In partnership with the Broad College’s Executive Development Programs, Ayalla Ruvio, associate professor of marketing and faculty member in the Executive MBA program, shares what she believes to be the most significant challenges related to consumer behavior and supply chain operations.

Ayalla Ruvio

Ayalla Ruvio, associate professor of marketing

Life has changed dramatically. I think, if I had to pinpoint two major changes that we’ve seen, I would say first of all that supply chain is now front and center to business operation. Now, everything rises and falls on supply chain. If your business is strong in supply chain and effective, you’re still functioning; if not, you’re probably out of the game. I think that businesses were already moving in the direction of emphasizing effective supply chain, but changes with the pandemic have accelerated that transition.

Secondly, many companies have now switched to be consumer centric. They focus their entire business around the consumer. And when I say consumer centric, I don’t just mean the consumer is important to us — the consumer is important to every business — but businesses really have changed their operation in a way that will address consumer needs and demands. We are aware that consumer behavior has changed dramatically during the pandemic, certainly in the way that consumers shop online, but consumers are also much more sensitive to the service that they are getting and to the experience that they are having. Businesses have had to change the way they operate to meet those expectations.

Now, I do want to mention that one of the consequences of those two changes is that even businesses that were traditionally B2B are now essentially B2C. Businesses that traditionally just serve their customers now realize that they must understand the challenges that their customers are facing when they are serving the end consumer. Those traditionally B2B companies need to understand the end consumers to better serve their direct customers, which is a big shift.

COVID has now accelerated these trends, and many businesses were unprepared. We do a lot of work with B2B businesses like industrial organizations. They are consistently telling us that what is happening in the traditional consumer space is having a dramatic impact on expectations of their suppliers and expectations of their business customers. A lot of companies say to us, “If Amazon can do this for millions of consumers, why can’t you do this for us as an industrial customer?” And I think that shift is really causing B2B organizations to rethink what they need to do. They need to understand the customer even better and transform the business.