Written by Stefan Spendrup, Vice President, Sales Northern and Western Europe, SOTI
To understand the impact of the global supply chain crisis on the retail industry, SOTI recently surveyed consumers across eight different countries, as part of its From Clicks to Ships: Navigating the Global Supply Chain Crisis 2022 Report. The findings showed that consumers have been forced to change their pre-pandemic shopping habits and as a result, retailers have had to change their strategies to reflect this shift in behaviour.
The combination of the pandemic and global supply chain crisis revealed the cracks in retailers’ processes as the industry had to suddenly prepare for the repercussions. Shopping experiences are now very different, and consumers are left with low tolerance and decreasing loyalty to brands they once loved, due to unfulfilled needs and poor experiences.
As a result, customers are now less reluctant to turn to alternative brands if their favourite retailer is unable to provide any of the critical elements in their shopping experience. It has been predicted that the supply chain crisis could last for many more months and even up to another two years. With 33% of shoppers trying a new retailer and 40% trying a new shopping method within the last two years, these instances will rise without immediate and suitable intervention.
Identifying recurring pitfalls
The effects of the global supply change crisis prompted by the pandemic cannot be entirely mitigated and consumers are experiencing the effects first-hand. Shoppers have increasingly become used to feeling unsatisfied and disappointed when they are left with empty baskets and undelivered items. In fact, 57% of global consumers say that they have recently experienced one or more items not being available or have had to go to different retailers to find items in stock and additionally one third say the items they wanted to purchase have not been available at all.
Global supply issues have presented too many instances of lost packaging, slow delivery times, unprecise delivery time slots and complicated return processes. Yet consumers are unwilling to compromise on speed and availability and now demand seamless experiences with a brand, knowing that they can rely on them and that their purchase is in safe hands.
The retail market we saw in 2021 will be very different to the one will encounter this year. Whether it be the conscious environmental impact or the inconvenient wait times of ordering from brands shipping products overseas, more than half of consumers (52% global/60% UK) have changed their habits, saying they are now less likely to order an item that requires shipping from overseas than they were a year ago. We are instead seeing a revolutionised way of thinking amongst consumers that we have never seen before, with them now considering an array of potential frustrations before hitting “buy”.
To succeed in a rapidly evolving market, retailers must optimise every customer touchpoint and ensure that the right technology is in place to mitigate any instances of customer dissatisfaction.
Growing in an ever-changing climate
Although the rapid scaling up of consumer trends and behaviours is putting immense pressure on retailers to ‘get it right’, the solutions are already within many organisations’ grasp. There is already a great deal of potential locked up in organisations’ existing mobile technology and systems that can be used to achieve a great customer experience. Revamping existing devices and solutions that organisations are accustomed to, can unlock business intelligence so that organisations can be fully prepared and diagnose potential detrimental issues before they even come to light.
The first step in rethinking go-to-market strategies and how to approach customer relationships is by having the right data to identify and understand changing and growing consumer preferences. Technology that has everything in one place ranging from handheld wearable barcode scanners to EPS-enabled tablets and data collecting apps will help respond to the constantly changing demands and give customers the right information at the right time to fulfil their purchase.
By ensuring retailers have mobile-enabled operational intelligence, they will be able to diagnose and pre-empt problems quickly by getting full visibility on device performance. Many retailers are still not even aware of when downtime has occurred.
As the supply chain catches up and issues are gradually resolved, supply and demand will undoubtedly begin to stabilise again. Regardless of these improvements, however, the brands that utilise mobile technology will already have their best foot forward and the ability/flexibility to provide a top-class customer experience, regardless of how a customer chooses to shop.
As technology advances, it’s refreshing to see that consumers are open and welcoming to the changes. For example, SOTI research found that almost half (46% global/45% UK) said they would consider either autonomous vehicles to deliver larger packages to their home or another convenient location, or delivery drones to deliver small packages (43% global/39% UK), easing pressure on quick turnaround and demanding delivery slots on the industry.
As seen in the early stages and throughout the pandemic, consumer behaviour changes regularly and demands fluctuate. Whilst the future of the retail environment may be uncertain, by providing their customers with choice and flexibility, retailers can prepare themselves now for all eventualities.