How to Ensure Delight in the Grocery Aisle
Fulfilling customer needs and maintaining their ongoing satisfaction remains a critical priority. Disappointing a customer doesn't sit well with a retailer or store associate, and that sense of frustration is something retailers should be working to prevent, starting with the following strategic supply chain enhancements.
Improve demand forecasting to reduce unwelcome surprises. Typical seasonal products, be it Valentine's Day in February or Easter in the spring, are more straightforward to plan for. You know with some certainty the variety of products shoppers buy year after year for these events.
That being said, consumer preferences continue to evolve rapidly and sometimes a non-seasonal product will fly off the shelves that you didn't think to plan for—need I mention toilet paper, yeast, or bread flour in 2020?
To keep customers happy in the grocery aisle, retailers should fine-tune their demand forecasting capabilities. With AI and machine learning powering these processes, retailers can be alerted to changing demand signals and anomalies that a human couldn't detect as quickly or accurately.
You can't fulfill a customer need if you don't know how in-demand that product is today, or will be next week or next month. By the time you realize it's a key item for your customer base, it's too late to optimize the upstream supply chain so you can ensure adequate stock levels on the shelf.
Extend supply chain visibility through collaboration and real-time insights. With demand forecasting top of mind, it's important to deepen relationships within your supplier network. Foster collaboration with wholesalers and manufacturers. Share meaningful data that will benefit both your business and theirs—AI can speed up these insights and present detailed what-if scenarios to contemplate. This will be paramount as supply chain disruptions persist.
As much as you're able, extend your visibility between the time when the order is placed with a supplier and when product arrives at the warehouse for distribution. As you work more closely with suppliers, you'll actually impact the customer in-store experience. The more you know about delays and realistic lead times, the more agile you can be in your supply chain decision-making at every step in the product journey.
Expand your understanding of customers and communicate with transparency. A major challenge for retailers is translating supply chain visibility into customer communication and relationship-building opportunities. There's a big difference between a shopper disappointed but forewarned of stockouts, and one expecting to come in and buy what they need only to find it absent from the shelf.
Make shoppers aware of the disruptions you're facing—supply chain frustrations are sure to continue for some time. Through transparent messaging, manage their expectations based on the knowledge you have for future availability. Then, reengage them with appropriate substitutions or other alternatives to satisfy immediate needs.
This plays into the importance of having a holistic approach to retail operations with interconnected systems that inform each other. If your supply chain solutions are integrated with marketing systems, you can quickly provide customized notifications to shoppers in an integrated way.
Every day is an opportunity to get the in-store experience right. By leveraging supply chain and inventory best practices, and implementing emerging technology to speed decision making, grocery retailers can ensure everyday delight in the grocery aisle.