As we all try to navigate these unchartered waters and deal with this unprecedented situation, one thing is sure – this is the time for solidarity, compassion and calm pragmatism. More than ever, we need to make sure that we are doing the right things for ourselves, our families, our communities and for society as a whole. I, for one, am hoping that we will come out stronger through this experience.
We have seen a raft of measures from world leaders, national banks and global economists to make sure that we protect our economies as much as possible. Health, safety and well being of everyone is paramount, and we also need to ensure that people’s livelihoods continue, that trade and commerce continue - they are fundamental to our survival.
We will continue to need food, medicines, our regular supplies to keep our way of life. Therefore we need to protect consumer goods supply chains and make them robust for the future. With the technological advances of the 21st century, we can solve some of the world's most pressing challenges. Likewise, digital technology can play a big part to help us safeguard and prepare for the post-COVID-19 world.
An analysis of the last few weeks shows specific trends in the trading of our 450+ FMCG customers in emerging markets.
- Consumption trends
- 15% surge in people stocking of essentials including perishables
- Health drinks sales have grown 3x with work from home professionals driving adoption and offtakes
- The offtakes on premium products in syrups and spreads are among the worst affected with a sales drop of over 50%
- Condom orders have spiked 67%
2- Customer RTM trends
Our customers took a raft of measures to safeguard not only their employees but also their customers and consumers:
- Taking orders via phone
- Digitising mom and pop retailers to keep the orders flowing
- Overdrive on demand forecasting and leveraging autoreplenishment capabilities to prevent stockouts
- Consumer trends
- Stockpiling – We are all stockpiling. It is vital that we not only have adequate food supplies but also are well informed to avoid panic.
- Caring for the elderly – Ensure the elderly can access supplies without having to step out.
- Frequency of purchases – More frequent trips to the stores, as availability has been a challenge. Focus on healthy fresh food is becoming critical. Shopping habits are changing due to social distancing.
One of the ways we can come out stronger from this crisis is by refocussing on how to transform our supply chains digitally. So that we are better empowered to deal with such situations now and in the future. Based on our discussions with our 100+ customers here are some of our top focus areas for the digital transformation:
- Communication: This is going to be one of the most important pillars of digital capabilities you will need. You need to have the ability to leverage digital communications and media in real-time to drive customer engagement and keep them informed. Some examples include:
- Transparent availability – Make availability data across the entire supply chain accessible to all stakeholders in your network at a click of the button and help them make better decisions.
- Promotions – Drive targeted promotions including DBT (Direct benefit transfer) directly with your customers and channel partners removing barriers in trade and making claim settlements in realtime.
- Consumer insight – Share insights on what consumers' demands with every corner shop in every neighbourhood.
- How to videos – Share best practices on POSM videos, right pricing strategy, right visibility and more with your customers. It will help create perfect stores in every region/town/village.
- Analytics: Data will save the day in the COVID-19 world. Make sure you have real-time access to every data point in your distribution network to help make the right decisions at the right time. Some emerging trends include:
- Predicting peaks and troughs – Harness all the data that you can especially now to understand demand. It will be a gold mine to help you estimate and forecast the demand patterns in events such as these in the future.
- Regions of focus – Understand regions which need more attention in events such as these, e.g. where the consumer demographics shows high ageing population, reach it through multilevel supply chain etc.
- Products focus – Understand what products will be in high/low demand, where average days in inventory is low so that you can drive dedicated resources to ensure availability.
- Low to no-touch trade: Make sure your customers have an independent channel to continue trading with you. The experience is the same as sending your army of sales experts to visit them in person. Few use cases include:
- B2B commerce through your mobile – Ensure that orders continue to flow even when your salesperson cannot visit the outlet.
- Merchandising automation – Help your customers to identify if they are planogram compliant just with a single photo of the shelf.
- Callbased order management with high quality – Enable your home/office working sales teams to drive ordering on calls. However, build rights checks and balances to ensure high quality ironing out rogue/erroneous orders.
- Frictionless supply chain: Touch nothing supply chain ensuring safety and speed of execution.
- RFID – Leverage RFID technology to ensure notouch supply chain, e.g. auto inventory positions in warehouses
- IoT based Autoreplenishment – Leverage IoT technologies instore to understand low stock SKUs and drive auto-replenishment.
- Digitally enable traders – Ensure that the millions of traders, even the smallest of distributors in remote parts of the countries are digitally transformed just with their mobiles.
- Consumer fulfilment: Drive B2B2C commerce with consumer experience and safety at the heart of everything you do.
- Lastmile fulfilment through millions of stores – Digitally activate millions of your customers to help reach consumers in every neighbourhood, ensuring your products are available even in rural pockets of the country.
- Partnerships with delivery companies – Build a brand new network of techenabled delivery partners to drive ‘Just in time’ supply chains.
- Consumer online ordering – Enable your customers to create online stores via consumer social platforms to drive reach at scale.
We are already helping shape the digital agenda of a large set of our customers to help them be fit for the future. What are you planning to do?
The article has been authored by Krishna Kothari, CEO, Bizom UK