Think about your household spending over the last two years. I’m willing to bet that the products, food and clothing you’ve bought would look vastly different to what they did pre-2020. Maybe you’re wearing more activewear and purchasing more fruit and veg. Or maybe you’ve embarked on a home renovation project and have been frequenting online homewares stores. Maybe you live in fear of running out of toilet paper and have committed to a toilet paper subscription.
All this to say, how and where we spend our money has drastically changed. And while individuals have felt these impacts in their everyday lives, it’s also become a complex and ongoing challenge for retailers. This is because retailers rely on historical data to forecast what the demand for their products will be. But when borders shut in March 2020 and we resumed our lives online, historical precedent went out the window and the term “supply chain delays” became part of the global vernacular.
In essence, a supply chain refers to all the systems in place that see a product through from manufacturing, to shipping, to delivery. And if just one component is delayed or disrupted, it will have a knock-on effect on all the other cogs in the machine.
During the pandemic, a number of issues have contributed to supply chain disruptions. Some factors include:
Consumers have come to expect lightning-fast delivery for all e-commerce purchases. But with many products made in factories overseas, some businesses have found themselves competing with global retailers for the same factory space, raw material and spots on cargo ships.
This is where we’re seeing Australian retailers getting creative in how they manage these challenges. Here are some examples that have stood out to me:
That being said, it’s not only COVID-19 creating supply chain issues. Put into the wider context, major weather events, inflation and geopolitical crises are also major contributors to delays. This means it’s essential for all businesses to utilise real-time insights and automation to react faster and keep communications timely, since we can expect uncertainty and delays to continue well into the future.
Here are some tips for every stage of the buying journey.
Before a customer has even made a purchase, you need to make sure they understand that there may be shipping delays and stock shortages. Some ways you can do this include:
When communicating, it’s important to find the right balance. You need to keep your customer informed, but you don’t want to be spamming them with menial updates. This is where customer personalisation comes in so you can keep your communications relevant, timely and considered.
Not all companies have access to huge customer support and data science teams. And in a fast-moving and sometimes volatile context, we’re seeing how important it is for retailers to be able to respond quickly and react appropriately to keep customers on-side and loyal.
This is where automation and personalisation comes in. Salesforce offers capabilities so retailers can move quickly while remaining relevant. This includes personalising communications, the ability to collaborate closely with suppliers and using solutions like Tableau to give real-time visibility into how an order is progressing through the supply chain. This cuts out any pesky back-and-forth so you and your team can focus on keeping your customers happy.
It is worth considering how values emerging from the pandemic are driving the retail value chain to work together to offer greener choices and the rethinking of supply chain asset use. Communicating progress, offering transparency and greener choices will further inspire customer loyalty aligned to values in the era ahead.
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