Archive for Frank Cavallaro


Chatbots: No Longer Just a Buzzword

Chatbots: No Longer Just a Buzzword

Chatbots are a must-have lead generation and customer service tool for supply chain businesses in 2019.

The newest generation of B2B buyers is increasingly dominating the two-way conversation between marketers and buyers. They prefer to gather purchasing information on their own — overwhelmingly via online searches, vendor websites, and peers and colleagues — rather than talking to sales representatives. They are unsubscribing from marketing emails at alarming rates, citing over-communication as the number-one reason why. And they are using messaging platforms to speak directly with brands when they have questions or problems.

At the same time, buyers are demanding more personalized communications, faster response times, and an improved, cohesive user experience on all of a vendor’s digital channels.

All these factors are driving the growing popularity of chatbots as a lead generation and customer service tool. But, at Fronetics, we think it’s time to stop viewing them as a trendy communication mechanism and more as a necessary part of a supply chain operation’s marketing strategy.

Chatbot applications for the supply chain

I’ve written before about the impressive implications that automation has for supply chain marketing & sales efforts. (HubSpot reports that businesses using marketing automation receive a 451% increase in qualified leads.) At Fronetics, we’re seeing chatbots as one of the most successful and easy-to-implement marketing automation tools in the current marketplace.

Chatbots are relatively inexpensive, inherently low-maintenance, and surprisingly user-friendly — to both the buyers interacting with them and the vendors setting them up. They help website visitors find the information they need quickly, while gathering user data that is useful in marketing and sales efforts, all without taxing human resources. In fact, Chatbots Life reports that businesses can save up to 30% of costs associated with servicing customer requests by using a chatbot.

Millennials, in particular, appreciate the quick, easy, and unobtrusive communication option that chatbots offer. And, as we all know, this generation comprises an increasing percentage of the B2B purchasing landscape. In a crowded marketplace, vendors that offer a pleasing user experience will have the competitive edge when it comes to winning business and growing a base of loyal customers.

A real-life example

We are recommending chatbots to clients because we have seen firsthand how effective they can be. I’ll give you an example from our own experience at Fronetics.

We recently implemented a chatbot on our website that we synced with my calendar, allowing users to schedule a time to speak with me about our services. I am not exaggerating when I say that within 24 hours, we had a lead come through the bot. I spoke with that lead at the time he scheduled, the next morning, and delivered a proposal to him the next day.

Chatbots are here — in a big way. If you’re not using one, your competitors certainly are (or will be soon). Having a chat mechanism on your website will soon be the difference between winning more business and missing out… if it’s not already.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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4 Examples of AI for the Supply Chain

4 Examples of AI for the Supply Chain

With the power to drastically increase efficiency in all areas of the supply chain, it’s important brands are exploring the benefits of AI. Here are four examples of how AI can benefit your supply chain.


Highlights:

  • It’s estimated that supply chain firms could gain $1.3 to $2 trillion a year from using AI.
  • Machine learning has the ability to quickly discover patterns in supply chain data by relying on algorithms and constraint-based modeling to find the most influential factors.
  • The increasing popularity of chatbots is making it harder to ignore how AI is helping shape not just the daily logistics but also the B2B marketing landscape and operational procurement for supply chain industries.

Artificial intelligence is not simply affecting supply chain management, it is revolutionizing it.

With the power to drastically increase efficiency in all areas of the supply chain, McKinsey estimates that firms could gain $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion a year from using AI in supply chain and manufacturing.

Here are 4 examples of AI and how it’s changing supply chain management for the better.

1. Autonomous transport

There’s nothing more exciting than the field of autonomous transport for SCM. We’ve all known for many years that driverless trucks have major potential to affect supply chain management and logisitics.

We aren’t there yet – and “anyone employed as a driver today will be able to retire as a driver” —  but if autonomous trucking can be developed to its potential, the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.

The conversation is no longer simply talking about vehicles on the road either. Google and Rolls-Royce recently partnered to build autonomous ships too.

2. Final-mile delivery route efficiency

One doesn’t have to have a driverless vehicle, however, to use AI to optimize delivery logistics.

