Demanding consumer behaviors have supply chain leaders integrating e-commerce into every aspect of the supply chain. It’s no secret that supply chain management has made radical transformations in the past few years. Much of these changes owe to the dramatic shift in consumer habits that have developed since the start of the pandemic nearly four years ago. While consumers were already flocking to online shopping, the pandemic kicked that consumer behavior into high gear, and it’s never looked back. A look at the 2022 and 2023 Digital Supply Chain Institute (DSCI) surveys shows that in the first year, 44 percent of customers preferred online shopping, a number that jumped to 58 percent in just a year.
With this new customer profile, supply chains find themselves playing catch up, reacting instead of getting ahead of the trend. The key is becoming dynamic and flexible rather than linear. This requires the adoption of digital tools and connectivity. Customers want transparency about their ordering, but also transparency of other factors—where companies source, for instance, and what their DEI policies look like. They also expect a customized product and experience. The DSCI survey showed that the demand for personalized experiences increased from 39 percent to 58 percent in the one year between surveys. This is an indicator that these consumer behaviors are here to stay.
To successfully navigate these demanding consumer behaviors, supply chain leaders need to integrate e-commerce into every aspect of the supply chain. From sourcing to inventory management, logistics, and customer service, a digital alignment is essential. Step one to achieving that is an investment in digital infrastructure. It must support e-commerce in new ways that customers expect and want. This includes redesigned ordering platforms that make the customer experience easy and seamless. Advanced analytics baked into the ordering process can go a long way to ensure this front-facing experience is what customers want.
When it comes to the back end, the supply chain must be supported by visibility and transparency, end to end. This means searching for products that employ blockchain and AI, along with IoT. Analytics can also support an understanding of customer preferences and personalized experiences.
The other part of the customer demand experience you must support is DEI, ethical sourcing, and sustainability transparency. When you design your supply chain to minimize environmental impact and support DEI, be transparent about those efforts and share them openly on your website. Customers will appreciate the effort and be more likely to return for future purchases. You must also be able to solicit customer feedback and quickly respond to it if you are to keep the modern customer coming back. Educate your customers about your efforts and tout it every chance you get.
Today’s customer is a much more demanding customer than generations past for a host of reasons. To meet their needs and operate ahead of the competition, employing digital tools that will allow you agility and transparency are essential. The current supply chain environment represents a moment to shine—or get left behind.