September 10th, 2020

The retail industry is hypercompetitive. We’re sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard this. That’s why supply chain managers need to be fully aware of everything that could potentially interfere with operational excellence and decrease overall revenue for the retail organization.

That being said, we can’t stress enough how important it is for retailers and their trading partners, or vendors, to operate as a single organization. Effective order management is key, and providing each other with detailed information on order status every step of the way can be a huge asset, including pending deliveries.

This sort of communication is multifaceted, but if you ask around, most supply chain managers will assure you that the ASN, or Advance Ship Notice (Advanced Shipping Notice), is the most important communication protocol when it comes to assuring that an order will be delivered as promised. In this case, you need an EDI solution.

ASN in Retail: An Analogy

Online ordering is second nature to the modern-day consumer, and the after-order experience is pretty much the same if the order was placed on a legitimate, well-established e-commerce site. First, you should receive an order confirmation, then a “your order has shipped” notification,  and finally, a “your order has been delivered” message. For the purpose of this analogy and to gain an initial understanding of the advance ship notice (ASN), you can think of it as the “your order has shipped” notification. However, you have to keep in mind that the ASN is so much more than this, so keep reading.

As a consumer, if you don’t receive one or more of the notifications listed above, you’ll probably be a little concerned about the status of your order, especially if you need it by a certain date—and for good reason. There’s a never-ending list of things that could have interfered with a timely delivery. Or, maybe you read that your order should have been delivered yesterday and it’s nowhere to be found—until you check your mailbox only to find that the item you expected to come in a box was stuffed into an envelope with some bubble wrap and placed alongside your electric bill.

The point is, we all have certain expectations as consumers. When those expectations aren’t met, it’s inconvenient to say the least. But as consumers, it’s highly unlikely that these “inconveniences” have a tremendous impact. The same can’t be said for business-to-business (B2B) transactions, and for retailers specifically.

How Does This Relate to a Retail ASN?

Referring back to the above analogy, had you received an ASN for your order, it would ensure that 1.) your full (or partial) purchase order has shipped and you can expect to receive it by the date provided, and 2.) the packaging of your order matches the description provided. Just these two bits of information are extremely helpful for appropriate planning from a consumer perspective, but even more so from a business perspective.

You might also find that the ASN is commonly referred to as an X12 EDI 856 Ship Notice/Manifest in ANSI X12 terms, or DESADV for EDIFACT. Regardless, it’s used in electronic data interchange (EDI) instances. ASN and DESADV are simply abbreviations for the type of EDI documents.

For certain large retailers using X12, like Target, you will need to meet EDI 856 specifications in order to do business with them. For any retailer, however, the EDI 856 ASN format will generally remain consistent in terms of the data included.

Here’s a complete overview of what the EDI 856 ASN, or DESADV, provides to retailers:

  • Order(s) shipped
  • Individual line item shipped quantity
  • Product descriptions
  • Carrier information and tracking number
  • Estimated delivery date & time
  • Packaging description
  • Barcode labels for receiving (if applicable)
  • Pallet codes (if applicable)

Main Takeaway: ASN Enables Accurate Inventory Forecasting  

With all of the information included in the ASN, the most useful thing by far is that the ASN provides retailers with a final shipment confirmation that can no longer be altered. An ASN in retail is an EDI transaction that virtually guarantees that the item quantities listed will be the item quantities received, the delivery date listed will be the date the order is received, and so on.

With an ASN, retailers can plan inventory accordingly and avoid out-of-stock situations that compromise relationships with not only their customers but their vendors and distribution centers as well. It takes order management to the next level, even when drop shipping is involved. Additionally, the receiving warehouse will be able to process orders much quicker, ultimately getting the products to their final destination in the most efficient way possible.