For example, in the “devilishly complex”  task of delivering 25 packages by van, the number of possible routes adds up to around 15 septillion (that’s a trillion trillion).

That’s where route optimization software and AI-powered GPS tools like ORION — which UPS uses to create the most efficient routes for its fleet — are making their mark.  With ORION, customers, drivers and vehicles submit data to the machine, which then uses algorithms to creates the most up-to-date optimal routes depending on road conditions and other factors.

And there are also other autonomous entities out there besides cars, trucks, and ships. Robots using LIDAR technology are now being used to deliver items in crowded city environments. For example, Marble’s robots deliver medicine, groceries, and packages, and they also track their routes and the condition in order to continuously improve delivery for the next time. Additionally, last-mile solutions with drones continue to be explored due to their ability to move quickly and bypass almost all ground-level obstacles.

3. Demand forecasting, particularly for warehouse management and SCM strategy

Machine learning has the ability to quickly discover patterns in supply chain data by relying on algorithms and constraint-based modeling to find the most influential factors. This ability to find data patterns without human intervention has applications in EVERY aspect of SCM, but demand forecasting is a particularly influential component beneficiary.

Warehouse management and SCM strategy rely heavily on correct supply, demand, and inventory-based management. Forecasting engines with machine learning offer an entirely  new level of intelligence and predictive analysis of big data sets that provides an endless (and constantly self-improving) loop of forecasting, overhauling the way we manage inventory and the way we create new strategies for our industries.

4. Chatbots for marketing and operational procurement

The increasing popularity of chatbots is making it harder to ignore how AI is helping shape not just the daily logistics but also the B2B marketing landscape and operational procurement for supply chain industries.

A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation using auditory or textual methods. It communicates with your customer inside a messaging app, like Facebook Messenger, and is similar to email marketing without landing in an inbox.  Mimicking a human conversation, chatbots currently allow for increased customer engagement through messaging app technology that isn’t yet saturated with marketing. They are just one of the many ways to integrate AI and marketing.

There’s so much more than these 4 examples to consider when discussing AI and the supply chain: prediction of delivery arrival times to the warehouse and to the customer,  cargo sensors, automated purchasing, financial applications…the list literally may be endless.

Choosing what to focus on for this article, and more importantly, for all supply chain and logistics businesses, is a tough decision, but one thing is clear:  in the “arms race” to leverage AI in SCM, some will come out on top and some will be left behind.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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Use Social Media to Enhance Supply Chain Transparency

Use Social Media to Enhance Supply Chain Transparency

Transparency in your supply chain through social media outlets can give a look inside your company in a way that your customers are craving.


Highlights:

  • Customers have been demanding more visibility into supply chains of the products they purchase.
  • Through social channels like  Twitter , LinkedIn , and Facebook, companies are greatly enhancing  their two-way communication with customers and sharing information with their stakeholders.
  • The top reason that supply chain companies are choosing to participate in social media is to increase the visibility of their company.

Supply chain management is such a complicated web of factors that most companies choose to keep operations behind the scenes and unveil a finished product with an intense marketing roll-out.

But what if that’s backwards and an outdated approach to marketing? (Hint: It is.)

The complexity of supply chain management

There is no question that SCM can be deeply and frustratingly complex. Consider TechTarget’s definition of SCM:  “the broad range of activities required to plan, control and execute a product’s flow, from acquiring raw materials and production through distribution to the final customer, in the most streamlined and cost-effective way.”

With so much intense analysis at every step, the details your  supply chain management (SCM) team considers can seem endless, and the impressive knowledge they hold is certainly not something most people can understand.

Or can they? What if that mindset – the one that thinks that your SCM is so complex that it wouldn’t interest or be able to be grasped by your customers – is wrong?

In fact, what if it’s so wrong that you are missing something important? Customers today want to understand your supply chain.

Transparency in your supply chain

A common misconception is that most customers are interested in a final product. Of course, your final product better be outstanding, but there are other factors fueling today’s buyers, business-to-business (B2B) customers included.

