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Happy Meals, Smartphones and the Supply Chain

Posted 11-09-2010 at 02:25 PM by Albert Fong

From the ban on McDonald's Happy Meals to smartphones evolving into a shopper's best pricing tool, a lot of things are changing right in our own backyard. Regardless of where you are in the supply chain, the business environment is constantly changing as a result of technology, public policy, consumer preferences and economic health among others. That doesn't even include risks that keep most of us up at night hopefully not all night.

For example, San Francisco recently passed an ordinance that bans using toys to entice kids to buy meals (i.e. Happy Meals). If you're like me, I can't remember a time without Happy Meals. Not that I ate them every chance I had, but the term "Happy Meal" is arguably as American as apple pie. If you're McDonald's, this ordinance potentially puts a damper on future sales since other cities and locales will likely consider similar initiatives.

Those Happy Meal toys with the promotional tie-ins will likely find homes in other places, just not in San Francisco. From a supply chain perspective, this becomes yet another factor to consider in distribution and planning. While not an issue now since the impact is localized, this becomes more of an issue if adoption takes off in other areas. Likely, McDonald's will come up with a healthier Happy Meal (yes, that sounds strange even as I write it) to skirt the ordinance. It will be up to the supply chain team to ensure that the right inventory shows up.

A few years ago, the smartphone was viewed as strictly a business executive tool. Today, it's a mainstream device that everyone from high school students to soccer moms can't live without. It's no surprise that for shoppers-that makes most of us-the smartphone has become an indispensable sidekick through store aisles. According to a recent study, more than 40% of smartphone users use their own devices to do price checks when shopping.

Admit it, you're probably done it I know I have. With the maturity of online shopping sites and phone apps that turn your camera into a UPC reader, finding the right price couldn't be easier. For retailers, a multichannel strategy is more important than ever. Whether buying through the Web, walking into a brick-or-mortar store, or a combination, keeping items in stock while maintaining customer satisfaction are essential. The battle between pricing pressures and brand loyalty will continue, and in these economic times, price has the edge.

Having said that, customers want instant gratification, and if your store can't provide it, that customer and sale are lost-likely for good. The access to information is changing the retail landscape, and you don't want to be caught with empty shelves if you're a retailer.

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