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A New Dawn for Supply Chain Agility: Accenture on Keeping Up with Post-Pandemic Consumers

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The global pandemic has transformed how and where we work, learn, shop and play — and even where we live. While some of these changes are temporary, many will forever impact how consumers interact with brands. The data to support this doesn’t lie: A recent Accenture study found that more than 80% of consumers who increased their digital usage in a variety of channels during the pandemic expected to sustain these levels moving forward.

It’s time business leaders across industries understand that the e-commerce boom that forced many to quickly digitize their businesses is here to stay, and organizations must be ready to pivot from crisis mode to sustained momentum by building future-proof infrastructures.

To continue meeting rising expectations, leaders must apply learnings from 2020 to improve their processes in 2021. An intelligent customer-centric supply chain is key to this transformation and offers companies the opportunity to make the at-home shopping experience as delightful as previous in-person purchases — all while advancing sustainability efforts that help the environment and their bottom lines.

This year’s Fjord Trends report underscores how the essential business function of supply chains needs to be reassessed to ensure companies can continue to make innovative changes to keep up with our increasingly modern world.

Invest in Experiences to Meet Today’s Consumer Expectations 

Consumers today are visiting brick-and-mortar stores less frequently and instead choosing to engage with retailers digitally at an increasing rate. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders accelerated this trend, but many indicate they are likely to lean into digital channels moving forward.   

This is evident, for example, in the pandemic-fueled boom of rapid delivery apps for goods. Recent PitchBook Data found that investors have put almost $14 billion into on-demand grocery delivery services globally since the beginning of the pandemic, with more of this funding occurring in the first quarter of 2021 than in all of 2020. Further, the need for at-home delivery will likely continue for the foreseeable future, with a recent CommerceHub consumer survey finding that more than 75% of those who subscribe to multiple delivery services said they were still likely to opt for curbside delivery once the pandemic subsides.

Leading businesses recognize that consumers now expect convenient shopping experiences even as the vaccine rollout continues. And, if companies fail to rethink the supply chain, they risk losing business, as cross-industry data reminds us. Accenture found that nearly 30% of people abandoned or canceled orders simply because same-day delivery wasn’t available. The same research also found that 90% of people track the status of their online orders and 81% are unwilling to pay more than $5 for same-day delivery.

To stay competitive, businesses need to rethink the way they bring goods and services to people and look for ways to bring points of surprise and delight to the at-home shopping experience that were previously only available in stores. This includes integrating proactive recommendations for items to purchase, the ability to monitor the delivery of orders and fast, low-cost or free delivery.

Develop A Sustainability Strategy that Your Consumers Really Want

As part of a much-needed supply chain overhaul across industries, companies should keep in mind that consumers are now expecting a greener business model overall, another trend fueled by the pandemic. In fact, a 2020 Accenture study found that 66% of consumers are making more sustainable choices when shopping and will likely continue to do so after COVID-19 subsides.

“Many supply chains continue to operate under an antiquated model where returns of certain items are often sent straight to landfills, but this doesn’t need to be the case.”

Unfortunately, many supply chains continue to operate under an antiquated model where returns of certain items are often sent straight to landfills, but this doesn’t need to be the case. For example, IKEA recently opened its first second-hand shopping center in Sweden, which exclusively sells refurbished furniture or products made from recycled or renewable materials.

The sustainability factor is more than just a passing consumer preference, with a recent Oxford Economics survey of 1,000 supply chain executives finding that “sustainability will be a growing focus for organizations across industries over the coming years as they seek to meet internal goals, satisfy consumer demand and comply with regulations.” Additionally, they view these efforts as a business priority, with 86% saying a sustainable supply chain is a competitive differentiator.

Treat the Supply Chain as a Growth Driver

Successful companies are treating supply chains as a growth driver — increasing value from existing assets, building ecosystem partnerships and managing experiences through resilience and uncertainty. Many companies are leading the way in continuously adapting to emerging needs, both to meet rising expectations and to alleviate their own supply chain headaches.

For example, DoorDash acquired food-making robot company Chowbotics, aiming to help its merchants adopt its meal-making robots. This acquisition comes during a time where people are accustomed to dining at home, a trend that some suggest is here to stay. The companies that adapt to change and invest in innovative offerings for their supply chains will reap the rewards.

What’s Next?

The past year has led to a flurry of changes in business practices and stakeholder expectations, the likes of which many organizations were unprepared for. In the year ahead, organizations need to build intelligent customer-centric supply chains that operate faster and with more agility and resilience to adapt the past year’s changes, and unforeseen future changes.

For companies to remain competitive and successful, they must modernize their supply chains to meet demands, such as sustainable and quick deliveries, while investing in adaptable business models that help them cut costs, increase efficiencies and maximize profits.  

Mark Curtis is head of innovation and thought leadership at Accenture Interactive. Kris Timmermans is head of Accenture’s supply chain and operations practice.

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