Supply Chain ManagementSCM as a term has only been around since the 1980s and it received an enhanced level of focus starting in the 1990s, but the concept has been around as long as trade has been around. Goods have traveled across the globe to be bought and sold for centuries and merchants have tried to manage the overall process from the manufacturer through the distribution as efficiently and risk-free as possible. A greater degree of efficiency or a lesser degree of risk resulted in higher profit margins.
Technology and the Supply Chain
Supply Chain Management (SCM) consulting and software helped revolutionize the overall process starting in the 90s and by now there is a tremendous amount of maturity in the industry around SCM. Enterprise-grade software helps manage and control all aspects of the supply chain. However, the data feeding these systems and processes have largely been data provided by manufacturers, logistics companies, transportation companies, distributors and retailers. This “inside or internal” data has largely been controlled and clean (at least for the most part) but it has also provided a single view of the data – it is data that companies know and control. There is a huge amount of data on the Internet that is still ignored in this whole process. As the industry and processes mature to get to the next level of evolution, this data cannot be ignored any longer.
eCommerce and the Supply ChaineCommerce is a massive part of the product distribution today. Information about products on the Internet and especially social media are extremely valuable and arguably equally valuable as the same data that comes from the transportation company or the retailer or any other data source in the whole supply chain. Companies may already be getting some data from their internal sources, but we have so many instances of how companies get blindsided by the lack of data from outside sources which may be deemed as “untrustworthy” but could have averted financial ruin if it had been monitored in time.
Product Distribution Channel MonitoringProduct Distribution Channel Monitoring is an integral part of the overall Supply Chain Management process. It consists of the process of monitoring all available data points (internal but largely external) around the distribution of the product when it is available for sale to the general world. Whether the product is available online or through channel partners only, whether it is only available in brick and mortar store or if it is a digital product or available through all kinds of distribution channels, the amount of data may vary but it is always available to be gathered and monitored. The data needs to be collected, cleaned and correlated (the toughest part) and analyzed for trends and markers and positively or negatively impacting factors. Then the knowledge that is gained from all this analysis needs to be rapidly consumed by regional and upper management to use in their strategic or tactical decision making.
Types of data available onlineThe actual data that is valuable to a particular industry or company will vary, but generally the following types of data are a good starting point to start thinking about getting started
- Product Images (High resolution or grainy pictures depicting your product in bad light)
- Description (The officially approved version or an online retailer’s poorly written substitute)
- Video (Handheld nausea inducing video or a slick company production)
- Formal reviews by the traditional or digital only media companies (Magazines, Newspapers, Online publications, Blogs)
- Semi-Formal reviews by online Influencers
- Informal reviews on social media or niche online boards
- Complaints on online support websites
- Complaints on social media
- Positive mentions about your products or brands
- Mentions in the academic community or research journals
- “Feel good” customer stories about product use
- Positive and Potentially viral interactions with the company
- Identifying counterfeits
- Separating Counterfeit reviews or complaints
- Effectiveness of counterfeit management processes
Marketing and Advertising
- Effectiveness of advertising – both online and traditional media
- Effectiveness of marketing strategy and budgets
- Adequacy of coverage in various regions of the globe
Inventory and Distribution
- Lack of Availability or too much availability
- Uneven online vs offline distribution
- Uneven regional demand and distribution
- Ignoring the potential “virality” of a product globally or regionally
Vision for the futureThe visionaries in various companies (large and small) have started to take notice of the value of this data available freely and publicly on the Internet as an essential part of the full supply chain data and management. The naysayers still bury their heads in the sand either due to lack of understanding or excuses around the reliability of this data. The data available on the Internet isn’t clean and most thought leaders are not going to argue otherwise, but it is valuable data and there is no doubt about that either. The challenge is to actually get started.
Control the data or feel powerlessAlmost everyone would agree that Apple controls the narrative about their products and their brand extremely well. While not all companies can be Apple nor have the resources or budgets to be like them, they can definitely strive to learn from the techniques employed by Apple and control the data and the narrative as opposed to the “tail wagging the dog”. If companies don’t take charge of the data, they will be powerless to control damage on the negative side and feel powerless to enhance the brand image on the positive side. The time of hand wringing and staring at each other with a sense of powerlessness is over – it is time to take charge.
Extremely low cost to get started and quick time to fruitionFor a fraction of the investment made in other areas of the SCM technology stack, companies can get started and collect the data and then make the determination of the value of this data. Companies will only be spending a few thousand dollars to get started as opposed to millions with their SCM consulting and software investments. The time it takes to derive value (or not) is also minuscule and that initial determination can be made easily within weeks or months.
Let’s get started with Product Distribution Monitoring
Turn the Internet into meaningful, structured and usable data