CSCMP 2018 has concluded! Last week, over 3,000 supply chain professionals joined together in Nashville, under the atrium of the beautiful Gaylord Opryland Resort. While the clear highlight of the show for most was Zipline’s inspiring use case for drones — sustainably delivering medical supplies to rural Africa — several speakers came on stage to say: “The world is changing fast, but there is no doubt that supply chain is heartbeat of commerce.” With customers front and center of the supply chain, there were several key themes around how to meet rising consumer demands.
Be Where Your Customers Are
The conference kicked off with a keynote called “Consumer traction: How Iconic Brands Are Building the Future of Supply Chain,” which opened up the central themes of the show. Nike, Amazon, and IBM talked about what their customers have been asking from them, and how they’ve been successful acknowledging customer requests at such a large scale.
“It doesn’t matter what it is. We will always go to war for our customers.”
For Nike and Amazon especially, it was all about mindset — everything in supply chain should be put in place to delight your customer. Today, they’re asking to get items sooner and for better quality, and it’s up to each brand to make sure they can provide the experiences to meet consumer desires and maintain trust.
While Amazon’s David Bozeman tackled every day with a sense of curiosity of what would be the next best thing to help grow trust, Nike’s Mike Brewer set a long-term goal of creating more sustainable products that would reduce the behemoth’s carbon footprint. All three speakers agreed with the idea, “It doesn’t matter what it is. We will always go to war for our customers.”
Visibility and Transparency into Data Will Be Important to Scale
During the first session, IBM VP of Enterprise Operations and Services, Joanne Wright, emphasized how cool supply chain has become — “We’ve finally moved from the backroom to the front of the office!” she exclaimed. However, while it was a long road for her team to get there, it couldn’t have been done unless her teams had merged their infrastructure and data to form a more cohesive culture.
Because they were able to accomplish this, the entire team of experts was able to use technology to touch everything that they did instead of suffering from what she dubbed “Spreadsheet Analysis Paralysis.” She emphasized that because supply chain is so critical to each brand, great supply chains should be in front of the consumer, with use cases from shipping a package to delivering a brand experience promise.
In order to optimize your spend and carrier mix while managing customer expectations, you will need to expand beyond a horizontal view.
While organizing culture around customers was key to visibility for IBM, DC Velocity’s Editorial Director, David Maloney, warned to not forget about another important factor: transportation costs. He said that while data quality is typically the Achilles heel of any organization, it’s imperative to see a reflection of your current data environment — your motto should no longer be “garbage in, garbage out.” For David Maloney, companies who use spreadsheets are bound to organizational fragmentation. In order to optimize your spend and carrier mix while managing customer expectations, you will need to expand beyond a horizontal view.
The Direct-to-Consumer Model is Shifting Supply Chain Mentality
With heavy competition, rapid changes happening in eCommerce, and new constraints from customers — fast and free delivery — the session “Parcel Shipping in the Age of the Consumer,” emphasized that if you are a technology laggard, it will catch up to you quickly. It was impressive to see how brands following the Direct-to-Consumer model were able to meet their customers’ expectations.
While most CPG and DtC brands emphasized that while balancing time, quality, and consumer demand is more important than ever, it is also more difficult for these brands to embrace the high costs associated into their value chain, especially for necessary hurdles such as same-day delivery and sustainable packaging, that need to go to customers on-time and in full. Their solution? Experiment more often, and learn how to quickly recover when you fall.
However, these brands are able to still embrace the “Be where your customers are” motto. Because Nutrisystem and Lego were able to redistribute their DCs according to their customer needs, they can now reduce transit times and secure better transportation pricing because of more accurate lead times — allowing them to better serve their customers. Other CPGs focused on improving metrics across their value chain by segmenting customers, ensuring phenomenal experiences for VIP customers.
Other brands, such as The Farmer’s Dog, are able to differentiate themselves in the market with more transparency and personalization, allowing them to keep their customer experience on track. Between using online community management, delivery notifications, and personalized confirmation emails for online delivery, they can help their customers see exactly when the item will arrive.
An Evolving Supply Chain Benefits All Consumers
As Amazon’s David Bozeman advised: “It’s okay to experiment if you can prove that it will bring you closer to your customers, it’s okay to skin your knees a little.” With overwhelming amounts of change and a tough transportation environment, innovation for the sake of customer acquisition and retention was at the forefront of every conversation — it was clear that consumers will be the clear winners from new advances and experiments.
Want more insights from the top conferences this year? Read our insights from the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, or learn which factors will help you level up your delivery experience into excellence.