The customer experience has become a central component of driving sales, and also a point of competitive differentiation in a world where products themselves have become more universally available. However, there are many customers throughout the supply chain, from the distributor, who is the customer of the principle, to the wholesalers and merchants who are the customers of the distributor and finally to the end consumer. Success does not rely solely on the end-user – we need to create a better customer experience for all customers throughout the supply chain. The key to improving the customer experience at every stage remains the same. The value, as ever, lies in the data and unlocking insight around all customers to better serve them.
Pull, don’t push
The traditional approach of pushing a product down the supply chain has become outdated in the era of digital transformation. There is so much more that can and should be done to improve on this model. We have massive volumes of data that is collected and can be analysed throughout each stage to get a better view of customers and trends.
Rather than pushing products on any of the customers in the supply chain, it has become increasingly important to better meet their needs, so that demand drives supply and not the other way around. This requires an understanding of customer buying behaviour, whether that customer is the end consumer or the distributor or wholesaler.
For example, if a wholesaler usually purchases five pallets of a specific product every three weeks, and suddenly stops, there is an action that needs to be taken to understand why, and how this can be corrected. However, without proactive analysis and understanding of buying patterns, this trend may go unnoticed until it has already impacted sales. Unlocking the value of data is integral to the ability to proactively respond to issues and fluctuations.
Data needs technology
One of the challenges plaguing the supply chain is the legacy siloes of information at various touchpoints. To fully leverage analytical capabilities, data across the value chain is required, and everyone from sales reps to drivers, call centres to warehouses, needs to communicate and share data. What is needed is an end-to-end, integrated route to market solution, to deliver visibility across the supply chain and the single version of truth essential in driving customer engagement.
At each stage of the supply chain, there is insight to be unlocked around demand and trends, which can be used for more accurate forecasting for manufacturing and supply. Ultimately the goal should be to move to just-in-time manufacturing and distribution, which can only be achieved through analytics, intelligence and a focus on addressing customer needs rather than simply on moving products. By putting customer engagement at the centre of the value chain, the customer experience will be enhanced, and customers themselves will drive demand, rather than those further up the chain pushing products down.