Tag Archives: Demand

Supply chain strive to achieve precise demand shaping – doubled edged sword

Over the past few weeks I have been meeting with a number of supply chain services companies who are talking about and focusing on developing solutions that will allow users to be laser focused with demand sensing and shaping. This was particular evident during my meetings at NRF in New York. We also have the likes of eCommerce giant Amazon who have patented technology that claims to be able to put on the truck the product you have yet to order because they know that you will order it! All very interesting and exciting for supply chains – these supply chains strive to eliminate or at least control the lumpiness associated with their demand patterns.

However this begets a question – is this necessarily good? For example. The situation I hear often is what takes place at Starbucks. A regular client walks into their local Starbucks, the barista notices them standing in line and knows their preferred order. The customer reaches the cash register and their usual venti, skinny, vanilla latte is already waiting for them. All they have to do is pay and pick up their piping hot coffee.  Sounds lovely.

They know what  you want before you order it!

They know what you want before you order it!

And for the most part maybe that customer appreciates the convenience, and feeling of being so well known that you are the “mayor” of that Starbucks. But what if that customer does not want that skinny vanilla latte? What if the customer wants a hot chocolate one day? Do they dare deviate from their usual order or do they accept the usual order for the convenience?

The same holds true for grocers such as Stop and Shop or Walmart, who let you order online and pick up in store – and will predict what your basket will look like. So all you need to do is drive to the grocery store and pick up your order. There is no need to think too much. Of course the positive is that there are tremendous time savings for the customer if they do not want to contemplate a new mix of groceries. But what if the consumer wants to try a new cheese or kitchen cleaner? If their order is already compiled for them will they get the opportunity to see what else is available? Or do we not want to give them the opportunity? How do we make sure they have the opportunity to browse?

My point is not that supply chain users and vendors should not stop striving to get too smart and more effective when it comes to demand shaping and sensing. However there must be some balance when it comes to how precise and “effective” the supply chains need and want to be with regards to the customer. Yes, we want to eliminate lumpiness and extract those savings from the supply chain. But retailers and other players in the supply chains need to still keep a balance with being very precise with how they manipulate and predict demand with the opportunity for their customers to deviate from their usual demand. Retailers and other customer focused industries need to determine how precise they want to be with their demand shaping and how much freedom they want to give their customers to roam and wander through options.


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Filed under Demand Shaping, Supply Chain

Customer loyalty goes beyond a plastic card in your clients’ wallets.

Customer loyalty is the holy grail for retailers, consumer product companies (CPG), airlines, credit cards, media, and so on and so on. Companies across the majority of industries are striving to understand why their consumers are willing to hand over their hard earned income for goods and services. Why or will these consumers continue to purchase from the same source? And how can these companies keep these customers coming back and hopefully spending more and more.

Companies have created and leveraged many creative means to gather and nurture information from their customers – whether it be loyalty cards you have at CVS or Shaws

How many of these are in your wallet or on your key chain?

How many of these are in your wallet or on your key chain?

grocery store or Vineyard Vines or Barnes & Nobles or Starbucks. These vendors know that for the most part they need to give you something for you to give over some information – usually they give you discounts, early views of new product lines, reward points etc. Airlines, of course, were one of the first movers to give you what was a highly sought after reward for your business – miles and status. Hotel chains were quick to follow. Anyone who spends time on the road, knows how vital is it to have “status” on an airline. While it still doesn’t beat flying private…so I have been told…having that status can usually make the drag of travel a little more tolerable.

All this information has added fuel to these supply chains – an insight into the most profitable client and demand. A view into a data source that can potentially drive the most profitable and desirable side of the supply chain. But are our supply chains getting a less than complete picture of what is really happening?

Looking at our consumers’ buying patterns for just our products is far from a complete picture. Grocery chains and drug stores are very aware of this. They work with vendors like IRI, Neilson, Orchestro or RSi to get a more complete view of the consumer basket. These software vendors will aggregate data across a category or across an entire store or region. This allows a more complete view of what is truly happening. But is that enough? No. Not if our supply chains want to be even more finely tuned when it comes to servicing our clients.

