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GT Nexus

The Customer Centric Supply Chain

Tamara Saucier, GT Nexus

The core tenet of retail is knowing your customer. In today's omni-channel world, retailers have been adopting customer focused strategies in sales, marketing, and planning to ensure their brand experience is a positive one. But true customer centric retailing cannot be achieved only at the engagement level; the customer must be at the core of all operations. The delivery experience is the last - and most memorable - moment of truth. This is wholly impacted by the execution of the retail supply chain. So why aren't more retailers focused on a customer centric supply chain?

Today's priorities around omni-channel and the seamless experience can only be achieved when the end to end supply chain is synchronized to demand. How can a retailer assess the customer centricity of its own supply chain? Here are a few questions to ask to begin down this path:

  • Does my supply chain really know what the customer expectations are? Do we know how they vary across the organization?
  • Is the supply chain engaged with the "front line?" Can the supply chain team provide readily available information? How quickly can they inform the right people?
  • Are the back office and supply chain built around hardwired systems, processes, or perceived rules or regulations?
  • Does everyone have the same voice (and inspiration) to do the right thing? Is leadership backing this up?
  • How far back into the organization does the voice of the customer go?
  • Are the supply chain models and operations looked at through the lens of the consumer or through the traditional priorities?
  • What are the service promises made across the organization that drive the ultimate customer experience?

Defining the Customer Centric Supply Chain

So what exactly is a customer centric supply chain?

  • One that is visible to the entire organization as needed. This includes physical inventory, the cost of that inventory and the costs of decisions.
  • One that can deliver to the latest market signals at the speed required of the brand value.
  • One that can flex as the business model changes and/or moves. It maintains nimbleness that is right for the brand value... not a one-size-fits-all.
  • One that is segmented by customer and not design, i.e., replenishment vs. fast fashion vs. long lead time vs. new market vs. new suppliers.
  • One that allows the right people to be empowered with decision making, i.e., inventory managers making changes outside their normal purview.
  • One that has clear metrics, KPI's, and trending information to drive iterated improvements.
  • One that goes as far back to source as possible in embedding customer focus. Most vendors know your customers as well - leverage that knowledge.

A shift in the way retailers share orders and information with trading partners is needed. Instead of the hardwired, point-to-point approach of the past, retailers need a flexible, automated environment that connects all parties in a network, much like LinkedIn or Facebook. Social media and web technology have changed the way consumers research, compare and purchase goods. It's time for retailers to harness that power on the backend of their businesses to meet the demands of their consumers.

Tamara Saucier is VP Industry Solutions for Retail at GT Nexus.  She provides domain expertise to their global retail, footwear and apparel industry practice. Tamara works closely with customers, partners, and industry organizations on defining and prioritizing GT Nexus's industry go-to-market strategy and solution concepts.  She has 10 years of direct experience in international operations in the apparel and home furnishings sectors.  For the last 18 years she has worked extensively in the U.S. and Europe with leading apparel and footwear manufacturers and global retailers on their Product Development, Sourcing, and Supply Chain initiatives.  Tamara holds a BSc in Textile Technology.