For a few years now, customers have been demanding more visibility into supply chains of the products they purchase.  For example, they want to ensure sustainable practices around the earth’s scarce resources, to know where their food is sourced, and to confirm ethical pay and conditions for any laborers involved. B2B buyers are no exception. They want their vendors to be more than just a final product too, and are constantly searching for value outside the sales funnel.

Transparency with social media

What if you shared what fueled your daily SCM decisions with your customers, stakeholders, and suppliers? Not every last complex detail…but some of them, and the intangibles too:

  •  What drives SCM decisions besides cost?
  • Who is your SC team?
  • Where are you sourcing?
  • Why do you do things as you do during production?

Transparency of SCM through social media outlets can give a look inside your company in a way that your customers are craving.  Through social channels like  Twitter LinkedIn , and Facebook, companies are greatly enhancing  their two-way communication with customers and sharing information with their stakeholders.

Of course, the benefits of social media to SCM don’t stop there.The supply chain needs social media for enhanced customer communication, increased industry education, and an ability to socially monitor the market. Social media has the capability to empower your supply chain in multiple ways.

According to a survey we conducted, the top reason that supply chain companies are choosing to participate in social media is to increasing the visibility of their company (95%). Don’t simply focus on your final product(s) and leave out your supply chain! When you make your supply chain transparent to your customers and stakeholders, everyone wins.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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Digital Marketing for the Supply Chain and Logistics Industries

Digital Marketing for the Supply Chain and Logistics Industries

Digital marketing for the supply chain has become necessary to position your company to not only be found online, but also to be researched, to be compared, and to be concluded upon.


Highlights:

  • Digital marketing uses your website, related social media, and other online industry channels to showcase your industry knowledge and experience.
  • Thought leaders are the informed trusted sources in their field of expertise.
  • Supply chain and logistics industries need content marketing to achieve confidence and relationship-building with buyers.

Today’s B2B buyers are researching, evaluating, and coming to conclusions about companies without a single contact with a team member or salesperson.

This kind of B2B buying landscape requires cutting edge marketing strategies to showcase nut-and-bolt industries that have survived without them for many years.

Digital marketing for the supply chain

Digital marketing for the supply chain uses your website, related social media, and other online industry channels to showcase your industry knowledge and experience (rather than trying to convince people of it with a marketing message).

With inbound digital marketing, you publish relevant, informative information to adds value to every stage of a potential customer’s buying journey.

It is the content that you publish that walks them through the initial stages of the sales process.

What should you publish? A good content marketing strategy is about understanding the questions and concerns that are particular to your customer base, and offering quality information and analysis that answers those needs.

A good content marketing strategy is about understanding the questions and concerns that are particular to your customer base, and offering quality information and analysis that answers those needs. Click To Tweet

Showcasing thought leadership through digital marketing

Discovering and meeting the needs of your customers that go beyond your products and services will catapult you in their minds as a knowledgeable, helpful “thought leader” in your industry.

Thought leaders are the informed trusted sources in their field of expertise. They have innovative ideas, can showcase their thinking, and can replicate their successes again and again.

Consider it: Your business has so much more to offer than its primary product or service. You have a team of people with a tremendous aggregate of experience, expertise, and perspectives.

Allowing your customers this sort of access to your team’s experience and knowledge provides them with tremendous value outside the sales funnel, which builds trust and cultivates lasting, fruitful relationships.

Why digital marketing?

In this B2B buying landscape, supply chain and logistics industries need content marketing to achieve a level of confidence and relationship-building with buyers that used to come from face-to-face meetings. Potential and current customers will view your company as a valuable resource for everything related to not only your products and services but to the industry as a whole.

No time to execute?

The downside? Content marketing requires significant time, labor, and resources, and it can take quite some time to start reaping benefits. Feeling overwhelmed and like you and your team can’t possibly add on more marketing? Outsourcing certain key marketing tasks allows insourcing your core competencies while delegating specialized tasks to external experts.

