The Role Of Customers In Your Supply Chain


Consumer trends have the power to influence your entire supply chain, from your manufacturing processes all the way to your delivery methods. Today’s consumers have more choice, information, and power than ever, so you’ll want to keep them in mind when making supply chain decisions. 

With widespread access to the internet, many consumers want to know exactly where their products are coming from and how they’re made. Prior to the advent of online shopping, many consumers didn’t think much about where their products came from. Technology has also changed the way consumers shop and how they perceive trends. Consumer behavior has fluctuated rapidly over the past several years as a response to unprecedented world events. 

When making supply chain decisions, many organizations focus mainly on budget and efficiency, leaving customer experiences and preferences as an afterthought. This approach can backfire, particularly if you’re in an industry with high levels of competition. 

It’s important for both B2B and B2C companies to keep a close eye on customer trends and optimize supply chains accordingly. At Unilog, we provide our clients with comprehensive global supply chain support that’s highly responsive to changes in the market. As a 4PL provider, we manage your entire supply chain so you can focus on keeping your customers happy. During COVID-19, we used agile supply chain management strategies to keep deliveries on track and ensure that customers were satisfied. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that consumer trends are influencing the supply chain, as well as supply chain changes you can make to keep your customers happy. 

Demand Shifts

Over the past few years, we’ve seen massive shifts in consumer demand across the supply chain. Many of these changes happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions. Today, the spread of COVID-19 is slowing down and most countries have rolled back their restrictions, but many consumer shopping patterns have remained. 

During the height of the pandemic, many people started ordering essential food and toiletries online rather than going to the store. In the years since, consumers have continued to shop for their essentials online, and many people have gotten used to the convenience that this provides. 

Economic trends have also caused major shifts in consumer demand. For example, inflation has forced many consumers to tighten their budgets. This means that fewer people are eating out or buying discretionary products, but demand for affordable grocery products has remained high.

Order Visibility and Tracking

Another major shift in the past few years is the way that consumers monitor and track their orders. IoT and cloud technology has given organizations the power to track shipments from their initial manufacturer all the way to their final destination. Geographic sensors monitor the location of each shipment, and this data is then stored in the cloud for easy access. 

Many organizations have started giving customers access to order tracking for some or all of the product’s journey. Customers enjoy this heightened visibility into the supply chain, as it lets them know exactly when to expect their order. Many consumers now expect to have access to shipment tracking when they place an order. Incorporating order tracking will not only give you more control over your supply chain, but it also creates a better experience for your customers. 

Responsive Customer Service

In addition to order tracking, customers now expect a variety of responsive customer service measures across your entire supply chain. Today’s customers expect the fastest delivery times possible, and they expect clear communication when orders are going to be delayed. They also expect the returns process to be seamless. 

Accurate demand forecasting and route planning can help you improve your shipping times to keep customers satisfied. Demand forecasting will ensure that you have an appropriate amount of product available for periods of high demand. Efficient route planning will help you get this product to your end customer as quickly as possible. Both of these tools can also help you better predict when orders are going to be delayed, so you can communicate with your customers ahead of time to set expectations. 

Affordable Shipping Costs

Inflation and other economic challenges have caused shipping costs to increase in recent years. Organizations have taken a variety of different approaches to handle this issue. Some have passed these costs onto their customers, while others have looked for other ways to absorb the extra expense. 

Passing additional shipping costs onto your customers may seem like the most efficient way to handle inflation, but it could backfire in the long run. Consumers are also feeling the impacts of these economic challenges and may be unwilling to spend money on high shipping costs. You’ll need to strike a balance – while you may increase customer shipping fees slightly, you can also use machine learning and other technologies to make your supply chain more efficient and cut back on unnecessary costs. 

Inflation won’t last forever – it’s part of a normal, cyclical economic process. However, customers will continue to consider shipping costs when making purchasing decisions. Because of this, organizations will need to carefully balance their prices to account for the current economic climate and customer expectations. 

Sustainable and Ethical Practices

Another consumer trend we’ve seen in recent years is an increased focus on sustainable and ethical practices across the supply chain. The internet has made it much easier for consumers to research the companies they’re buying from, and they want to work with organizations that align with their values. 

This means that organizations will need to look for ways to be more sustainable and ethical throughout the supply chain process. There are so many ways to do this, from using low-waste packaging to partnering with shipping partners that use sustainable travel methods. A major concern for many consumers is labor practices – do you work with manufacturers that pay their workers appropriately and create a safe environment? 

To appeal to the conscious consumer, you’ll need to consider these factors in your supply chain. Upgrading to sustainable practices often comes with an extra cost, so you’ll need to consider what’s most important to your customers and make changes that work for your budget. 

Managing a large global supply chain on your own can be challenging, especially when you’re trying to adapt to rapidly changing consumer trends. Working with a 4PL provider like Unilog provides comprehensive supply chain solutions so you can focus on growing your business. 

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