How Marketing Can Ease Supply Chain Issues

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Supply chain issues are a persistent threat for countless brands. But can marketing help? Read more in our blog.

The Covid-19 pandemic threw many a curveball for businesses. (And individuals!) But perhaps the most persistent – not to mention harmful – was supply chain issues. And while life has mostly returned to normal, many businesses are still struggling with logistical issues caused by the pandemic.  

But what is causing these supply chain issues, exactly?  

Whether it’s lockdowns in China increasing port congestion, or disruption caused by the war in Ukraine, global supply chain issues are a present risk for brands of all sizes.  And the effects of these disruptions are being felt by a range of industries, who are grappling with increased lead times on products. For example: 

  • Automotive – the average lead time for a new car is now seven months from order to fulfilment,
  • Fashion – for fashion brands, highly seasonal stock is delayed in reaching warehouses in time for distribution,
  • Sleep & Mattress Brands – materials costs for sleep brands have reduced profit margins on products and put a squeeze on businesses in this sector. 
And we’ve seen the disruption caused by supply chain issues first-hand with our own clients; particularly those operating in the fashion sector, who’ve been faced with stock shortfalls that have problematised planned summer sales. So, how can a strong marketing strategy support a business with global supply chain issues? And how can a marketing strategy support business by: 
  1. Communicating their current predicament to consumers and,
  2. Adapting to rapidly rising and falling stock availability.

How to Solve Supply Chain Issues using Marketing

  • There isn’t, of course, a one-size-fits-all strategy to addressing supply chain issues (wouldn’t that be lovely?), but there are several key tactics worth considering in order to minimize the disruption caused by circumstances beyond your control.

Keep marketing in the know 

Supply chain issues can arise with little to no warning. As such, anticipation is key, and it’s wise to communicate any potential risks to relevant parties – including your marketing team. By briefing your marketing team on any potential roadblocks, they’ll be able to prepare a flexible, adaptive strategy, thereby mitigating potential risks by allowing time to create contingency plans.  Note: this is especially important for paid marketing teams who’ll be able to put together an adaptable paid media strategy, accounting for any new business goals.

Moreover, with PPC and paid social channels, you’ll be able to adapt strategies and see immediate results.  For example, when stock levels are extremely low for a particular product line, it makes no sense to invest in ads directing users to these items. In this scenario, you should look to increase budgets on lines with plenty of stock that is more readily available for users to purchase.

Optimise your website for better conversion pathways 

Perhaps the chief stressor linked to global supply chain issues is stock being held up. When this happens, there’s little (if anything) you can do to reduce the time it takes to travel from a warehouse to your customer’s letterbox. So, if enabling pre-ordering on products isn’t an option (as is often the case with high-turnover stock) there are several other ways to avoid delaying adding products to your website. For example: 

Add a ‘notify me’ option 


Adding a ‘notify me’ option directing customers to sign up for email alerts when a product is in stock helps mitigate any frustration from customers waiting for products, as well as providing an opportunity to have them sign up for email marketing. Bonus: This often can be a button in place of the ‘add to basket’, so will tie into the existing conversion journey.  Note that this is only an option for when a product is genuinely going to come back in stock (You don’t want to damage the trust!)

Signpost alternative options 

Fact: users don’t always know exactly what they want, often having a more… general notion of what they’re looking for. For example, someone looking for a blue shirt will likely continue looking for blue shirts, even if yours is out of stock. So, to keep these users on your site, try directing them to similar products from within your product page. They’ll hopefully find a suitable alternative in another product you offer! 

Be transparent with your customers 

Customers have questions. Hundreds of them. And they’ll always appreciate prompt, honest answers. As such, it’s crucial that you have a strong, well-researched content strategy that anticipates and answers any questions users may have about placing orders. Addressing these concerns ahead of time will: 
  • Reduce customers service requests
  • Lower bounce rate (your SEO team will love you for this.)
FAQs are fantastic for this purpose and can be adapted to add or remove questions and answers as they become more (or less) relevant. As an example, you might choose to answer: 
  • How long will my order take to arrive?
  • When will I be charged for pre-orders?
  • When will your A/W range be in stock?
  • How can I get order updates? 

These will also boost SEO on key branded terms such as “[YOUR BRAND] delivery options” or “[YOUR BRAND] pre-order payments”.  Keeping channels such as an on-site chat function or contact pages open for communication also means customers can get in touch to ask specific questions that aren’t currently on your site (but be sure to add any that crop up often to your FAQ page!). 

Key takeaways

So, how can you ensure you’re properly set up to market your way through any stock hold-ups, extended lead times, or other supply chain issues?
  1. Keep your marketing flexible – ensure your marketers are aware of relevant business challenges and can are ready to adapt when necessary.
  2. Use paid media budgets smartly – have your paid activity and accounts reviewed frequently in line with your current stock.
  3. Adapt your website – create clear pathways for users to find alternative product options or sign up for stock notifications.
  4. Be transparent – use content and PR to ensure your customers feel clued in and informed about increased wait times or why some lines are coming in out of season.

If you want to explore how you can improve your performance through better marketing integration and without committing to a higher marketing budget cost, read about our 10 Week Performance Accelerator Programme for CMOs & Marketing Leaders.


Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash


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