As I look forward to the holiday season (yes it is hurtling towards us again), I now do all of my planning, negotiating and actual shopping from the comfort of my armchair. And as a result, my buying habits have changed over the past few years. I no longer buy CD’s, I buy Apple iTunes cards. For my mother’s birthday, I didn’t buy her a book, I bought her an Amazon Kindle. In fact, if you know where to look on the internet, you will find examples of companies leveraging social media and networks to capture customers, deliver innovation and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Here are some examples:
> iTunes has revolutionized the way we buy and consume music
> Amazon has reinvented the way we read books
> Groupon have inject hysteria into the process of bargain hunting on the Web.
> Go to www.reebok.com/Customize , www.nike.com/iD, or www.miadidas.com, to design a pair of sneakers.
> Shirts My Way asks users to submit their exact body measurements for a shirt tailored to fit.
> MixMyGranola lets you choose all the fixings that go into your granola mix.
> Chocri lets you create your own chocolate bar.
> Heinz will let you add custom labels to ketchup bottles.
> Personalized M&Ms are now available with your face, or a company logo on them.
> SAP has even found an orchard that lets you customize apples (see picture)
So, how will social networking affect businesses and supply chains? We are seeing a lot of marketing to end consumers, and thus new channels to drive demand, but how can we improve our supply processes? Can we leverage social networks to drive benefits across our end-to-end supply chain processes?
Enter the social and mobile network
With an estimated 1.2bn people (20 per cent of the world’s population) on social networks, we are at a point where social software capabilities need to be prevalent throughout enterprise systems. And increasingly, we are accessing this social network through mobile devices.
In 2010, the installed base of mobile PCs and smart phones exceeded that of desktop PCs and about 20m tablet devices (e.g. iPads, ) were sold. By 2016 this number is estimated to rise to 900 million, or one for every eight people on eartth.
Is your supply network ready for the Social Network?
At the recent CSCMP Annual Global Conference there was a session on Social Media in Supply Chain Management where the question was posed “Is Social Media in Supply Chain Management a Waste of Time?” The moderator, Adrian Gonzalez wrote a great summary of the event in his logistics viewpoint article.
As the examples above show, to this point social media has been used mostly by business-to-consumer (B2C) to enable companies to promote their brands and market their products to consumers. From a business perspective, the “early adopters” are young professionals who already use these tools (such as facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and blogs) in their personal lives, and the focus has been largely on enhancing external communication, awareness and thought leadership.
Now we are starting to see leaders leveraging social networks for more business-to-business (B2B) processes. Collaborating with customers, suppliers, outsourced manufacturers, LSP’s and other partners. www.socialtimes.com reported that the “Use of social networks by the Fortune 500 companies has seen explosive growth in 2010, with 83% of the companies using at least one of the social media sites.”
A recent report by Buddy Media and Booz & Company identified Facebook (with 850 million users, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that 94% of respondents regard it #1), Twitter(77%) and YouTube (42%) as the top three preferred social media platforms for brands to utilize. This information does not mean that the functionality of other social media platforms, including blogs, and enterprise systems like Moxie Software and Yammer are not valuable to enhance external communication and collaboration (See 11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011).
SAP recently announced the acquisition of Crossgate to instantly connect SAP customers and their business partners to networking at the enterprise level. Crossgate helps companies connect with any trading partner by joining the network once and linking with prebuilt business partner profiles. This is a full-service alternative, which eliminates the need for costly point-to-point integration. It lowers costs and enables further partner participation in B2B initiatives.
There is also a huge opportunity to improve internal communication and collaboration between co-workers and across functional groups and departments. We at SAP leverage SAP StreamWork to bring together people from different locations, regions and departments to “get everyone on the same page”. We use this collaboration tool to share documents and data, and collaborate with a structured approach with tools for brainstorming and decision-making.
It is not a case of IF social networks will have an effect on your business and associated supply networks. It is a case of WHEN.
As one of the executives on the CSCMP Panel commented “Five years from now we won’t be talking about social media in supply chain management–it will just be supply chain management”.
The advent of social networks is offering a whole new wave of opportunities. As ever, it’s what you do with these opportunities and how you manage them that will make the difference.
Originally posted on Forbes.com