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Transparency, collaboration, and communication: my reflections on the first ever eDelivery Conference


Yesterday, Tuesday 13 October, saw the first eDelivery Conference (EDC15) take place, at the Novotel Hammersmith in London.
It was a genuine pleasure to meet so many eDelivery readers, to visit many of the exhibitors’ stands and listen to some very interesting speakers.

I’m only sorry I couldn’t get round to everyone and hear all the sessions from all three tracks.

However I did attempt to spot some common themes from those sessions I was able to attend. Three words stuck out – transparency, communication, and collaboration.

One of the most interesting ways in which I heard transparency discussed yesterday was when Sandy Kearny-Toone, product range director, at UGG – the iconic footwear brand – was talking about the oft-discussed Millennial generation. It’s been well documented that this generation seeks the advice and guidance of those its members consider their peers, rather than swallowing marketing messages verbatim.

It’s required a shift in tone and message, and has resulted in many brands working closely with bloggers – especially those with a presence on YouTube.

It underlines, again, the importance of being perceived as a brand that keeps its promises – say what you do, and do what you say is the new mantra – and demonstrates the extent to which retail brands (among others) will be judged by the company they keep.

That’s as true for a brand like UGG, making sure it listens to customers, and that’s investing time and resources in building relationships with a new audience of influencer, as it is for anyone relying on their carrier partners to do something as mundane as deliver parcels to eager shoppers.

As authenticity and transparency increase in importance in the eyes of customers – and that will happen – the more you risk being damned by the failings of others.

That leads nicely onto collaboration. Working in partnership with others in your supply chain, rather than having a typical supplier/customer relationship, is another change that’s setting in and likely to grow. As Peter Ward, CEO of the UK Warehousing Association pointed out, it’s something a lot of 3PLs already understand. But what will it take for wider acceptance in the retail sector?

While some of the concerns (you can think of them as corporate paranoia if you’re feeling harsh) are easy to sympathise with, the biggest barrier to change is still culture and attitude; it’s always a great deal easier to say no to something than to accept a change is needed and work hard at bringing that change to fruition.

But in parts of the UK where access is a challenge – hello Regent Street – consolidation is already the order of the day, with 3PLs handling delivery for multiple retailers.

If you start thinking of capacity and latency as assets with potential commercial value, the world starts to look different. Share your burdens, reduce your costs, increase the speed with which you can get goods into stores or into shoppers’ hands.

The last of the three key words I took away with me was communication, which is almost so obvious it doesn’t warrant a mention. Almost, but not quite. Break down the silos in your organisation, said Louise Baker, head of supply chain at Sally, the hair and beauty supplier to salons and retail customers. She stressed the importance of having access to data, measuring the right things, and working together… marketing teams that routinely tell supply chain teams what promotions are due are more the exception than the rule.

And communicating with the rest of the supply chain is vital too – as many of you may well find out in about six weeks. Let your carriers know how much Black Friday business they can expect from you, and – more importantly – let them know if the picture starts changing.

Outsourcing your logistics is one thing. Attempting to outsource your embarrassment is another.

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