Retailers and consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies are ground zero for a phenomenon we call “blurring of supply chains". Today, e-commerce sellers and marketplaces, and new tech-savvy delivery platforms threaten to reimagine, merge and potentially destroy the formerly clear-cut categories of “consumer,” “retailer” and “manufacturer.” As e-commerce giants unveil new capabilities by mining their enormous data sets, retailers and CPG firms are forced to keep pace to stay competitive.
Changing customer expectations are a big part of these tectonic shifts. Recent survey data from supply chain and C-level executives conducted by EY teams show that 55% say their customers expect more personalized products, while 54% say their customers expect real-time updates or tracking. And more than half of respondents are tailoring their supply chain processes to satisfy different customer segments.
Four enabling technologies
For chief information officers and IT leaders in retail and CPG, there’s no going back. Emerging competitors will continue to challenge every industry, identifying underserved products or consumer segments, or those with little regulation, and incorporating them into their offerings. If there’s margin in an industry, they will find it and exploit it.
Customers increasingly want reliability in fulfilment performance -- precise communication on service expectations and product locations, access to appropriate updates, and control over delivery and return choices. The way to meet these heightened expectations is to create end-to-end supply chain prediction and orchestration supported through the deployment of four enabling technologies:
Used together, these technologies constitute valuable inputs to executive dashboards that will enable supply chain managers to make faster decisions and offer course-correction capabilities with customer orders.
Don’t survive, thrive
The dangerous thing about supply chain-blurring is it allows for competition from any sector. It was simply a matter of time before e-commerce companies developed the supply chain manufacturing and delivery resources to offer intra-day delivery and more personalized products.
To thrive in the marketplace and compete effectively against e-commerce giants and digitally native enterprises, companies must consider improving their supply chain visibility and responsiveness. This will help them better meet evolving customer preferences and react to internal and external issues.
Another avenue for success is to segment your supply chain capabilities to meet the needs of specific customer groups. Turn your marketing department loose on your own customer data sets to discover unmet customer needs; then design and tailor your supply chain processes to wildly exceed these customer expectations.
It is likely that e-commerce giants are carefully studying your customer segments, probing for an entry point into your market. To counter them, your priority then should be investing in reinvention and digital enablement of your supply chain, using available technologies to get ahead of the curve and beat the large e-commerce giants at their own game.
Raj Kumar is a Principal in the EY Americas supply chain practice focused on retail and CPG clients. He is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Jeff Boudreau is a Managing Director in the EY Americas Supply Chain Transformation practice. He is based out of New York City.
The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT ... View Full Bio