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Calls for task force to tackle supply chain resilience

Britain’s manufacturers are calling for a cross-industry and Government taskforce to assess the UK’s current and future supplychain resilience and capabilities, as well as establishing an action plan to protect the economy from any future significant disruptive event.

The call was made on the back of a report by Make UK and Infor, ‘Operating without Borders – Building Global Resilient Supply Chains’, which shows the stark impact on UK manufacturers from the economic shocks of the last two years and the knock-on effects to supply chains from increased energy, transport and raw material costs, as well as transport availability.

The findings also indicate that the longstanding strategies manufacturers have adopted to off-shore in response to globalisation, operating a ‘just in time’ process with virtually guaranteed transport links and low-cost production, have been turned upside down with disruption and increased volatility fast becoming normal.

As a result, this has led to companies significantly increasing the number of suppliers so they have more options in the event of disruption, with these suppliers increasingly sourced back in the UK or Western Europe. Looking forward the report shows these trends were already accelerating in the next two years, to which the invasion of Ukraine and continuing disruption in China are likely to have given further impetus.

According to the survey, the biggest disruptor in the last two years was the pandemic with 93% of companies saying it had caused some form of disruption (for 47% the impact was catastrophic or major) followed by exiting the EU for 87% (for 32% it was catastrophic or major). Over half of companies also said the Suez Canal incident had caused disruption, even though it was blocked for only a week, highlighting the dependence on Far East supply chains.

In response, almost two fifths of companies (38%) said they have increased the number of suppliers in the last two years. Over two fifths of companies (42%) have increased their UK supply base (for almost a fifth it is a significant re-routing) with over a quarter increasing supply from Western Europe, including Turkey.

This trend is set to accelerate with over two fifths of companies (43%) saying they expect to increase UK suppliers in the next two years, with a quarter predicting an increase in suppliers from Western Europe and Turkey. By contrast, over the same period 12% of companies say they intend to reduce suppliers from the Far East.

As well as changing the location of their supply base, manufacturers have also increased the number. Almost a quarter of manufacturers (22%) have between 51 and 100 suppliers, a further 15% between 101 and 200 and 14% having more than 200. This highlights the complexity of supply chains, but also the need to ensure supply chain strategies are put in place along with technologies to monitor them.

Whilst an encouraging number (72%) describe their supply chain strategy as intermediate or advanced, those describing their strategy as basic tend to be SMEs with a clear link between the more advanced strategy companies operate and the number of suppliers. Furthermore, when it comes to implementing digital supply chain solutions manufacturers for the most part only have a limited or basic focus (28% for both).

However, at the other end of the scale, a fifth of companies say they have an advanced digital strategy and a quarter (24%) intermediate with two thirds of larger firms (64%) at the advanced stage. On a positive note companies are planning to significantly increase their spend on digital supply chain technologies with over two fifths of companies (42%) planning to increase their investment by more than 10% in the next two years.

For those companies who do increase their investment in supply chain technologies, the benefits are clear in terms of faster response times (34%), lower inventory costs (28%), greater operational efficiency (28%) and greater cash flow (21%).

In response to the major shocks to the economy and, the likelihood of increased volatility for trading networks being normal in the future, Make UK has made the following recommendations to Government to help ensure the UK economy is in a much stronger position to respond to any future disruptive events. (Extra commentary on each in Notes to Editors)

  • Government should establish a cross-industry and government resilience taskforce.
  • Supply chain software management should be included in the Help to Grow: Digital scheme.
  • Develop and publish public data that reports on lead times of raw materials to help businesses plan ahead.
  • Work with industry to explore how larger firms can provide greater visibility of supply chains at higher tiers to share information with SMEs with limited scope.
  • Introduce capital allowances or a form of tax break for businesses that adopt certain digital solutions such as blockchain.
  • Develop regional institutions and establish long-term initiatives to deliver supply chain support.

Verity Davidge, Director of Policy at Make UK, said: “For decades manufacturers have used increased globalisation and supply chains to drive efficiency and create lean manufacturing processes which have helped them grow and remain competitive. However, the economic shocks of the last few years have created a perfect storm which has turned these models upside down and forced companies to re-evaluate their business strategies and seek suppliers much closer to home.

“As a result, we may now be seeing the era of globalisation passing its peak, with disruption and volatility for global trade fast becoming normal. For many companies this will mean leaving ‘just in time’ behind and embracing ‘just in case’.”

Andrew Kinder, SVP International Strategy & Sales Support, Infor added: “Following a succession of shockwaves – Brexit, Covid and instabilities in Europe – supply chain strategists are examining the vulnerabilities of their supply chains. Long held beliefs in lean, Just-in-Time and off-shoring are being questioned, as volatility and uncertainty replaces predictability and reliability. The rules of supply chain are being re-drawn. Resilience trumps efficiency with winners being those who have been able to rapidly adjust their supply chain strategies to accommodate the succession of shocks.

“Digital technologies play a part in building resilient supply chains and this survey by Make UK provides much needed insights from manufacturers on their response to this new norm and their use of digital to navigate the storm. As a sponsor of this research, we support the recommendation that ‘Supply chain software management should be included in the UK’s Help to Grow: Digital scheme.”

The survey of 132 companies was conducted between 2 and 23 February.

3T Logistics and Technology Group secures Kraft Heinz Contract

3T Logistics and Technology Group has been awarded the contract to deliver transport management for Kraft Heinz in the UK.

Kraft Heinz is best known for its world-famous condiments and food including Heinz Beans and Heinz Tomato Ketchup. From the Kitt Green Factory in Wigan – the largest plant in Europe, Kraft Heinz produce over one billion cans of food annually.

UK head-quartered 3T will work in partnership with Kraft Heinz to drive efficiencies and service improvements by leveraging their Digital Transport Platform and the expertise developed by working with similarly sized enterprises to digitise their transportation.

Central to the winning solution by 3T is their technology-driven approach towards vehicle optimisation and utilisation which significantly reduces environmental impact and aligns with the Kraft Heinz strategic approach for the green economy and sustainability. The new contract comes into effect on July 4th, 2022.

In recent years, Kraft Heinz has looked to leverage its global scale to meet its ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) commitments, especially those based on the concept of environmental stewardship. These commitments include targeted reductions of carbon and the opportunity to move towards meeting green-economy goals internationally.

Kraft Heinz is also committed to developing and adopting cost-effective and environmentally friendly approaches to deliver products from their National Distribution Centre at Kitt Green in Wigan. Kraft Heinz, as outlined on its website, is aiming “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions across its operational footprint (Scope 1 and Scope 2) and entire global supply chain (Scope 3) by 2050, reaffirming the Company’s commitment to contribute to global efforts to reduce the ongoing threat of climate change.

As a milestone on its path to achieving net-zero emissions, it will target a near-term emissions reduction of 50% by 2030 across all three scopes”.

Steve Twydell, 3T founder, and CEO said: “This is a strong initiative between ourselves and Kraft Heinz, and represents a step-change in shipper-carrier collaboration and shared value that we are pioneering and enabling. We are delighted to be working alongside a world-class organisation to deliver significant benefits and improved efficiencies to Kraft Heinz while deploying our innovative and award-winning technology platform for the management and collaboration of freight transportation.”

Dominic Hawkins, Supply Chain Director: Northern Europe at Kraft Heinz said: “We’re delighted to kick off this new partnership with 3T in the UK, and the opportunities this presents for our Business for both ESG and vehicle utilisation are really exciting. Their technology-driven approach really stood out to us and sets us up for success in the future.”

3T is a global transport management technology vendor with a proven track record and enviable reputation in delivering innovative supply chain and transport management solutions. Since 2001 3T has been on a mission to reduce empty running through shipper-carrier collaboration by using technology, and this remains the business’ north star to this day. Through its collaborative digital transport platform, Event, 3T is working with many other midmarket and large businesses within both the shipper and carrier segments to generate significant value for all. 3T has been recognised in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Transportation Management Systems in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

3T’s technology delivers significant transport cost reductions and service improvement through automation, optimisation, and data insights to businesses across the world. The award-winning digital transport platform enables supply chain digital transformation for businesses of any size and type, any transport mode, anywhere in the world. This approach, together with the 3T technology, is directly aligned to the green agenda and will help Kraft Heinz monitor and reduce carbon emissions across all their markets.

SAVE THE DATE: Total Supply Chain Summit – November 2022

The second Total Supply Chain Summit of 2022 will take place on November 7th & 8th at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport.

It is free for you to attend – are you able to join us?

Register now as this place will go quickly – click here to book your free place

▪ Source innovative and budget-saving suppliers

▪ Attend educational & inspirational seminar sessions

▪ Network with like-minded peers

▪ Enjoy full hospitality, including overnight accommodation, lunch, refreshments and an invitation to our networking dinner with entertainment

▪ Prepare your business for 2023 and beyond in a non-pressured environment

Click here to register today!

Do you specialise in securing supply chain Cost Reductions? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Supply Chain Briefing we’ll be shining the spotlight on a different part of the logistics market – and in June we’ll be focussing on Cost Reductions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help supply chain industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you specialise in Cost Reduction Solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Nick Stannard on n.stannard@forumevents.co.uk.

Our features list in full:-

Jun – Cost Reductions
Jul – Supply Chain Software
Aug – Logistics & Operations Management
Sept – Labelling & Packaging
Oct – 3PL & 4PL
Nov – Order Fulfilment
Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation

Retail and manufacturing sectors ‘most likely’ to be targeted by a cyber-attack

Health, education, retail, and manufacturing sectors continue to be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches, according to analysis of recently released 2021 ICO data.

CybSafe analysed data from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the UK’s independent body upholding information rights – following its previous analysis of ICO data for the first half of 2021 to discover the details behind the UK’s cyber security breaches throughout the entire calendar year.

While health and education remain particularly vulnerable to data breaches, the retail and manufacturing sector suffered twice as many cyber attacks as either sector, accounting for 20 percent of attacks overall in H2 of 2021.

Statistics within the retail and manufacturing industry also highlight a more general trend. The sector saw an increase in ransomware attacks, accounting for 27 percent of all attacks in 2021, up from 23 percent in 2020. In contrast, phishing attacks declined, falling from 31 percent in 2020 to 26 percent in 2021. This marks the first-time ransomware attacks have superseded phishing within the sector. Throughout 2021, ransomware saw a notable rise, accounting for 30 percent of attacks between July and December, up from 24 percent between January and June.

While the ICO data highlights phishing as the most common form of attack at just under 30 percent, ransomware continues to be an increasing threat to every sector.

As sectors adapt to life post-pandemic, the education sector is a prime example of how the cyber security landscape has changed for good. ICO 2021 data shows ransomware attacks increased to 22 percent (up from 19 percent), suggesting the trend is not subsiding despite children returning to the classroom. The sector saw a steep rise in ransomware attacks mid-way through 2020. They accounted for 26 percent of attacks in the first half of 2021 compared to just 11 percent in the previous year.

Oz Alashe, CEO of CybSafe, said: “The ICO data tells a clear story. The pandemic saw a steep rise in ransomware attacks. With important sectors such as education and healthcare seeing a sustained level of cyber threats throughout the last year, we need to go beyond standard security training practices.

“To embody a security-first culture, the human aspect of cyber security shouldn’t be underestimated. If we want to invoke genuine behaviour change, the first step is to appreciate individuals responding differently to threats, and personalisation is crucial to building an authentic security-first culture.

“Appreciating differences in teams means you can deliver tailored security initiatives. The result is greater employee confidence, changes in security behaviour, and ultimately a defence against such malicious threats that will only grow in importance over the coming years,” Alashe concluded.

British Corner Shop opens Dutch distribution centre

Online grocery store British Corner Shop has opened a new warehouse in Wijchen, The Netherlands – the first of its kind for the Bristol-based business as it seeks to offset the impact of Brexit and associated supply chain issues.

The new distribution centre doubles the size of the company’s previous warehouse, allowing them to stock more of their extensive selection of produce. It has also enabled them to hire their own employees, which ensures a higher quality of packing and stocking management, improving communication, and allowing greater oversight over orders.

The export industry has been massively impacted by Brexit, with British Corner Shop seeing a drop of 40% in turnover in the European market. This move to a fully dedicated European warehouse allows them to return to giving their customers service, free of supply chain and cross border compliance delays.

The retailer, which currently has 2,000 products from Britain’s most loved brands available to EU destinations, stocks many items not currently accessible to other supermarkets across Europe. Delays and ambiguities caused by the new Brexit laws saw a decrease in orders, and the company hope their new presence in Europe itself will help them to again meet the demands for British Products in the expat community.

With the new supply chain in place, British Corner Shop will enhance the proposition for their European customers. Plans include expansion of the brands and products on offer, increasing their range to over 5,000 of the best loved British products. This will also involve expanding the Marks & Spencer product range, including chilled, fresh and bakery, and adding new categories including alcohol and organic ranges.

Jon Farrar, Head of Marketing at British Corner Shop, said: “For British Corner Shop our customer base in Europe has, and continues to be, of great importance to us. Brexit changed the way we serve our customers, adding complexity in both the physical movement of goods and compliance in terms of the cross-border trade between the UK and Europe.

“With our new integrated, warehousing and supply chain operations based in the Netherlands, we have welcomed our first cohort of local employees and are dispatching orders for next day delivery across Europe successfully. The initial customer feedback has been extremely positive.

We feel positive that the challenges brought about by Brexit are behind us, and that we are moving forward now in way that is significantly better than before for our European customers.

5 Minutes With… Sparck Technologies’ Jo Bradley,

Sparck Technologies has a mission to make sustainable packaging the standard in ecommerce. Companies worldwide are now able to benefit from the firm’s smart packaging systems by saving on box volume, packaging material and personnel costs. Jo Bradley (pictured), Sparck Technologies business development manager in the UK, speaks to Supply Chain Briefing…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

Now known as Sparck Technologies, most people in the logistics sector will remember us as Packaging by Quadient and will be familiar with our revolutionary fit-to-size packaging systems. We provide automated solutions for e-commerce operations challenged by increasing order volumes, labour shortages and rising shipping costs. Our CVP Everest and CVP Impack automated packaging solutions have the capability to tailor-make up to 1,100 packages per hour, for multiple or single item orders.

What have been the biggest challenges the Supply Chain industry has faced over the past 12 months?

The eCommerce sector has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years and peak seasons are becoming more pronounced and more frequent. Capacity issues in despatch operations are becoming increasingly acute as volumes increase and labour resources become harder to come by – and adding to the concerns businesses face, consumers are now far more conscious of environmentally poor packaging and oversized boxes filled with void-fill.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

Businesses have the opportunity to make packaging as compact and environmentally efficient as possible and that means making packages exactly to the size of the order – waste is no longer acceptable to the consumer.

What is the biggest priority for the Supply Chain industry in 2022?

With labour now a scarce resource in the UK, businesses will need to invest in and embrace automation to keep pace with customer demand. Packaging and despatch operations within the eCommerce sector have been heavily dependent upon freely available labour, but now automation that is able to streamline packaging processes by making individual packages to the optimum size of the order, at tremendous speed, holds the key to increased capacity and business growth.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2022?

Automation throughout the warehouse is accepted as the future of logistics. Labour, fuel and materials will all become more expensive. Environmental concerns will continue to feature highly with consumers, so businesses will have to look for ways to minimise wastefulness. Finding available labour will be difficult too, so businesses should apply automation to labour intensive operations, such as packing.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

Hopefully no longer about Covid.

Which person in, or associated with, the Supply Chain industry would you most like to meet?

I have met many people over the years and look forward to meeting many more, everyone has their own part to play in the Supply Chain.

You go to the bar at the Total Supply Chain Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

Some nice cold Rose – preferably with bubbles.

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Unpredictability – every day is different and a challenge. I get to meet some extremely interesting people and have fun at the same time.

And what’s the most challenging?

It can be the long hours – but its worth it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

There is no such thing as luck. The key is being prepared to take advantage of any and every opportunity when it arises.

Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things?

Peaky Blinders.

Don’t let supply chain worries burn you out – The Total Supply Chain Summit seminars are here to help!

This month, you can benefit from a unique two-day event, that allows you to compare and benchmark a range of potential products and services that can support your end-to-end supply chain, logistics, warehouse and distribution needs.

We’ll provide you with your own “corporate speed-dating” itinerary of 1-2-1 meetings based on mutual selections that run alongside unique seminar sessions, including;

“Engaging for Net Zero – Tips for Activating your Supply Chain”

This presentation will cover the global science and policy pathways for achieving net-zero as well as strategic interventions and social tips for engaging supply chains on the net-zero journey

  • Net-zero as a global target, a brief overview of the science and the Paris Agreement
  • Examples of leadership practices in corporate net zero strategies
  • Engagement tips for activating your supply chain
  • Practical tools and resources for pledging net zero and setting out a net zero strategy
  • What happens if we fail to meet this target
  • Collective crowdsourcing of supply chain engagement and support solutions

Presented by: Kaya Axelsson, Net Zero Policy Engagement Fellow at University of Oxford

“Doing More With Less”

What factors makes automation successful in modern intralogistics and automated warehousing?

  • Industry trends and challenges
  • How to automate successfully
  • Example Solutions

Presented by: Jon Brewin, Business Development Manager at AutoStore System Ltd

“Advanced Planning – Driving real business benefits”

Moving from a manual planning solution to an advanced planning solution provides both tangible and intangible benefits in terms of WIP and Inventory reduction and increased customer confidence.

Saft are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Total, who specialise in advanced technology battery solutions for a variety of industrial sectors.

Presented by: Jonathan Ogg, Senior Solution Architect at sofco Limited

Click here to register today!

Total Supply Chain Summit

23rd – 24th May 2002

Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre, London Heathrow

World Supply Chain Day: Creativity in the electronics industry will counter chip shortages

Thanks to Brexit, the pandemic and now the Russia/Ukraine war, the risks and shortfalls in our global supply chains have become front and centre for most companies over the last two years, especially for the electronics industry.

Supply chains are increasingly recognised as a key component to business survival, success and growth, as ByteSnap found in its survey, Thriving in the Face of Change, which revealed that the electronics industry was one of the worst hit by supplychain disruptions. 82% of the companies surveyed had been adversely affected by supply chain challenges.

To recognise World Supply Chain Day on 21 April, ByteSnap’s team of embedded electronics engineers has put together some tips to help keep design projects on track and minimise the effects of supply chain disruptions:

1) Order quantities as soon as the project schematic is completed – despite the pandemic, 60% of ByteSnap’s survey respondents saw an increase in demand for their products or services, 9% experienced no change and 31% witnessed a decrease.

To accommodate the increasing demand for products and services, smart designers and manufacturers need to stay ahead with supply already in stock or en route, to match demand.

Materials requirements planning (MRP) is a system for calculating the materials and components needed to manufacture a product. It is made up of three steps:

  • taking inventory of the materials and components on hand
  • identifying which additional ones are needed
  • and then scheduling their production or purchase

This is important, particularly with specialised software, to ensure you have exactly what is needed, when you need it and at the lowest possible cost. MRP is key to improving the efficiency, flexibility and profitability of manufacturing operations.

2) Minimise risk exposure – sustainable supply chains are important so reducing the number of different components and reusing parts, when possible, can make your manufacturing process more efficient if there are any parts that become unavailable for some reason.

