TechWeek Chicago: Recapping the Supply Chain Panel

With the dust finally starting to settle from another successful TechWeek here in Chicago, we look back at the panel: Supply Chain Hyper Growth – Direct to Consumer.

Featuring: Jett McCandless – CEO and Founder of project44, Jordan Diab – CFO and COO of Interior Define, Arvind Movva – CEO and Founder of divvyDOSE, and Patrick Vihtelic – CEO and Founder of Home Chef, and was moderated by Smriti Jayaraman – VP of Guild Capital. It was billed as, “Insights and learnings on how to build efficient supply chains that support enterprises as they grow, while consumer demand increases.”

There has been a common thread connecting many supply chain related panels, speeches, town halls, and formats of a similar nature over the past year or so: the customer experience. This panel was no exception, and having representatives in food delivery, furniture retail, online pharmaceuticals, and supply chain automation technology, allowed for a unique and interesting mix of perspectives on the subject.

Balancing Priorities

Building out a strategic road map for supply chains is a make-or-break process for early-stage retail companies, and decided what to prioritize among cost management, customer service, brand integrity, and product quality is at the heart.

project44’s Jett McCandless made it clear, “Customer experience is the champion metric that people are focused on.” A sentiment that was echoed by other panelists, adding that part of the puzzle is partnering with the right people across your supply chain. Making sure that you have truly vested partners who buy into what you’re doing is crucial for shippers, and it works both ways. When shippers partner with technology vendors, 3PLs, and carriers that they believe will help them deliver the best customer service possible, everyone involved is in the best position to win.

Build vs. Buy

There are two main buckets of customers for supply chain technology companies: legacy brands, and startups. The legacy brands are more willing to sink cost into supply chain technology, but less willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Tech startups have more pride of authorship, and are more interested in trying to build everything themselves. McCandless sees both groups starting to come around and realize the value of outsourcing the right technology functions.

Interior Define’s Jordan Diab mentioned that supply chain technology has recently become a focus, “A lot of our e-commerce competitors have the ability to communicate with you throughout the process, deliver you transparency… [however] technology is woefully under-served. Most of the 3PLs out there are pretty old companies with little desire to help you innovate. So when you have someone that disrupts that, it’s welcome.”

Essentially, shippers are willing to invest in technology that will help them provide a better customer experience. Many retailers across different industries admit that transportation technology is generally lacking in this regard, so they’re willing to invest in newer, more disruptive technology.

The Amazon Effect

No industry can rest on its laurels now that Amazon is setting the pace in so many different verticals. Even retail segments that used to be more isolated from Amazon’s business, like on demand food delivery, are seeing the impact. Home Chef’s Patrick Vihtelic believes that smaller companies will still be able to compete as long as they offer great service, and that Amazon’s presence in the market can actually benefit companies like his, “Amazon is definitely pushing consumer expectations,” he said, adding that those expectations will drive quality industry-wide, “Amazon putting pressure on our shipping partners will accelerate that for us.” Essentially, companies looking to stay competitive as Amazon continues to expand will have to offer similar or better levels of service.

The Takeaway

Scaling your supply chain along with your business and meeting growing consumer demands takes a village. Partnering with service providers who can accelerate your business is crucial, as is investing in progressive technology. When you get the formula right, it will have an incredible effect on the customer experience. The customer should always be on your mind. Continue to provide an exceptional customer experience, and there will always be a demand for your product or services.