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GUEST COMMENT Who controls your retail supply chain?

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Today’s consumers live in an on-demand world where instant gratification is a basic expectation. For retailers striving to build and retain loyalty by giving consumers the speed and convenience they crave, full control of the supply chain is vital. Without complete control of the supply chain, retailers risk being unable to fulfil on time, in full deliveries, resulting in frustrated consumers, and potential declines in customer loyalty.

 

JDA’s 2018 Global Consumer Survey found that 34% of global respondents say having the right product in stock was essential, followed by 29% who said the variety of products was most important to them.

 

Fast, precise customer delivery and full stock levels in brick and mortar stores are all part of the customer experience and are becoming crucial factors to the shopping experience of each new generation. NRF & IBM’s, 2018 ‘What Do Gen Z Shoppers Really Want?’ report, found 68% of Gen Z consumers stating that the provision of a wide choice of products was the most critical factor in making choices regarding where to make their purchases.

 

According to customer intelligence consulting firm, Walker’s ‘Customers The Future Of B To B Customer Experience 2020’ study, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. It is clear that retailers must master their supply chain processes to bring their service in line with customer expectations if they are to remain competitive.

 

However, remaining competitive is not just about being the brand of choice – it’s about gaining, protecting, and retaining customer loyalty. PwC’s ‘Future of CX’ report, surveyed 15,000 consumers and found one in three customers would leave a brand they previously claimed to have been a favourite after a singular bad experience. Beyond raising the benchmark for great customer experiences, retailers need to ensure those great experiences remain consistent, avoiding any opportunity for a lapse in service.

 

Lack Of Data Visibility Diminishes Control

 

Ensuring on time, in full deliveries get fulfilled requires smarter decision-making throughout the supply chain, with retailers needing to rely on third parties - such as suppliers, and logistics partners, to ensure those decisions get followed through. Slow or fragmented processes with third parties can constrain performance and undermine control.

 

Indubitably, supply chain decision-makers within retail organizations have an ultimate say on supply chain operations. However, a lack of access to, and fragmented visibility of, end-to-end supply chain data can often result in distorted perceptions at a time when vital decisions are getting made.

 

Market research published by Gravity Supply Chain Solutions in early 2019, found that one-third of retail supply chain decision makers in the U.S. and the U.K. say disjointed communications with suppliers is the most significant pain point in manual supply chain management. The research also found that manual management processes are still in place within the majority of supply chains, with only 14% of retailers having undergone supply chain digitization projects that would radically enhance communication between supply chain partners including suppliers.

 

Enabling fast, clear, and direct communication between all supply chain partners, while also gaining greater visibility of end-to-end supply chain data including that from suppliers and other supply chain partners, facilitates more efficient collaboration. This alliance allows smarter decision-making to take place, increases speed to market, and provides customer-centricity, to enable retailers to deliver in line with high levels of customer expectations.

 

Building Stronger Supply Chain Networks With Greater Data Visibility

 

The evident lack of supply chain digitization uncovered in Gravity’s research highlights the fact that retailers lack the control to deliver on customer expectations. The study also found that 77% of retailers that have undergone full supply chain digitization are more likely to say they are in complete control of their supply chains. Furthermore, 76% believe their organization has enough data and insight, to make the right decisions about its supply chain since undergoing digitization.

 

Gaining full control of your supply chain means not only making proactive decisions but also being able to mitigate supply chain risks and disruptions while giving consumers the products they want, when and where they want them. Effective coordination with supply chain partners and gaining complete visibility of goods at every stage of the end-to-end supply chain - from the factory to distribution centre, enables you to plan effectively and ensure on time, in full deliveries to meet with customer demand.

 

This level of effective planning and execution, can all get achieved on a single digital platform that seamlessly integrates systems belonging to different parties across the supply chain. Communication and cooperation between retail supply chain decision-makers and supply chain partners, get taken to a whole new level which enables greater collaboration between the concerned parties leading to smarter decision-making based on that previously all too elusive end-to-end supply chain data. The right platform should provide a holistic view of all available data on one dashboard, providing real-time visibility for each party, and creating new transparencies that will drive efficiency and increase speed to market.

 

Full supply chain control is vital to delivering the experiences today’s consumers expect from retailers. Retailers have a golden opportunity to seize control of the supply chain through digitization and to outpace the competition in the journey to gaining and retaining customer loyalty.


Author: Graham Parker, CEO, Gravity Supply Chain

Image credit: Fotolia

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