As my wife is Irish, I have kissed the Blarney Stone, and I live near Boston, I consider myself an honoree Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, most cities in the United States make a great effort to “wear the green” on the big day, as proven by a piece on consumer spending for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday here in the U.S. The article quotes Matthew Shays, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), who reminds us that this year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday – which means that “Americans will have more time to splurge a little as they get together with friends and loved ones for a day of festivities.”
This is good news for retailers looking forward to a strong season. A new survey by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics puts 2018 American spending for the holiday at $5.9 billion. This is a new record – up from last year’s record of $5.3 billion.
More than 149 million people plan to celebrate the holiday this year – with spending coming in at an average of $39.65 per person, up from $37.92 in 2017. Leading categories of spend will be food (the traditional corned beef and cabbage) and beverages (a fair amount of Guinness, to be sure).
For people celebrating the day, 83% will wear green. Many will also decorate their homes and offices in a St. Patrick’s Day theme. This will lead to a lot of spending beyond the food the beverage categories.
Planning is good, responsiveness is even better
The fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year is, of course, as predictable as the calendar. Companies see it coming, they make plans, and they fire up the supply chain. This is good.
But while having the visibility and preparedness to meet demand is a good thing, what’s differentiating companies more and more is their responsiveness to demand in the moment. Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, St. Patrick’s Day is a relatively minor holiday in the U.S. – especially compared to Christmas and Thanksgiving. Spending for St. Patrick’s Day, in fact, is only a fraction of what Americans dedicate to back-to-school spending ($83.6 billion).
The point is that St. Patrick’s Day will sneak up on people – and, people being people, many will put off holiday purchases until the last minute. This tendency is only exacerbated by the fact that today’s consumers ordering online are conditioned to expect same-day and even same-hour delivery. If you can deliver in this regard – your company stands to gain.
To do this, companies need next-generation digital logistics and greater control over end-to-end supply chains. Companies like Amazon – with 70 distribution centers in the United States – have already moved in this direction. But don’t count out the brick and mortars. Walmart, for example, is repurposing its network of physical retail spaces (two-thirds of the U.S. population lives within five miles of one of its outlets) to act as distribution centers. This will help Walmart get more products out the door for same-day/hour delivery.
Kiss me, I’m (7.3%) Irish
But companies are going even further in the race to deliver what customers want when they want it. Increasingly, competition is moving to the field of personalization.
Let’s say your neighbor hosts a St. Patrick’s Day party every year and his go-to T-shirt reads “Kiss Me, I’m a Quarter Irish.” But then, two days before the party, he receives his DNA analysis – and it turns out he’s not quite as Irish as he thought. He’s not easily disheartened, however – and he still loves St. Patrick’s Day. So for this year’s party, he orders up a custom t-shirt – as well as plates, napkins, and whatnot – that say “Kiss Me, I’m 7.3% Percent Irish.”
If your company can accommodate this order – generating products to the customer’s specifications, on demand and delivered quickly at not much extra cost – your company stands to gain.
To be sure, this is a simplified example of personalization. But today, many companies are using personalization in sophisticated ways. Shoe companies like Nike allow you to design your shoes online to your liking – without major hits on delivery time or cost. Harley Davidson does something similar with its iconic motorcycles. Today, customers can assemble whatever kind of bike they like – and even watch it get made in a purpose-built facility that gives customers an experience they don’t soon forget.
The customer experience
At the highest level, what companies are competing over is the customer experience. As long as you can deliver what your customers want, when they want it, at a reasonable price, with loads of convenience – your company stands to gain. And by delivering experiences that are uniquely engaging, you’ll also earn your customers’ long-time loyalty.
But the customer experience is no marketing afterthought – though marketing is critical. Effective customer experiences are supported by all aspects of the business – not the least of which is the supply chain function. To drive better customer experiences, today’s supply chains need agility, speed, visibility, and a healthy dose of emerging technology.
For example, many companies are leveraging Internet of Things, sensor technologies, and sentiment analysis to feed customer demand signals directly back into the supply chain for automated replenishment. Others are developing flexible relationships with supply partners through business networks. Still others have integrated 3D printing capabilities into their supply chains to serve customers on demand.
So when you go to a St. Patrick’s Day party this year, pause a moment to wonder where all the “stuff” comes from. Chances are, whatever you see has made its way to you from companies that have beat out the competition with sophisticated digital supply chain capabilities.
You can’t just rely on “the luck of the Irish!”
Looking to learn more about how your supply chain can stay ahead of the competition? Read this free IDC white paper, “The Strategic Imperative for an Agile Supply Chain.”