Commentary

From Panic To Celebratory Buying: Is Your Supply Chain Ready?

Readers, how is everyone faring in this new normal? May is upon us and we’re closer to reuniting with family and friends in person, something we will undoubtedly never take for granted again.

The food supply chain has become a topic of conversation during this pandemic, something most people don’t consider when grocery shopping.

COVID-19 has changed both the way we shop at brick-and-mortar stores, and the supply chain process. 

Meat and packaging plants are temporarily closing  and farmers are dumping gallons of milk by the millions. Tyson Foods even placed a full page ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette warning consumers of the effects of a broken supply chain.

Add the surge of online orders placed over the past six weeks, and you have a supply chain under pressure.

Panic buying soared at the start of the pandemic. It felt like winning the lottery to find hand sanitizer, soap, disinfectant wipes and toilet paper. It still feels that way.

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When the ban on group gatherings is eased, everyone is going to celebrate with family and friends they haven't seen in months. In addition, it’s grilling season. This could result in a clearing of store shelves, but for a positive reason.

There might be plenty of toilet paper, but potato chips, burgers, steaks, anything grill-worthy might be in short supply. Can your brand's supply chain handle it? Will your brand be ready for this?

A McKinsey & Company report provided suggestions retailers can use to helm supply chains throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Don't be afraid to pivot. How many examples have you seen where businesses offer untraditional items or clever, on-the-fly marketing strategies to keep employees working and revenue flowing? Think of the restaurants offering rolls of toilet paper with curbside pick-up, gyms renting equipment to members and grocery stores offering curbside pick-up or free delivery options (if you can snag an opening).  

Where’s the beef? The breakdown in the supply chain has resulted in empty store shelves and in many instances, it’s not for lack of product. Vulnerabilities exposed now lead to necessary updates for a more seamless process going forward. With blanks filled, the ability to quickly shift gears in the future is enabled and broken supply chain links can be repaired.

Digitize, digitize, digitize! Now is the time to digitize your supply chain to make it easier to move products from their intended cities to places where demand is higher and shelves are emptier. Shopping habits are unchanged, and the ability to make real-time decisions can ease overwhelmed command centers.

The message is about people, not your brand. Brands must provide reassurance and empathy to consumers. A unifying message illustrating that we are all in this together and will get through it one day at a time. How is your brand helping others during the pandemic? This recent ad from Frito-Lay is a solid example of how to reach consumers.

Companies are building customer lifetime value and a stronger emotional connection — a real human connection. Be there for consumers now, and when it’s safe, they will be there for you.

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