Over recent years, distributors have been confronted with growing complexity, rising consumer expectations, and an increasingly competitive global market. With the pandemic and the dominance of e-commerce, the changes that had already begun have been further accelerated, bringing with them unprecedented levels of digitalization, and forcing companies to completely review their processes.

Managing expectations: the challenge for the e-commerce of tomorrow

These days, consumers can choose a product and buy it in just a few clicks. The act of purchasing is simpler than ever, and the customer experience is complex and rich. The customer journey can be personalized and, where the product is expensive, the customer’s relationship with the brand has never been so important.

In the pursuit of convenience, customers find themselves offered an ever-growing range of options and has complete control over many steps, from where to buy to where to deliver. The consumer no longer goes to the product. Instead, it is the retailer’s responsibility to anticipate customer behavior and stock products in the right place to respond quickly to demand.

As a result, the supply chain needs to be efficient and agile to rise to the challenge and respond to demand, all while staying profitable. As the spine of any business, the supply chain is, more than ever, the key to providing the best customer experience.

According to a Havas and Paris Retail Week study, 89% of experts believe that customers put faster delivery as their top priority.

Furthermore, 82% estimate that consumers expect greater flexibility for their online purchases (try before you buy, free delivery, easier returns, etc.).

Supply chain management is all about controlling lead times and delivery options and has therefore become one of the greatest challenges for retailers. According to the same study, 40% of retailers have begun searching for the right partners to increase their logistics capacity, and 40% are looking to develop alternative delivery solutions.

To have the right product available and deliver on time, e-retailers are having to completely reshape their supply chain and operations in order to deliver on their customer experience promises.

 

The acceleration of digitalization

So, how can businesses build a robust supply chain capable of adapting to a constantly evolving market and fluctuating demand while staying profitable?

The best response is to be able to anticipate demand and therefore gain both visibility and control. Faced with the recent unprecedented world events, classic models and methods no longer seem to be up to the task. It is time instead to adopt new methods and tools to tackle this increased volatility and complexity.

Some 93% of businesses still use Excel for their materials planning, and these methods almost certainly reached their useful limit in March 2020.

Today, new technology has made it possible to be more prepared and anticipate all this instability in the supply chain.

Digital innovation has become a true vehicle for process optimization and, therefore, for business growth. It is time for businesses to accept the new reality so they can develop new processes, implement new tools, and that way anticipate trends and align themselves with new consumer expectations – the right product, in the right place, in the right quantity.

The race toward digitalization and optimization in retail has already begun, but an efficient supply chain will be the differentiating factor in guaranteeing the optimal customer experience.