At our 16th annual Shipper Symposium, keynote speaker Ken Hughes, a leading shopping and consumer behaviorist, discussed the future of consumers and how to prepare the next-gen supply chain for our ever-changing society. As an expert in consumer psychology and social anthropology, Hughes communicated that supply chain operations no longer simply hold the functionality of moving products and goods from origin to destination – rather, if constructed correctly, they can actually be a business’s most strategic asset. Today, organizations are tasked with serving six generations of consumers at once – something that has never been done before. And as Millennials are quickly becoming the largest consumer force on the planet, supply chains are facing massive disruption – and this means that organizations should be changing the way they think about their consumers. Below are some of the insights that Hughes imparted to help businesses keep up with the demands of both today and tomorrow’s consumers. P.A.C.E. and the Blue Dot Consumer In order for an organization to be the most successful in today’s market, it is essential to follow P.A.C.E. – Personalization, Authenticity, Context and Experience. This begins with understanding the “Blue Dot Consumer,” which Hughes described as a mindset that “has become a survival strategy [for businesses], not an option.” The consumers of today have a “one-click away” mentality, and the expectation is that products will be delivered within days, services (such as Uber) will arrive within minutes, and content (such as Netflix) will appear within seconds. This is a huge part of the modern customer experience, and long gone are the days of marketing to the masses. Customers anticipate and expect a level of individuality to make their purchasing journey more enjoyable; and when they are satisfied, they are more likely to share their encounter with that company to others. Businesses are no longer faced with simply outperforming their competitors – they also need to exceed the expectations set by businesses in every industry to create a relevant and personalized customer experience. If this is done correctly, it can and will have a long-term positive impact on the consumer’s view of the organization. Authenticity is a Necessity In addition to personalization, authenticity plays a huge role in Blue Dot Consumerism. Hughes explained that newer generations have a strong interest in the human connection and the importance of engaging with “real”, authentic companies. In order to be successful, organizations shouldn’t try to replicate anyone else and embrace their uniqueness. Providing consumers some insight into your unique differentiators can help them better understand your process and who you are; and a great way to do this is by telling a story in a transparent and authentic way. Understand Your Customers The way businesses communicate with customers has also become very important. Consumers value contextual communication (or the transmission of relevant information) where both parties clearly understand what is being discussed. Your company shouldn’t only be thinking of what is going to be generally relevant to your consumer or its demographic, but also what’s going to be relevant to them at this very moment in time. It’s important for businesses to get to know their customers, where they are, and what they desire from you. Hughes used the example of a shopper at a grocery store receiving a pop-up text message saying: “You recently favorited a pizza recipe on our website, and you just walked past the cheese aisle. Do you want to purchase the ingredients for that recipe with the enclosed coupon?” Establishing a relevant flow of communication builds customer relationships and brand loyalty by having a company connection for every part of their journey. Experience as Part of the Product or Service: Materialistic consumers are a thing of the past; which can actually be a real boon for the modern supply chain. Today, people are interested in shareable experiences – who they are with, where they are located and what story they can bring back to tell family and friends. Creating experiential equity is necessary for businesses to thrive – and that starts with the product being the story. Disruption shouldn’t be impacting your supply chain, it should be something that you are owning and embracing. To achieve this, organizations can look to their supply chain operations and add value to the customer experience based on when and how their products are delivered to the end consumer. This is no longer just transporting from point A to point B; it’s about how a company can evoke an emotional response from the consumer. And that’s where our industry can truly shine. Hughes noted, “Your reaction speed is going to define the success of your business.” And as the world and economy evolves, so should your organization. You must stay on top of current trends and always try to predict what is going to be the next “big thing” – and that means that your organization should constantly be learning. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to keep finding new and exciting ways to go above and beyond and thrill the customer! What are you doing in your supply chain operations to meet changing consumer expectations?