Woman shaking a fist with an angry expression on her face

Supply chains and product shortages: Customers want action not excuses


Customers are sick and tired of supply chain issues – and 39% are willing to boycott brands that blame supply chain problems for product shortages.

14th Apr 2023

With food shortages exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis, almost half of UK consumers (47%) believe that businesses can be doing more to prevent disruption and protect customers against rising costs and product shortages.

Published by AI supply chain management platform 7bridges, the data reveals that UK consumers are having to deal with the damaging combination of a lack of availability and increased prices for groceries.

Indeed, the data outlines how one is being dictated by the other, with 20% of shoppers having been forced to pay more for items due to lack of availability in the past 12 months.

Shortages have become commonplace for UK consumers over the past year, with 22% admitting to being unable to get hold of certain items at least once a week.

Supermarket basics such as eggs, bananas, tomatoes and oil have been specified as those most commonly unavailable during this period.

Worryingly, the situation appears to be worsening. In the past three months, an estimated 21.4 million UK adults (43%) have experienced supply chain disruption when trying to purchase goods.

An estimated 21.4 million UK adults (43%) have experienced supply chain disruption.

And whilst shoppers are aware of supply chain issues, their patience is wearing thin and it is beginning to impact buying decisions and brand loyalty.

Almost half of consumers (47%) are unwilling to spend extra on groceries and would go elsewhere to do their shopping.

Moreover, 39% of consumers say they are less likely to buy from brands that blame supply chain issues for product shortages, with months on end of the same excuse having left consumers feeling ‘frustrated’ (31%), ‘let down’ (20%), and ‘inconvenienced’ (28%).

So, what actions can brands take to support their customers throughout their supply chain struggles?

Sophisticating your supply chain

Due to the unprecedented nature of the past few years, we don’t have to look too far back for examples of similar issues.

The combination of Brexit and covid led to huge supply chain disruption and mass product shortages for much of 2021. Time seems to work in a mysterious way during a pandemic; it’s hard to believe that it was less than two years ago that saw McDonald's milkshake shortages, chicken off the menu at some Nando's and KFC restaurants, and Wetherspoon's running low on lager.

Whilst the reasons for supply chain disruption may be different this time around, lessons can still be learned from how businesses previously coped.

Looking specifically at the role of CX leaders, Jim Tincher outlined the need for transparency and proactivity.

“If your inventory issues are restricted to just a few products, let clients know about it before they order, preventing disappointment and minimising the frustration you cause to their customers," advises Tincher.

‘Sharing bad data with clients is even worse than sharing no data at all.’

There are few things more irritating than turning up to a store and finding out that one of the key ingredients for that evening’s meal is not in stock. By providing accurate, up-to-date product information for your customers you will spare them their frustrations and make them feel considered and appreciated.

The backbone to this is, of course, having the adequate data and infrastructure; because, as Tincher puts it, “sharing bad data with clients is even worse than sharing no data at all.”

The need for more sophisticated supply chain structures is something that was also discussed by Thomas Wieberneit at the time of the pandemic.

Wieberneit explained that the majority of supply chains are built for cost efficiency, which works well in normal circumstances but soon falls apart in a crisis.

“The supply chain must be optimised using another set of objectives and KPIs than cost and simplicity. So, besides cost, it is important to look at reliability and speed, as these address two of the core customer demands in the pyramid of customer expectations.”

Whilst one might assume that the pandemic will have forced many companies to adapt and improve their supply chain structures, having to make these changes in the midst of a catastrophe seldom leads to perfect results.

Indeed, Philip Ashton, CEO and co-founder of 7bridges, is certainly of the belief that there is plenty of room for improvement: “Brands need to work hard to ensure they aren’t faced with out-of-stock items or continually having to cite their supply chain as the reason for disruption.

“The processes and technology exists to mitigate and manage disruption, and consumers aren’t blind to that fact – inaction that leads to future disruption will not go unchecked, so brands must smarten up now. Leveraging technology that facilitates outcome-driven supply chains will put businesses in a strong position to make data-driven decisions more quickly to prevent shortages and nurture customer loyalty.”

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.