The Pandemic’s Pervasive Impacts on the Supply Chain

The supply chain strain kickstarted by the coronavirus pandemic early last year has escalated into more of a supply chain crisis, with every step along the path to distribution from manufacturing to shipment feeling significant dire impacts.

What started as factory shutdowns has snowballed into issues across the entire supply chain, from material and labor shortages to increased freight prices to extremely delayed shipping. Rising costs are making it even more difficult for businesses to get their products delivered to stores and customers alike.

How did it happen? Last year, shoppers 1) were more frivolous about their discretionary spend than usual and 2) shopped online more than in stores much more than usual. As a result, retailers had less of a need for their shipping containers, and the containers were put away and saved for later.

But this year, consumer demand for products surged earlier than expected – and retailers and container companies weren’t prepared.

Now, it’s incredibly difficult for many retailers to find available space on containers, if they can even find available containers in the first place. With demand for freight high and supply so low, it’s becoming very expensive for brands to ship the products their customers buy.

Rising freight costs are a huge risk to profits for retailers – and customers’ products are still likely to be delayed.

Consumers are feeling the most brunt of the impact with delayed shipping times and out-of-stock items. It will be crucial for retailers to communicate realistic timing expectations with shoppers, especially as we approach the holiday season.

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Our second pandemic Black Friday

We’re in a much different place than we were last year with the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet – and the holiday shopping season will certainly still feel some impacts.

Last year, low prices and the ability to purchase online were the top concerns for customers. This year, consumers’ top concerns look a little different, but they’re still wary about some issues that tie back to the pandemic.

With supply chain issues not appearing like they’ll slow down anytime soon, out-of-stock items will be the top concern for consumers this holiday shopping season, followed by budget and delayed shipping. 53% of shoppers are also anticipating product shortages while 42% of shoppers are also expecting products to be more expensive. To try to mitigate these issues, 66% of shoppers made plans to start their holiday shopping early.

In-store sales saw a slight decline last year in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with US brick & mortar sales declining 4.7% last year. This year, however, consumers are much more comfortable shopping in stores. Of the 52% of consumers who plan to participate in Black Friday, 44% plan to shop in-store.

Returning to the office post-pandemic

As COVID-19 cases continue to drop in the US, many workplaces are reexamining their work-from-home policies. As of November 2021, 74% of current remote workers say they’d like to return to the office once it’s safe, with 51% also saying they’d consider quitting their job if their employer tried to make them return to the office before they felt safe.

At the same time, 81% say they enjoy working remotely. With workers’ feelings about remote vs. in-office work being so complicated, what can we expect the new norm to be for working post-pandemic?

Major companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have made several adjustments to their return-to-office timeline. In August 2021, 66% of organizations were in the process of delaying their office reopenings.

Right now, 70% of workers say they’re only willing to return to the office if their coworkers are all vaccinated – but a separate August poll found that 16% of companies are requiring vaccinations (up from 2% in January 2021).

Various surveys have been circulating about consumers’ return-to-office preferences, with some polls indicating more hesitancy to return than others. 41% of respondents to an August 2021 survey said that having to return to the office either part-time or full-time would lead them to seek employment elsewhere.

How the pandemic has changed how companies do privacy

The pandemic brought an increase in privacy initiatives for companies around the globe. Between significant increases in remote work that required IT teams to reexamine privacy policies to significant increases in both consumers’ privacy concerns and government privacy regulations, the pandemic years have been transformative in shaping the future of privacy.

Here are some stats from Cisco’s 2021 Privacy Benchmark Study that showcase how the pandemic has influenced new ways of approaching consumer privacy: