Monday, October 1, 2012

The Customer is Always...on Twitter

In the article discussing increased technology spending by J.C. Penney, the company's Chief Executive was quoted as saying, "[p]eople who are going to survive are working on this" [1]. He is referring to the giant retailer's increased attention on enhancing the technological nature of its systems. It is obvious that information technology has become and will remain a huge focus for supply chain managers, but with all this talk of the increasing importance of IT in supply chains, how are companies tying this to the customer? 

As a 109 year old retailer, J.C. Penney must know a thing or two about customers and where their loyalties lie; and J.C. Penney must also know that customers need to feel special. So it might be a problem when this increase in technology spending is largely not "that visible to the customer" [2]. How does J.C. Penney let its customers know how hard it is working for them? The answer could be social media. 

Companies have quickly taken advantage of the wonders of social media but mostly in terms of improving their marketing and advertising. Social media can also become a great channel to communicate with key suppliers, transporters and also to maintain real-time inventory records. 

In order to ensure the customer is aware of new value, components of a social media savvy supply chain can be visible to the customer (with other, privacy sensitive components not made public). The company benefits from enhanced supply chain systems as well as enhanced value creation visibility that customers can more quickly see. Thus, the customer is assured that they are still number one.

Yet social media in supply chains is not being adopted very quickly. A recent survey found that only 40% of respondents were using social media to connect to supply chain partners [3]. However, some reports are more encouraging than others; another survey found that 47% of third party logistics providers had facebook accounts [4]. Social media seems to be a great for connecting disparate parts of a supply chain when used smartly. 

While it inevitably takes time for new technologies to be universally adopted, why have skeptics stayed away, as of yet?

[1] Dodes, Rachel. "J.C. Penney Spends to Get Ahead on Mobile Shoppers, Other Trends, Other Trends." The Wall Street Journal [New York] 4 May 2010, sec. Business Technology. Print.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Bowman, Robert. "Social Media for the Supply Chain: Help or Hype?" Supply Chain Management - N.p., 4 June 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. <>.
[4] Ibid. 

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