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04/13/2022

How do consumers feel about supply chain disruptions?

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Many consumers are resigned to ongoing product shortages.

A majority of consumers think product shortages are here to stay. 

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they think product shortages are the “new normal,” and almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said they believe shortages will continue to dominate the supply chain conversation, according to a survey by SAP.  The survey of  1,000 adult U.S. consumers about various supply chain-related topics occurred before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which has caused additional strains on the global supply chain.

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they think product shortages are the “new normal,” and almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said they believe shortages will continue to dominate the supply chain conversation. Respondents’ specific top concern regarding product shortages was the supply of food, which was mentioned by 77% of those surveyed.

In addition, over half (52%) of respondents expressed concern about the availability of hygiene or personal care products, and 35% said they are worried about being unable to get prescription medications.

While the survey revealed that 87% of respondents have experienced shortages, only 20% say brands communicated supply chain challenges effectively. Due to out-of-stock issues, 66% of consumers have bought from a brand they normally would not have. This is not surprising, but almost one-third (32%) of respondents said they have stopped purchasing from at least one brand altogether due to supply chain challenges.

Consumers show mixed sustainability concerns
When asked about buying sustainable or ethically sourced products, respondents were prompted to select the various ways they are doing this, if at all. More than one in three (36%) respondents said they have made efforts to purchase from brands that practice sustainability; 35% said they buy from brands that practice ethical sourcing; and 19% responded that they also prioritize sustainable practices themselves, such as choosing slower shipping options to combine deliveries and reduce waste. Another 30% of respondents said they make no effort to prioritize sustainable or ethical sourcing practices.

However, when respondents were informed of a report highlighting the amount of waste generated by returned goods in the U.S., six in 10 (61%) said this knowledge would impact their future purchase decisions. Furthermore, 25% of these respondents were already aware of the return waste issue and are making their buying decisions accordingly.

A recent survey from Sensormatic Solutions, a Johnson Controls company, indicates that many consumers will pay more for sustainable products. According to the survey, 70% of consumers say they are willing to pay at least 5% more for products that can demonstrate a fully sustainable supply chain—even though cost is the most cited barrier to sustainable shopping (55%), closely followed by consumers’ perception that the stores they frequent do not offer many sustainable options (47%).

Easing consumer concerns
SAP offers the following advice to retailers seeking to ease consumer supply chain concerns:

  • Share information to improve forecasting, identify risks, and avoid supply disruptions.
  • Integrate and improve business processes for faster, more efficient transactions.
  • Find and onboard new sources of supply quickly and efficiently.

“The survey makes clear that as we move into the third year of the pandemic, many consumers see a future with some empty shelves,” said Tony Harris, senior VP and head of marketing & solutions for SAP Business Network. “In particular, they fear shortages of food, hygiene supplies, and prescription medicine. As procurement and supply chain leaders, we cannot change the course of world events. However, we can help consumers by making supply chains more resilient, which can limit the impact of these events.”