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Adapting supply chains to meet the challenges of social media-driven demand

The influence of social media on consumer behaviour is undeniable. If you're a regular user of platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube, or have children who are, you've likely encountered the rapid rise of various social media trends. These trends, such as the viral success of fidget spinners, can cause unexpected surges in demand, leaving retailers scrambling to keep up.

This phenomenon is not new; influencer-driven demand has historical precedents, but the speed and unpredictability of social media make it a unique challenge.

The evolution of demand driven by influencers

Historically, television shows and celebrities have driven consumer demand, much like today's influencers. However, the real-time nature of social media accelerates these trends, creating sudden spikes that traditional supply chains can’t handle without the necessary resources. The retail, warehousing, and logistics sectors are particularly impacted, necessitating rapid adaptation and innovation.

Transforming warehousing and logistics

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly shifted consumer behaviour towards online shopping, setting new benchmarks for delivery speed and service quality. This shift has placed immense pressure on retailers' warehousing operations.

To meet these elevated expectations, it's crucial for retailers to have real-time, accurate inventory data, which traditional warehouse management systems (WMS) often fail to provide due to reactive stock takes and human error.

Explore how manual warehousing erodes your profit margins

Leveraging robotics and AI for efficient warehousing

1. Automation of warehouse processes

Automation through robotics can significantly optimise warehouse operations. While robotics have been part of warehousing for some time, their integration with AI presents new opportunities. Automating critical tasks such as stock-taking and inventory management not only reduces errors but also enhances efficiency, allowing retailers to meet social media-driven demand swiftly and accurately.

Revolutionising warehouse data with AI-enabled autonomous mobile robots

2. Predictive analytics for demand forecasting

AI's ability to analyse vast datasets and predict demand fluctuations is transformative for inventory management. By incorporating predictive analytics, warehouse managers can better anticipate and prepare for surges in demand, ensuring the right products are in stock when needed. This capability is essential for maintaining the pace set by social media trends.

Gain more business intelligence for supply chain resilience through real-time data

3. Optimising supply chain routes

AI-powered solutions can optimise logistics by analysing factors like traffic patterns, weather conditions, and fuel costs to determine the most efficient delivery routes. This not only improves delivery times and reduces transportation costs but also minimises carbon emissions, contributing to more sustainable operations.

4. Enhancing quality control and predictive maintenance

Combining robotics with AI enhances quality control within warehouses. Continuous monitoring and scanning can detect issues such as damaged goods, expired products, or temperature inconsistencies. Automating these tasks ensures that products are stored correctly and meet the high standards set by consumers influenced by social media trends.

Conclusion: The future of retail in a social media world

The integration of AI and robotics in warehousing and logistics is not just a response to social media trends but a proactive step towards a more efficient and resilient supply chain. By leveraging these technologies, retailers can better manage demand spikes, optimise inventory and logistics, and maintain high standards of quality control.

As social media continues to shape consumer behaviour, the ability to adapt quickly and efficiently will be crucial for success in the retail industry.

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This company has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 849938