Supply chain in the front line

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MaloryDavies.jpgAt first sight, the term Omni-Channel appears to be no more than a trendy way of expressing concepts that have been going around the supply chain for years. However, it became clear from the debate at the Omni-Channel Conference last month that the term reflects the fact that supply chains are moving into a new phase.

And at the heart of this is the fact that ensuring customer satisfaction is no longer just a front of store responsibility, it extends right back along the supply chain.

Dino Rocos, operations director of John Lewis, highlighted the fact that a customer might now examine a product in a store, go away and order it online – and then elect to collect it from that, or even another store.

Then there is the growth of mass personalisation. Go to the Nike web site. You don’t have to buy the standard design of trainer – you can customise your trainers to be a reflection of your personality. If you want shocking pink soles with lime green uppers and your name on the tongue, you can have it.

To achieve this means reaching right back along the supply chain. As a result, supply chain is no longer a back room activity – it is in the front line of customer satisfaction.

It is not just about meeting the demands of new shopping habits. Ian Towell of Tesco made it clear that giving customers a good returns experience is not incompatible with controlling costs.

And there are new delivery technologies in the pipeline that can change the experience of the customer.  Delivery drones are one example. But Aussie Post has a “Video Stamp” product – the sender of a parcel can record a video message to the recipient using a mobile phone app. The recipient gains access to the video by scanning the stamp on the parcel – again using an app.

My estimation is that change is going to come even faster in the future. When we stage the Omni-Channel Conference next year, these concepts will have matured – and there will be more change that we haven’t contemplated yet.

Malory Davies FCILT,


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