Changing Customer Needs in the Supply Chain
Digital Transformation and Personalization is All About the Customer
As customers engage in more multi-channel interactions, having a deep understanding of these journeys is an essential component for the customer service function, and for ensuring excellence in the overall customer experience. However, gathering customer data at critical touchpoints and developing capabilities to improve the customer buying, selling and servicing journey is not an easy task.
Customers now demand personalized ordering and status around orders, new products and services with real-time updates on shipments, higher levels of on-time and complete deliveries. Capturing changing customer needs such as personalization and responsiveness, is paramount to customer retention. These personalized fulfillment objectives require supply chain organizations to align with customer service in an increasingly coordinated manner. As businesses strike a balance between maintaining high levels of customer experience and delivering against corporate cost optimization and cash flow mandates, technology and digitalization will play a key role in achieving both objectives.
Understanding Customer Preference
At the start of any interaction, the company should immediately “recognize” the customer and have a 360-degree view of the customer based on external and internal data sources. Understanding and communicating with customers using “listening” technologies create topics of interaction of relevant content by persona. This intent data drives customer interaction behaviors across the channels and, ultimately with the company’s customer service, technical service or sales representatives.
A better understanding of the channels in which people want to interact the most with will be key to providing individualized order management. What modality do they like most using? Is it discussing with a customer service representative, a social group platform of community interactions, a mobile device, or an e-commerce site? Each modality needs to be both consistent and relevant for the personal journey. The same is true with the fulfillment processes. An example is that online or interactive person-to-person, chemical companies can provide real-time customized pricing and delivery options based on customer characteristics, modalities, preferences and segment.
Overall, companies should provide a “personalized experience” tailored to each customer-preferred channel and modality based on order data, product information and preferred service level.
Advanced Technologies for Collaboration and Digitalization
An enterprise that partners across the supply chain using a digital supply network brings collaboration in designing products, solutions and experiences based on customer needs. The ability to create cross-functional teams that deliver on these efforts include supply and demand planning, logistics efﬁciencies and digital integration of physical product ﬂows.
Ideally, all routine customer interactions should be supported by digitalization, analytics and artificial intelligence, making it possible for the customer to have a “no touch” ordering experience. Organizations should offer human interactions as an option to continuously updated knowledge bases, allowing customers to easily access expert know-how and opinions about products, technical service, innovations and so forth at key points in the process.
Digital Direct Channel
Digital technology improves the direct channel experience significantly while expanding the reach to customers and prospects from a go-to-market approach. Chemical companies today have implemented many of their own branded digital channel that matches the company’s product portfolio, with customer needs addressed in a targeted personalized buying process. Selling online enables a better understanding of customer buying behavior, which in turn leads to improved conversion, cross-selling and loyalty. The digital direct channel incents the sales force to focus more on building relationships than taking orders directly.
To improve the overall customer experience, companies have moved from having multiple microsites to one designed for multiple product lines that provide a guided experience, like the approach a B2C company utilizes. With the implementation of this digital selling solution, an even greater percentage of customers are now buying products with upsell and cross-sell potential through the digital channel. The use of digital channels varies widely in the industry as the value of the digital direct channel becomes more widely recognized, expect to see a growing trend toward online sales using a digital supply network for automated order capture and the complete order-to-cash process.
The Indirect Channel
In the chemical industry, manufacturers reach certain types of customers through multi-channel buying channels working through indirect partners such as distributors or agents to reduce costs to serve. This approach creates a consistent need between the manufacturer and the customer to provide relevant content and digitalization of order fulfillment management the ability to create an associated customer experience.
With digital technology, chemical companies pivot from managing channel partners to coordinating the orchestration of an ecosystem of partners for prospects and customers. They work with partners as an extension of their own business and gain more control over the customer experience. To make that shift, they invest in customer data management, analytics and “listening” technologies to collect feedback and share data to develop personal experiences across all the engagement touchpoints as part of the buying journey. These efforts pay off: By orchestrating relationships with multi-channel sales efforts, manufacturers boost sales while reducing unproductive administrative efforts.
Leverage New Marketplaces for Selling
These platforms are growing in importance as new sales channels for growth in the chemical industry. For example, Alibaba, Ebay, Chem2Bid and OnetoChem are growing chemical industry marketplaces that aim to connect chemical producers and customers early in the buying journey. Using a digital supply network connected to the order capture of these marketplaces streamlines the integration to manufacturing ERP solutions and completes the logistics and order-to cash digitalization efforts using a single integration platform approach across all multi-channels. This approach allows chemical customers to engage with numerous companies in an efficient and easy manner while manufacturers provide customers and prospects with information on products. These manufacturers then receive from the marketplaces a better understanding of customer needs and behaviors.
More and more technology platforms for sales and marketing are coming online as they replace traditional channels in favor of a more multi-channel ordering approach for reaching customers and prospects. These large selling marketplaces are being utilized by chemical companies to bring their products for their go-to-market initiatives.
As these marketplaces continue to come to market, chemical companies need to monitor them and engage in understanding the type of products and customer segmentation they want to reach through these new channels for growth. Otherwise, companies will be caught and surpassed by competitors that are grabbing business through these
channels. Back end efficiencies achieved through a digital supply network integrating these channels to ERP fulfillment solutions improves customer service and ultimately the customer experience.
The customer acquisition from pipeline funnel through order-to- cash approaches mentioned for multi-channel customer fulfillment and services require significant changes. But the digitally driven experience for omni-channel order capture for the complete order-to-cash cycle is available today for the chemical industry.