Opinion: The fast-changing nature of logistics

Justin Tichy, COO of Petco, breaks down why the most effective logistics solution for retail leaders is maintaining focus on simplifying the customer experience.
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Alyssa Nassner

· 5 min read

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world of logistics, it can be nearly impossible to anticipate what will happen next across your supply chain with vendors, labor, or production—and when.

Over the last several years, supply chains across retail have been reengineered under pressure to meet new conditions, levels, and preferences of consumer demand. For a company like Petco that operates within the growing and resilient pet sector, the pandemic pet boom generated both benefits for our business and additional logistical challenges that required us to pivot overnight to meet the demand.

Fundamentally, the pace of logistics is set by the customer, with the sharp rise in ecommerce being just one example. Yet, whether anticipated or not, roadblocks, paired with the constant drive to maximize efficiency and minimize cost, often have companies racing to implement buzzy or trend-driven logistics solutions. While some automation might save the company money in the short term, ultimately the result can be an increase in the complexity of current processes or other unintended consequences.

From my 30 years in retail at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and now as COO of Petco, I’ve learned the most effective logistics solution is to maintain focus on simplifying the customer experience.

To deliver on an enhanced customer experience both digitally and in store, it’s important to have an integrated logistics process that relies on 1) pressure testing frequently, and learning from mistakes 2) developing a strong people culture and 3) implementing an omnichannel employee mindset.

Pressure test everything

My team at Petco has end-to-end responsibility across our 1,500 Pet Care Centers (PCCs), and we’ve seen firsthand how things can go wrong or unravel at any given point in the logistics chain. To avoid being caught off guard, pressure testing every single process can decrease simple errors. As leaders with the bulk of responsibility on your shoulders, fear of failure and pride can be antithetical to success. Getting problems out there early and often is a healthy mindset and practice to adopt at all levels of your logistics framework.

When we first implemented our buy online, pickup in-store service (BOPIS) for example, it inconsequentially resulted in our in-store partners doing two extra jobs. Our PCC partners went from handling pets to worrying about timestamps and clearing orders. Six months in, we designed two separate teams, with a dedicated BOPIS person for each PCC to solve for the issue. Over time, we also further streamlined the process, narrowing down our 700 ship-from-store locations to 300 stores and implemented a partnership with DoorDash to further increase convenience, simplicity, and speed for our customers.

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If and when things go wrong, and they will, it’s important to remain calm. Teams can sense when you’re stressed. But if you’re able to maintain an open and fun environment that promotes an open dialogue, whatever the dynamics, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you with challenges to troubleshoot.

Win employees and customers with culture

Every good retailer knows that when you win with employees, you win with the customer. Yet, the focus of employee culture has primarily been on the in-store experience. Culture is an equally important part of logistics, especially for employees who work in distribution centers (DCs). In today’s omnichannel environment, these employees are another direct conduit to customers, yet unlike in-store employees, they have the least line of sight into the customer experience.

That’s why culture is key, which is why we focus on culture not just in our support centers, but also in our pet care centers and distribution centers. In one of our DCs, for example, there’s a huge world map on one of the walls with pushpins representing the different countries partners who work there are from. This was a grassroots project that evolved as a result of the partners sharing their stories with each other and building a community within their team.

Supply chain and store logistics, though largely about products, is also about the people who get those products to and from your store. They are integral, and we regularly communicate this to our DC partners. Forgetting this means you lose on all other fronts.

An omni mindset

If the pandemic has taught retailers anything, it’s that omni is king. And we’ve applied that mindset to our people as well, treating every partner as an omni partner whether they are working with customers in-store or fulfilling online orders in DCs. Culturally, our partners have always been our secret sauce, with their passion and knowledge for pets being at the driving edge of the customer experience at Petco. In many ways, with our pet care centers being micro-distribution centers, the omni experience is an extension of the way Petco thinks about meeting the evolving needs of pet parents.

There are a million moving parts to supply chains and logistics, but at the end of the day, it’s important not to lose sight of the end goal: the customer. To improve your own internal processes, start by asking what your customers want. Building solutions around that will win every time.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.