The rise of webrooming
Webrooming, or the concept of a consumer visiting a showroom to test out a product before purchasing the item from an online store, is on the rise. “Don’t write-off your physical presence and go solely digital yet,” said Trudgian. In today’s omnichannel market, consumers still want a personal, tactile experience where they can visit a showroom and touch and feel a brand’s products, but also the ability to leave that store and make a purchase online, while still taking advantage of all available discounts and click-to-collect approaches.
The rise of subscription models
As consumer demands have heightened, expecting nearly instant delivery of products, subscription models have gained popularity because they allow brands to anticipate a customer’s needs and deliver products to them without missing a beat — all the while avoiding the high cost of immediate fulfillment. The model also promotes customer loyalty. When consumers subscribe to a brand, they are dedicated to that brand exclusively for a period of time. Plus, as IoT moves further into the space, brands can measure when consumers need refills — allowing them to anticipate fulfillment needs, increase efficiency across the physical supply chain and lower freight costs. Consumers, in turn, can be happy they aren’t breaking the bank.
Outside of the subscription model, brands that conduct a significant amount of business online need to be aware of, how the influx of returns — items purchased online are returned at a much higher rate than those purchased in-store — might throw off expected inventory numbers or create a backlog of products in the distribution center and fulfillment phase, cautioned Bednar.
Focus on the customer experience
The heart of the 2018 supply chain will be improving not just the experience, but the expectations of the customer. With the speed at which customer expectations are changing, companies need to be able to leverage digital tools and technology to just as quickly assimilate, innovate and meet those needs. Trudgian suggests that brands consider securing data exchange processes, live system integration, heightened visibility, enhanced tracking, and networking and collaboration that unite the supply chain. As data becomes more important to brands, supply chain partners will need to continuously add value to a customer’s supply chain by moving away from commoditized solutions and focusing more on helping customers reach their bottom line faster and less expensively.
The 2018 supply chain is already characterized by uncertainty, with digital transformation presenting brands with new opportunities and tools, as well as new complexities. Those that can embrace these trends, and remain flexible, will pull ahead of competitors in the year to come.