During the first lockdown, 18% of the electronics sector was concerned about supply chain disruption, according to ByteSnap’s survey. This has translated into 45% of companies holding more stock in-house rather than just in time (JIT) and 26% now auditing their supply chains more closely. While 10% of respondents in 2020 were considering using more domestic suppliers, the survey revealed that less than 11% actually moved part of their supply chain to the UK.

3) Improve scalability and defend against obsolescence – think about system design techniques like microservices or distributed compute across the whole product ecosystem to improve scalability and defend against obsolescence.

Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other. This enables changes and redeploying of technology and gives you a more innovative, nimble approach to design, build and manage the project; which, in turn, brings the potential to speed development life cycles.

4) Replace single chips with discrete components – before integrated circuits, all capacitors, inductors, diodes and other input systems were individual and discrete circuits. So, if you can’t use a chip, consider using a few standard discrete components instead, which can be integrated into the same chip to reduce power consumption.

5) Choose devices which have footprint-compatible alternatives – footprint or pin compatible devices allow for the use of the same PCB without any electrical issues or risks. You can reduce risk during the early design stage by considering dual-footprint devices and pin-to-pin alternates that meet your system requirements. Manufacturers often have handy cross-reference tools which makes finding pin compatible alternatives, for parts like ADCs and DACs, much easier.

6) Design firmware to be as hardware abstracted as possible – hardware abstractions are sets of routines in software that provide programs with access to hardware resources through programming interfaces. By designing the firmware with a Hardware Abstraction Layer, you can improve portability and adaptability to different chips as your design allows for a computer operating system to interact with the device at a general, abstract level rather than a specific, detailed hardware level, if needed.

7) Reserve data within communications protocols and storage space in the firmware upgrade processes – this will enable you to account for wider support changes in the future and reduce the risk of requiring a complete new update system design for new generations of your products.

8) Port the application as early as possible – to make your design as painless as possible, port the application using reference hardware with the same chips as you are intending to use in production. By porting early, problems may come to the surface before the target design is finalised and can be easily rectified.

9) Connect with your contract manufacturers early – they may have access to search the semiconductor global supplychain and evaluate parts availability or potential shortages before you design in key components.

10) Engage hardware and software expertise under one roof – this may seem obvious, but having everything you need in one place makes it far easier than going to separate providers. Having to manage different companies can lead to delays whilst determining who is responsible for the resolution and getting this implemented. Delays affect business downtime and/or time to market.

By engaging a company that has both hardware and software design experience, you can ensure the best possible result, in the quickest time.

More people are now realising the consequences of disruptions in supply chains, and how imperative it is that they become more sustainable and have a process in place to avoid downtime.

On this year’s World Supply Chain Day, consider how essential supply chains are to our lives.

Think about how the supply chain industry has evolved and what it now means to businesses globally.

Ask yourself the question, “Is my supply chain is one that could withstand another pandemic, or not…?”

Supply chain disruption is going nowhere – what can retailers learn and take forward

By Suzette Meadows, Lead Consultant, Contact Centre/Unified Communications, Exponential-e

While many retailers are beginning to bounce back from the worst effects of the pandemic, others continue to see their bottom lines negatively impacted by its fallout, whether in the form of supply chain delays, staff shortages or rising living costs. All these obstacles pose a potentially disastrous threat if not handled correctly and are challenging retailers to adapt if they’re to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic context.

Technology will be a crucial part of that equation, helping boost operational efficiency and deliver those seamless customer experiences that are crucial for maintaining customer loyalty. Striking a balance between online and in store experiences is central to this process, and there are several learnings that retailers should be taking forward to drive omnichannel success.

  1. Understanding technology as a core foundation to a seamless retail experience

The draw of having hundreds and thousands of retailers at our fingertips shows no sign of diminishing, with the pandemic further accelerating the trend towards online shopping. Consumers today prize convenience and near-unlimited choice, so retailers simply have to adapt both the in-store experience – which while less popular than several years ago, is still a key source of revenue for many traditional retailers – and online shopping to their ever-changing needs and demands.

