 25 years?

Fortunately, the cloud nature of Third Pillar solutions means that this is not the case. Cloud-based retail analytics solutions that connect retailers and suppliers with insight and information for better in-store retail execution are, by definition, mobile enabled. These cloud solutions can extend a new level of retail intelligence to smartphones and tablets out-of-the-box, all without expensive customized software or complex bridges to legacy systems.

To learn more about the Askuity mobile solution for better in-store retail execution, click here.