Social Media in Supply Chain – the new frontier

2013 has been an exciting year so far. I have been to several industry events like the SAPinsider conference and industry specific innovation forums presenting and discussing the future of supply chain. At the same time analytics, in-memory computing, big data, mobility and social media have been hot topics as the application and results of these technologies in business are tremendous.

social-1This year seems like the part of big-bang theory where our digital universe is converging with a hyper-connected network of 15+ billion mobile devices and internetofthings, and social media is stringing them together. Companies and consumers have started to understand the value of these new technologies in customer facing activities like marketing and product development. Social media platforms like facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+ etc. have massive information about consumer preferences and emerging trends, and the CMO office has started harnessing that data already. Agreed that only a few companies have embarked on this journey but the understanding and need have been realized by many.

In the midst of this evolution, a new question has started coming up – “What does social media has to do with the supply chain?” Let’s examine that as some of us believe that social media will provide tremendous improvement opportunities for supply chain, like faster time to market, improved customer service, working capital reduction and more.

When was the last time you ordered something online from Amazon or Macy’s or your favorite e-tail store? Remember getting a notification like “Your Order will ship in 2-5 business days”? And, then one of the days you get an email that your order has shipped. However the order did not get delivered on time or it was damaged or incomplete etc. You obviously were not happy and went online to post a review about your experience on facebook or the company’s website or your blog. Similarly your customers are writing about their experience all over the web. How about tapping into that information and relaying it as a feedback back into your supply chain operations? This is the best performance scorecard that is available today.

Most companies measure fill-rate, accuracy and on-time delivery type metrics that I call internal metrics. They represent how we performed within our supply chain but do not give us the full view of how well we serviced our customers. And that’s the power of Social Media in Supply Chain. In the supply chain scorecard, add one more box for customer’s voice that is an aggregation of social media data. This is only one use case. So let’s look at one more example.

It is Monday and as a Supply Chain Executive, in your weekly operations conference call you find out that certain products have an unusual demand for the last few days. Your distribution centers are unable to keep up due to insufficient inventory or staffing for the unpredicted demand. This is a very common scenario for most companies despite state of the art planning systems. In today’s world, your CMO most likely knew about this upward tick. How? Consumers started “liking” your product on facebook or were posting “positive” reviews on external websites for the last several weeks that triggered this uptick in demand. You wish you had access to that information to predict unplanned events like these and had planned for inventory and labor in advance thereby relieving the strain on your supply chain and satisfying your customers.


Simple scenarios like these have immediate benefits of managing your costs (inventory and labor) while maximizing revenue (filling available demand) and servicing your customers well (adaptive supply chain). Integrating social media in your supply chain will provide competitive advantage as companies are looking for newer ways to lower operating costs and to provide more value to their customers. This is just the start. As social media propagates from B2C to B2B world, the level of information available will be more extensive. The benefits will then extend to end to end supply chain giving more opportunities for optimization.

So, begin the social media campaign for your supply chain now!

And don’t be this –>



(coming next – Analytics in Supply Chain)

This entry was posted in analytics, internetofthings, mobility, productivity, social media, supply chain, thought leadership and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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