To please B2B customers who demand details on shipments, companies must use predictive analytics and real-time data to support shipment transparency up and down the supply chain, writes Tommy Barnes, president of logistics services firm project 44.

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Tommy Barnes

When was the last time you ordered food or hailed a ride across town through an app on your phone? Chances are, it’s easy to recall such an instance as these apps become more prevalent in our lives. You probably were also able to track the movement of your ride to the front of your house or get updates minute-by-minute of when dinner would arrive. Sound about right?

More and more consumer brands are adapting to this new normal. Just recently, Target added same-day delivery to their mobile app, setting out to rival Amazon Prime. The “Delivery Economy”—the pervasive sentiment in which customers expect low-cost, fast and highly transparent delivery of goods—is growing rapidly, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

The B2B Delivery Economy

However, the Delivery Economy is not just a consumer phenomenon. B2B buyers are now expecting the same level of speed and transparency that consumers do. A recent project44 report revealed that 94% of people who make purchases for their company expect the same customer experience as when they’re making personal purchases.

A new report in this series from project44 dives deeper into how B2B companies are feeling pressure as a result of the Delivery Economy. Based on a blind survey of 300 supply chain professionals, 85% of B2B companies are feeling pressure to improve or expand upon delivery capabilities.

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This pressure is directly impacting how companies manage their supply chains on a day-to-day basis. In fact, 64% of B2B companies said they are seeing growing expectations to process and deliver goods faster. To meet these expectations, companies need to adjust to evolving expectations surrounding tracking from simply, “Where is the truck located?” to being able to pinpoint exactly where the inventory/purchase order is located. To get there, B2B companies must utilize predictive analytics and real-time data to the fullest to support the expected maturity in transparency up and down the supply chain.

Steering around disruptive snowball effects

B2B businesses have acknowledged the need for improvement to meet these growing expectations. According to the report, 44% of B2B companies say they need to retool their production/manufacturing to meet the growing demand for faster and more transparent delivery.

Delays within the supply chain are unavoidable, but it is possible to take steps toward gaining more visibility into inevitable disruptions. To begin improving upon delivery capabilities, it is imperative for supply chain managers within B2B companies to use visibility into disruptions to inform customers and proactively—as opposed to reactively—adjust plans. Even small delays can lead to snowball effects that ripple through the rest of their supply chain, and prevent them from providing customers with the delivery experience they increasingly demand.

The report found that legacy and manual systems and processes are holding supply chains back. 79% of supply chain professionals report using a combination of suboptimal systems to do their jobs, including 42% using manual processes and 40% percent using disparate software systems for different parts of the supply chain.

High-quality data that’s collected in real time, cleansed and normalized, and seamlessly integrated across systems without lag, is an important step if companies hope to leverage predictive analytics and provide accurate tracking information that stakeholders throughout the supply chain need to make informed decisions.

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Open Lines of Communication

To gain the support needed to update outdated systems and workflows, supply chain managers and executives must align. While 82% of managers said they are experiencing pressure to improve and expand capabilities, only 57% of executives said the same. This disconnect will prevent companies from being able to build the supply chains they need to offer customers exceptional delivery experiences.

The need for better communication spans beyond supply chain professionals. Marketers are on the front lines of the customer experience. It is their mission to understand what their customers want and how to deliver on those expectations. In order to meet the growing demands of the Delivery Economy, 84% of B2B supply chain professionals say they need to collaborate with marketing.

While marketers and supply chain professionals have the opportunity to collaborate on meeting the expectations brought on by the Delivery Economy, the entire transportation ecosystem of the supply chain needs to better communicate and collaborate to meet growing customer expectations—and ease the pressure on B2B companies.

To succeed in the Delivery Economy, B2B companies need real-time tracking, streamlined processes and open communication to help create a supply chain that is both reliable and predictable, making it easier to provide the transparency that consumers, as well as businesses, are growing to expect.

Tommy Barnes is the president of project44, a provider of supply chain logistics services, where he’s responsible for the company’s digitization products in association with carriers, shippers and 3PLs. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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