There is little more rewarding than the feeling of finding the perfect gift for that special someone while holiday shopping – and this season, retailers are looking to not only capture that moment, but help to create it. Aspects such as micro assortments, personalized items, and special orders are competing to produce those surprise and delight moments between retailer and customer – one that cannot be attached to a 6-8 week delivery schedule. In order to personalize the shopping experience, retailers need the right supply chain management software to ensure delivery on the customer’s terms.
The supply chain has grown more and more personal over the last few decades. Customers are more interested in certifications around sustainability than ever before, measuring compliance practices to those that mirror their own personal ethics rather than those that simply follow local laws. Consumers believe they have the right to knowthe supply chains that deliver their products. The simple truth is that retailers cannot hide their supply chain from consumers anymore.
This familiarity with the supply chain over the last couple of decades leads customers to believe that supply chains are responsive to consumer demands and can be configured to their personal wishes. Amazon’s free two-day shipping has gone from an unbelievable convenience to nothing more than table stakes for ecommerce retailers. This puts tremendous pressure on supply chains to respond, and often at a loss. Some retailers are now even toying with the notion of paying customers through discounts to receive their products later than two days after ordering.
Beyond visibility into compliance and sustainability and the demands for faster delivery, personalized supply chains are also impacting fulfillment locations. Retailers shipped to homes for decades, originally through catalogs and later, ecommerce distribution centers. Now, to hit today’s tight timelines and save on shipping costs, retailers have built out capabilities to ship from nearby stores. Not to be satisfied, some customers figure that if the store can receive an online order and prepare it for shipping, then they should be able to pick it up in-store, at their convenience. The customer has created a new fulfillment method based on their convenience.
Given the personalization trend, it is not surprising that customers are comfortable getting involved with product personalization. Purchasing a tailored made product, receiving it quickly, cheaply, and to the location of their choice with full visibility into the sustainability and compliance practices of each participant in the value chain is the epitome of a personalized supply chain. It is also an enormous undertaking for companies to deliver on this customer vision. Every point of the supply chain will feel the pressure to be reliable, available, and agile.
For example, Product Lifecycle Management software and Product Configuration & Pricing Software will need to collaborate to determine what customizations can be presented and delivered to customers. These solutions not only help generate orders, but will need to observe, track, and incorporate the desires of customers to ensure the level of customization offered is sufficient.
As customers and retailers grow closer together, the desired level of customization is only going to increase. Consumers are constantly shopping – through their phones, their computers, and the digital assistants in their homes. They want more product details, more delivery options, more personalized promotions, and faster, cheaper service.
Retailers are investing heavily in the simplification and integration of retail channels and business functions in order to satisfy customers. The investment into a unified commerce platform is really a story about reducing friction through better visibility. Single views of customers, orders, products, inventory, prices, and promotions are essential to reduce customer frustration and manage their omni-channel expectations.
Despite these investments, retailers are still subject to disruptions in their operations and supply chains upstream. No matter how efficient the operations are, if there is a lack of visibility, both into the factory as well as in the customer’s hands, there is a risk of unpleasant customer experience. Paper trails, faxes, spreadsheets – they are not going to cut it.
Retailers embarking on a personal supply chain journey will need the right tools to help them. Companies will always need modern supply chain software, but this is more important now more than ever. To deliver on the expectation of a personal supply chain, retailers need supply chain collaboration between systems and partners all throughout the supply chain.
All the advanced forecasting tools and customer facing technology will fail to deliver customer satisfaction and higher sales without end-to-end visibility into your supply chain. Without visibility, retailers cannot guarantee the ability to keep promise on availability, delivery, and timing – and this holiday season, to customers, a broken promise is personal.