The reality is that our supply chains are no linear and they do not exist in a vacuum. They are all intertwined. The way to make sure our customers stays loyal to our supply chains is to understand how the interact with all the supply chains that are connected. This type of visibility cannot occur if we are only looking at that data that comes in from the loyalty program specific to my business. I need to understand how that customer interacts with tangential goods, potential substitute goods, services and even items that might not appear to be in the same cohort.

Companies need to step away from the loyalty card table…okay they still need to take in and leverage that information. But the data that needs to be added to the supply chain is information of how consumers behave when they are not giving you their information – meaning when they are doing other things with their time and money. Credit card companies have a leg up on this, they already have all that data. Smart supply chains will find ways to get access to that information. Just think about how much wiser your supply chain could be with true demand.

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Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Marketing, Supply Chain

Zero moment of truth – the true demand signal

I was reading a great eBook by our friends over a Google that discuss what they call ZMOT: the “Zero Moment of Truth.” Traditionally we have been taught to focus on two moments of truth. The first being when a consumer gets to the store shelf. At this moment, your inventory had better be available in the shape, color, size, price and quantity that the consumer desires. The second moment of truth occurs when the consumer begins to actually use the item. The experience had better meet their expectations or even better – exceed the expectations.

This model has changed with our 24/7 connectivity as well as the rise of mobility. Now there is what is termed the zero moment. This is the moment when your future consumer realizes they have a need or desire, maybe even want your particular product. With our global connectivity and enhanced by mobility, these consumers can now access a world of information that is at their fingertips…literally. We are starting to see the behavior shift this creates for both retailers and consumers. Retailers and manufacturers must have their house in order when a consumer arrives at ZMOT. The question is – how does this impact our supply chains?

There is a lot to be said of demand signals being picked up from data sources such as POS, order history, inventory levels to name a few. However what about the rich data that can found at ZMOT? An example: today a manufacturer can pick up POS data that shows a high demand for flu medicine. They might

What if  you had this map weeks before the outbreak?

What if you had this map weeks before the outbreak?

correctly assume that there is a flu outbreak in that geography and shift inventory within their system to meet this demand. But could this already be too late? What about looking for demand signals at the ZMOT? When consumers are searching on line for “signs of the flu” or “how do I tell I have the flu.” Google has already demonstrated how it can take data from ZMOT and predict the flu outbreak – click here for story. Rather than waiting to see what is selling, what about anticipating what is going to be looked for at the store shelf?

For your supply chain, it would be beneficial to leverage this data to better anticipate demand. Rather than waiting for the data coming from POS, leverage the information at ZMOT to anticipate how that demand will happen. POS and other data can be used in conjunction to adjust your demand signals. More and more consumers already know what they want when they enter your store or at the purchase point, those that can not only get to them at ZMOT but also leverage information from ZMOT will ensure that the first moment of truth is heavily in their favor.

The saying “you read my mind” can become a reality if you tap into the demand signal that is at the ZMOT.


Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Demand Shaping, Retail, Supply Chain

Sports and the supply chain – follow the hot team

Okay maybe this is not 100% about supply chain management, but it is an interesting case of event management and modelling signals. A recent airline issue made me think of the impact sporting events have on load balancing for airlines, hotels and other associated service providers. This all trickles down to their supply chain. For example: this weekend the Red Sox are traveling to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates. On a sporting level this appears to be a lopsided affair. The Red Sox payroll – $161m…Pirates $46m, almost 4x difference. Since the last time the Pirates made the playoffs – 1992 – the Pirates have…not had a winning season while the Red Sox have been perennial contenders, including 2 World Series Titles. So why is this important for your supply chain? The three game series this weekend in Pittsburgh will see a large uptick in travel from the East Coast to Pittsburgh, impacting air travel, hotels, road ways even rail.

Companies that touch associated business ventures need to keep this in mind for their planning and execution. Airlines will have to restructure some of their routing to accommodate the increase passenger load, hotels will have to price adjust since demand will spike, restaurants and retailers might need to increase their deliveries and inventory levels to meet potential demand. This economic impact is always highlighted when it comes to the big sporting events: Soccer’s World Cup or European Cup, the Winter and Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl to name a few. We cannot discount the similar impacts of “smaller” events such as the Red Sox playing the Pirates, or when Steeler fans travel, or Yankee games…just to name few.

Maybe companies should watch which teams have Grateful Dead like followings and adjust their supply chains accordingly

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Filed under Supply Chain