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COMMENT: Is your supply chain ready for Millennials?

Alexa Cheater discusses how supply chains ought to prepare themselves for the 'Millennial Mentality'?
Alexa Cheater, Kinaxis.
Alexa Cheater, Kinaxis.

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Alexa Cheater is a former journalist turned communications specialist who currently works in Canada as social media and public relations manager at Kinaxis, a company that delivers cloud-based supply chain solutions. This comment piece originally appeared on the 21st Century Supply Chain Blog

It seems like everywhere I look I see mention of millennials, that ‘next generation’ who seems to be shaking things up in a big way.

From the way companies do business to the products available on store shelves to the rising stars of the executive world, there’s no mistaking the millennial influence.

That got me wondering, what kind of sway does this technology-loving, values-driven, need-to-know right now, group have over your supply chain. And do they deserve the power we’ve given them?

I should start by saying that I am in fact a part of this often talked about demographic, which according to Wikipedia is comprised of anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. I’ll let you guess where in that range I fall. So why the big fuss about us up-and-comers?

Well, according to Forbes, who agrees that 2015 is the Year of the Millennial, there are 80 million millennials in the US alone, and it’s estimated that by 2017 we’ll be spending $200 billion annually.

But it’s not just our spending power that has companies taking note. Here are a few facts from a Forbes and Elite Daily report:

• A measly 1% are swayed to trust a brand based on advertising
• 75% believe it’s fairly or very important for a company to give back
• 62% will engage with brands on social media
• 60% are often or always loyal to their regular brands
• 42% are interested in co-creating products with companies
• 87% use between two and three tech devices at least once a day

So how does all that relate to how you’re managing your supply chain? Let me explain.

We want what we want when we want it. The speed of your supply chain in delivering goods to the end consumer is about to become critical. Same day delivery is becoming the norm. Why? Because millennials demanded it.

But the pressure we’re putting on supply chains doesn’t stop there. Mass production is no longer good enough. Leading consumer behaviouralist Ken Hughes points out we’re also demanding boutique, artisan goods and services, personalised in their nature and delivery.

And did I mention how much we love shopping local? Are you sourcing your materials from within my country? What about from within my community? That’s going to make a difference.

Right alongside the fact that we’re all about local goods is our desire to see companies we support give back – to communities, workers and the environment.

I’ve touched on this topic before when I explored how consumer priorities are driving major supply chain changes. Those consumers I was talking about. You guessed it, millennials.

I’d love to tell you that you have time to make changes to your supply chain. That you can take years to work on sustainability, sourcing local suppliers, and developing an environmentally-friendly process.

But the reality is that one of the most defining traits of my generation is our expectation that everything we want is available at the swipe of a finger.

Growing up in the age of the Internet of Things means we’re used to things being available at hyper speed.

And while I may have posed the question at the start, it appears with our buying power and the very fact we’re poised to overtake the Baby Boomer generation in a matter of years, that yes, apparently we do deserve the kind of power we’ve been given. I just hope we use it responsibly and don’t let it go to our heads.

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