Build resilience into your supply chain in 2022

Peter Reeve Profile picture for user Peter Reeve January 20, 2022
Peter Reeve of Confluent explains why data consistency is essential in getting to grips with your supply chain, build resilience and create great experiences for your customers and employees this year.

Data consistency concept on laptop © Carlos Muza - Unsplash
(Carlos Muza - Unsplash)

2021 caused a lot of customer unhappiness due to supply chain delays. Brexit, COVID, weather, geopolitical issues and the Suez Canal blockage all contributed to a major global supply chain issue. The bad news is on the whole these issues aren’t just going to go away - they’re here to stay. However, the good news is that with the right data infrastructure they can be managed efficiently.

The Economist commissioned a report by GEP into the business costs of supply chain disruption and reported some interesting findings. 38% of the respondents (firms with revenues upward of US1BN) reported damage to their brand reputation and image as a result of supply chain disruptions. The report also concluded that firms are increasingly prioritising resilience over efficiency, as well as finding new ways to achieve both at once.

It is important to have sight into the whole business ecosystem when discussing supply chains. For example a clothes retailer might refer to their supply chain as logistics with clothes coming into their warehouse, distribution between stores and also online direct mailing. But we shouldn't forget the availability of the materials to make the clothes and the labour workforce to actually create them, along with all the distribution, logistics and people at each stage of the workflow.

There is however one consistency that flows throughout an ecosystem - data. And that data can be the key to creating resilience if it's utilised in the right way.

How companies have worked in the days of old was once ok, with physical customers and databases of data from warehouse stock checks once a week. However once the digital era took over, businesses moved their stock online and had to match their actual availability, all the time in real-time. There is also complexity added to that with retailers that sell products in-house and online, taking into account different stockists, and future stock level expectations to name but a few. To survive in the digital era it's vital to have information at your fingertips about your business, its stock level and future expectations of item availability.

These systems have to be able to provide a rich front end customer experience, alongside smart and efficient operations behind the scenes. To do this, companies need to react to everything in the moment, which requires access to real-time data across every part of the business.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic shift in consumer shopping habits, and for Confluent customer AO it led to a sharp increase in growth. John Roberts, AO Founder and Chief Executive Officer, underscored the scale of the change when he explained that “the pandemic accelerated a shift in customer behaviour towards online shopping – we saw ten years’ change in consumer behaviour in just ten weeks.”

Helping to enable the rapid changes needed to support this surge in growth is a real-time event streaming platform based on Confluent and Apache Kafka®. This platform enables the AO Customer Personalization team to deliver hyper-personalized online experiences by combining historical customer data with clickstream data and other real-time digital signals from across the business. Just as importantly, it is enabling AO development teams to accelerate the rollout of new business capabilities.

Along with other business outcomes, customer experiences improved with real-time hyper personalization, and customer conversion rates increased by up to 30%.

At the heart of AO’s business lies customer happiness so it’s no surprise that they invested at the beginning of the pandemic. There are many other customer stories similar to this one where businesses have set their data in motion to build resilience with external factors that are continuously changing.

I mention customer experience throughout this article as I truly believe that happy customers are a great measure of success, and one that we should all have top of mind when making decisions. Time and time again businesses approach us with a wish to make their customers happy, and that’s what I love to see change with the implementation of Confluent. If we can all build resilience that keeps customers happy in 2022 we can’t go far wrong.

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