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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6 Content Marketing Trends for the Supply Chain in 2019

6 Content Marketing Trends for the Supply Chain in 2019

As content marketing continues to increase in popularity, here are six trends to consider when planning your 2019 strategy.

A recent article by Forbes on content marketing notes: “As recently as a few years ago, marketers handled content mostly as a side project. It was more of a bonus than an essential role — something you did when you had time because it took a backseat to more traditional marketing projects and responsibilities. That’s changed.”

Boy, has that changed. The content marketing industry is expected to be worth more than $400 billion by 2021.

The 2018 report from the Content Marketing Institute shows just how prevalent content marketing is, and how essential it has become to creating brand awareness, educating your audience, and building credibility and trust with your customers.

Supply chain & logistics marketers: Trends to watch

So, where is content marketing headed in 2019? Content marketing budgets are still on the rise, and supply chain and logistics companies are increasingly seeing the value in moving to an inbound marketing strategy driven by original content.

These are the six notable trends to consider when planning your 2019 content marketing strategy.

1. Video

Video is currently the most popular form of content being consumed online today, and video marketing will continue to have substantial value in 2019.

Smart supply chain marketers should start the new year by developing a visual storytelling strategy that offers consistent delivery of valuable content.

What’s your best bet? Be helpful and teach your audience something worthwhile to them.

2. Chatbots

The rise of chatbots – automated computer programs that simulate human conversation in messaging apps – is expected to continue in 2019. Business Insider recently reported that the number of people on messaging apps surpassed the number of users on social networks!

Business Insider recently reported that the number of people on messaging apps surpassed the number of users on social networks! Click To Tweet

Chatbots are just one of the ways artificial intelligence will shape the content marketing landscape in 2019, but their ability to drastically increase customer engagement puts them on the short list for a major trend to watch in the coming year.

3. Voice search

Voice search is becoming an increasingly prevalent means of attaining information. Statistics vary, but it’s expected that anywhere between 30-50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. A recent report by NPR and Edison Research found that the rise of smart speakers is substantially changing consumer routines and purchasing behavior.

A good content marketing strategy for 2019 should consider how your customers might use voice search in your industry, and what you can do to maximize your content’s ability to respond.

4. Long-form content

I love this one, because it harkens back to humble beginnings of content marketing and the desire to put informative, quality content in front of a targeted interested audience.

Long form content – white papers, case studies, and lengthier blog posts e.g. – will have a resurgence of renewed appreciation in 2019. Why? Because many industries, including supply chain and logistics industries, are saturated with tons of mediocre short form content. People are increasingly looking to weed through it all for substantial quality posts from trusted sources. In addition, search engines will favor longer posts in results rankings.

Cheers to 2019 being the year of quality over quantity!

5. Brand ambassadors

We wrote about brand ambassadors as we headed into 2018, but they are worth mentioning again as we look forward to 2019. Brand ambassadors are employees that influence the B2B buying decisions of others, and they are an often-overlooked resource with more traditional marketing tactics.

Peers and colleagues are the third most influential source of information for business to business (B2B) purchasing, right behind online searches and your website! And there’s nothing more credible than a friend who speaks highly of their company’s product or service.

Definitely consider how you can help make brand ambassadors out of your employees in 2019.

6. Market Influencers

The final trend to watch in 2019 is influencer marketing, a form of marketing which focuses on influential people rather than the market as a whole.

Basically, marketers identify individuals who might have influence over potential buyers and create marketing campaigns and activities around these influencers. In many ways, this works similarly to a brand ambassador, where a single person influences their network of friends; in this case, however, the market influencer has a large network and a lot of “friends” who listen.

Influencer marketing will be a huge trend in marketing for 2019, and it would be worth considering who might be an influencer in your industry in the coming year and what your company might do reach them.

So, there you have it. As we head into 2019, these are the trends to watch and plan for in content marketing space.

The B2B buying climate is growing longer and more complex, and content marketing is so effective throughout the entire sales cycle if it’s done well.  The end of the year is a great time to revisit your marketing strategy and make any necessary changes for the coming year.

Best wishes in the year ahead!

This post originally appeared on EBN Online.

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