Technology will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in this process, helping both online and bricks and mortar stores underpin their product offerings with efficient operations. The last few years have shown that no retailer can predict what will happen in the future, and with supply chain challenges continuing, investing in technology that helps cope with erratic rises and falls in supply is essential preparation for whatever lies ahead.

The potential of software, for instance, is remarkable. Solutions that can help stabilise operations and prepare for unknown terrains, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, are remarkably mature already and promise transparency across entire business processes. ERP itself makes it possible to track all aspects of production or distribution, financials and back office, while Workforce management solutions can help analyse and predict customer demand and match them with available resources, to ensure your shift patterns and staffing levels are as efficient as possible

These kinds of tools are critical in supporting an omnichannel approach, streamlining processes and gaining greater insight into the business, allowing retailers to make real-time decisions based on what’s best for their customers and employees.

  1. Efficiency is key

The world is as fast paced as it has ever been, and every day customers expect their experiences and products to be delivered at greater speed. Inevitably, this means an increased use of digital channels and a further elevation of the pivotal role contact centres play in the retail sector. Although often overlooked, contact centres are critical to an omnichannel model of customer service, as their customer service agents – who interact with customers over digital channels such as webchat, video and social media – are at the heart of the digital service delivery. The intelligence and insights they glean from interactions with customers are critical to retailers seeking to assign, manage and more effectively track actions and improve customer outcomes, and a big part of why the contact centre has to sit at the heart of planning and managing customer lifecycles.

  1. Putting empathy at the heart of customer service

If there’s one learning we’ve all seen from the pandemic, it’s importance of empathy. Its role in any retailer’s customer experience is crucial and simply has to be factored into a customer’s entire journey.

Video is a great place to start. One thing many of us lost and missed during the pandemic was face-to-face contact, which has in turn led to a newfound appreciation for being able to see each other when we communicate. Where in person is not an option, video can provide customer service agents with the critical information they need to better understand a customer’s emotions – body language.

Technology has other roles to play in helping customer service agents build an accurate picture of a customer’s situation and show empathy, too. Big Data and analytics solutions for example can help them focus on what their customers are actually telling them. The point being that while human empathy is critical to a good customer experience, the best agents will not only be able to use their own skills, but will also be able to use insights generated by technology to improve their customer service delivery.

  1. Brick and mortar stores can still thrive where innovation is involved

Retail organisations have been engaged in a battle between online and in-store shopping for some time. While this battle was certainly heightened by the pandemic, plenty of ‘e-tailers’ and traditional retailers have weathered the challenges and come out the other side stronger. Typically, it’s been those that have demonstrated ingenuity, persistence and a willingness to innovate.

One leader in sustainable energy has been leading by example, embracing digital tools to transform its customer experience and create a seamless journey. To do so, the company is intelligently leveraging the data it has access to, to improve its quality of service, streamline operations and offer a superior experience against competitors. For example, it has adopted a remote payment system and adapted to offer digital menus on its pioneering forecourts, all of which deliver better customer experience and in turn generate huge amounts of data to further personalise and tailor the customer journey. Now, when a visitor connects to charge their car, their regular coffee could be automatically ordered for them, or even a booking made at the gym, or one of the featured restaurants.

Retailers that follow suit will be able to maintain that all-important human touch, while simultaneously introducing a level of efficiency that would previously have been inconceivable.

Innovate to thrive

If retailers want to thrive and succeed in recovering their losses from the pandemic, embracing technology has to be a non-negotiable part of the journey. Digital tools are pivotal to helping retailers deliver the customer experience and service that today’s consumer demands, and a vital enabler of future growth.

Businesses that succeed in carefully assessing their needs and deploying the most appropriate tools to help improve efficiency, demonstrate innovation and enable stronger relationships, will undoubtedly be the market leaders. Others that wish to build the right foundations for seamless operations should look to no further than their example, if they’re to have their own success to celebrate in future.