Consumers have steadily been shifting to a more customized shopping experience in recent years. This shift went into overdrive as effects of the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the globe, and traditional shopping methods were cut off.
Society’s sudden move to a shelter-in-place and work-from-home environment dramatically affected buying behaviors, and, in the process, expectations increased on companies responding to demand.
Organizations equipped with an agile, customer-centric supply chain network are capitalizing by evolving their service to the current environment. Distributors are re-locating inventory to meet emergent demand for products needed to support COVID-19 response in specific geographies. Retailers have kept Americans fed and working by adjusting online fulfillment strategies to utilize brick-and-mortar curbside pick-up or alternate home delivery methods. Manufacturers are drop-shipping products directly to homes to meet newfound interests in exercise.
As customer preferences carry even greater weight in modern supply network planning, the organizations with a holistic network view will deliver the most cost-effective shipping strategies that empower choice-conscious clients.
Customers Take Control
In 2016, parcel and express delivery volume bypassed railroads to become the second-largest transportation sector behind motor freight, according to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ 28th Annual State of Logistics Report. With that leap, onsumers seized control of logistics spending and “supply chain as we’ve known it” changed forever.
In the past, traditional retail strategies put the brand in control, using a push-based system with consumers at the end of the supply chain. Throughout the rest of the supply network, past experience drove inventory decisions, and product was pushed to stores based on what consumers “should” like and purchase.
Ongoing expansion of e-commerce has increasingly shifted decision-making for many organizations toward the customer experience. With the outbreak of COVID-19, historical buying behaviors are no longer valid and the consumer is in charge now more than ever. Companies that didn’t have a consumer-centric approach are adapting to survive.
Adopting a consumer-centric approach isn’t automatic, however. It requires thorough understanding of your customers’ preferences from point of purchase to final delivery.
Consumer Behaviors Changing Forever
While society has steadily shifted more buying to online platforms, COVID-19 sent more people online to buy a broader array of products than ever before.
In March, online grocery sales hit an all-time high. And in April, online grocery retailers topped that record by about 37%, according to survey data from grocery consultant Brick Meets Click (BMC) and research firm Symphony RetailAI.
Driving the sales growth was a 33.3% increase in the total number of orders: 62.5 million in April vs. 46.9 million in March. Spending per order grew more modestly, as did the number of online grocery shoppers.
Retailers like Wal-Mart and Target are reporting record online sales growth as well, giving further evidence that more buyers are turning to e-commerce sales channels for everyday needs. As the convenience of online buying appeals to a broader population, the need for diverse delivery options will increase, just as it has since parcel transportation took the No. 2 spot in logistics spend in 2016.
Effectively fulfilling those customer delivery demands requires a transportation strategy supported by multi-modal expertise and technology. Transportation management systems that integrate vital transportation information from freight and parcel service providers, along with historical shipping data, can offer a strong basis for decisions that improve customer service and protect bottom line profitability.
A Case for a Personalized Supply Chain
Organizations that can create a supply chain personalized to the expectations and behaviors of their customers can achieve greater brand loyalty. By allowing customers more control over their delivery experience, brands can create greater loyalty and improve customer retention.
At the same time, the shippers that establish a nimble network can rapidly respond to fluctuations in supply and demand and capitalize on opportunities for growth.
To learn more about creating a truly personalized supply chain that serves your customers’ needs, read Transportation Insight’s Guide to Mastering Your Supply Chain.