Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Mark Delaney, vice president, global industry strategy, retail and CPG at supply chain visibility platform FourKites, discusses what it takes to earn shopper loyalty and his company’s solution to make shipping more sustainable.
Name: Mark Delaney
Title: Vice president, global industry strategy, retail and CPG
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Most recently, FourKites announced a Net Zero initiative to help companies achieve their goals to reduce supply chain emissions. As part of this effort, we unveiled Sustainability Hub, a suite of analytics tools to provide better visibility into resource consumption and waste generation. FourKites tracks more than 2.5 million shipments each day across 176 countries, leveraging patented artificial intelligence to process 150 factors—weather, traffic and real-time data from GPS (global positioning system), ELD (electronic logging device) telematics networks, AIS (automatic identification system) and more. We provide true, global end-to-end visibility for every leg of a multimodal journey on a single platform.
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Each industry has its own set of challenges, and how companies respond depends on their foresight and resources. However, there are two common trends among those with the best handle on their supply chain.
The first is collaboration. Companies that are exceeding their peers have torn down traditional supply chain silos. They have the right people, process and technology in place to better share knowledge and work together. I recently returned from Modex, and the themes of collaboration and automation were on display there. While there’s lots of nuance to automation, many were having conversations on the show floor and comparing notes.
The other trend is proactive risk mitigation. It’s not enough to have a team ready to respond to a crisis. Instead, companies must make a meaningful investment and regularly stress test their supply chain. For example, [Texas grocery chain] H-E-B was able to react perhaps faster or more effectively to Covid-19, given they already had an executive in place solely focused on emergency preparedness and had taken steps in advance.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I am likely a little less brand loyal than I was going into the pandemic. I’ve expanded the number of stores I use—both brick-and-mortar and online—largely due to the supply chain disruptions we’ve all experienced. I’m open to new products and enjoy experimenting, and I find myself enjoying getting back to live stores for that reason.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Given I have a demanding career, three children and a wife who works full-time, the biggest thing you can do for me is to save me time. Whether online or in the store, having the selection I need and getting me from exploration to exit as quickly as possible is what keeps me coming back.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
Since the pandemic, I think business casual has gotten a little more casual as I don’t seem to have a need for some of my dressier clothes. For gentlemen, jeans with a dress shirt and blazer seem to be the new uniform, even if you’re not in tech. On weekends, it’s certainly more casual and largely depends on whether I’m going for a run or running errands.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
I’m not sure I have a favorite; like most things, I think the combination of multiple eras done tastefully works for most occasions. I can’t say that I ever bought into the khakis trend, though. At least for me, khakis are wrinkled 10 minutes into your day despite your best efforts.
Who’s your style icon?
David Beckham always seems to balance trendy with classic, which is something I like. If I were in as good shape as he is, I might otherwise steal more ideas!
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
I might be biased since it’s the reason I’m at FourKites, but the company’s recently announced decision to invest further in expertise and solutions for specific industries is an exciting one. I’ve been following retail trends for nearly 20 years, and when they were looking for someone to help craft their retail strategy, I was all in. Retail is a unique beast but Covid, for all of its terrible things, threw accelerant on the pace of retail change, and I love being part of that.
The decision was based on our desire to ensure that FourKites delivers ever greater customer value through industry-specific strategies and solutions. Our work is already underway. We’ve invested in deep vertical industry expertise in retail and CPG, logistics service providers (LSPs), process and chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and more. We also established industry-focused research and development to drive industry-specific solutions, as well as new alliances and partnerships that will accelerate the transition to automated, interconnected and collaborative global supply chains, powered and optimized by real-time visibility data and machine learning. Finally, we’ve invested in new customer listening and collaboration programs that span every vertical industry and address every customer use case.
I’m thrilled to be part of the team building out these deeper capabilities.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
What struck me when I joined FourKites was people’s propensity to be smart, honest and down-to-earth. Whether they are an account executive or C-level executive, everyone shares the same friendly, get-it-done attitude. I was unsurprised when I learned FourKites values a one-team mindset, bias for action, extreme ownership, being customer-obsessed and having a good attitude.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
Be prepared to pivot. I saw retailers stand up curbside pickup in days. Plexiglas and disinfectants hit stores overnight. Loyalty is earned, not owned; many were forced to shop other retailers and brands, and now they have to regain those shoppers’ loyalty. Take care of your staff as well as you take care of your customers. They are your frontline defense and ambassadors—value them.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Sustainability is certainly something to keep top of mind, but regaining loyalty is crucial as shoppers return to stores. Focus on ensuring products are in stock and that staff are providing a great level of service. That’s why consumers like to go to stores. In 2022, you can get anything online; why do I want to visit your store?
What keeps you up at night?
Not much, but there is a lurking sea change in the shopping paradigm. Prognosticators for years have predicted the death of brick-and-mortar while many discounted e-commerce, especially in certain verticals—grocery being one. I think we need to realize that the store of the future embodies both experiences blended together seamlessly. I’m not sure consumers think in as linear a fashion as some retailers would like them to, and that should be a focus right now.
What makes you most optimistic?
Just as we as business people are thrilled to be getting back to industry events, shoppers will be excited to be interacting with brands and stores. Humans are fundamentally social creatures, and I think similar to other life-changing events, like 9/11, we’re all a little more open to caring for each other and being tolerant of each other’s differences. I hope I’m right about this.