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NAEOS 2019: Our Highlights and Takeaways

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Year after year, the North American E-tail Operations Summit - NAEOS - is a firm fixture on our calendar. 2019 is no different and we're excited to report that this year's event was every bit as engaging as those we've enjoyed in the past.

NAEOS19 logo

NAEOS19 succeeded in gathering a broad collection of eCommerce executives, leading service providers, and media partners from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The summit provides an opportunity to exchange ideas, share best practices, and learn about practical solutions to the common challenges we all need to address in the dynamic world of eCommerce retail and logistics.

direct to consumer vs traditional retail

New Perspectives at NAEOS 19

As a corporate partner of the event, Capacity obviously values NAEOS as an opportunity to reach new brands and connect with other service partners in our industry. Just as important, though, is the chance to hear what's happening in the marketplace and learn from thought leaders in sectors that are new to our team.

Another benefit of attending NAEOS, of course, is that you know you'll hear from some of the biggest names in the eCommerce sector. Shopify, for example, which powers the stores of more than 820,000 online merchants and processes hundreds of millions of orders every year.

It's not just stats that are served up, however. It's hearing the pivotal moments in a company's history.

Stories, for example, such as how Shopify moved from a disruptive startup to a wildly successful eCommerce platform that really add perspective to our industry.

Scaling with Shopify

Maia Benson, who heads up Shopify's Shipping Services, offered some compelling insights into how her company sees its role in the world of eCommerce.

Maia Benson - Global Commercial Senior Lead Shopify Shipping Services

As the home to more than 800,000 eCommerce merchants and one of the key players in the democratization of selling online, Shopify also sees the need to democratize fulfillment for the online retailers it serves.

Understanding where companies come from and why they chose a particular path is also important.

Tobias Lutke quote NAEOS19

Hearing a company's backstory serves to remind us that every big brand starts off with touch and go moments and decisions that sometimes spark rapid, uncontrollable growth. When that moment comes, it helps to have service partners in your corner who can scale quickly and, even more importantly, who get what your business is about.

Why should a service partner take time to understand your brand? Well, in our business it's that which we believe makes a partner stand out from a provider.

Partners Over Providers

A service provider does the agreed job and moves on to the next one. A service partner goes the extra mile to craft an experience that matches your expectations and delivers your brand promise to customers.

On a broader note, there was plenty to get our teeth into regarding supply chain management topics and the continuing influence of new technology.

Dave Warrick, General Manager of Global Supply Chain at Microsoft, invoked the spirit of management guru Peter Drucker to make the point that without the right people using new tech, company culture will always be lacking.

Microsoft on SCM

On the subject of automation, Warrick explains: “If you go search online for automated distribution, you won’t find any facilities with no people.”

Our takeaway from this presentation was that investment in technology is crucial but needs to be driven by your people. Technology must be defined by those who will use it and how it expands their ability to achieve better results, rather than replacing them.

Stores Remain Relevant

On a related note, Target's SVP of Supply Chain Engineering, Gemma Kubat, helped us reflect on the fact that traditional bricks-and-mortar retail infrastructure still has a major role to play in order fulfillment.

Target stores as fulfillment nodes

Highlighting the importance of Target's enormous network of retail stores across the United States, she emphasized the powerful blend of online ordering and hands-on experience that brands with a real-world presence can provide.

At a time when we see digital native DTC retailers eager to deliver unique brand experiences and Amazon opening up stores to get closer to customers in seemingly impenetrable markets, Kubat's presentation resonated with us.

Even as the wave of store closures continues in 2019, Target shows us that brands whose fulfillment strategies recognize and bend to the benefits of every potential channel their customers might enjoy position themselves for success.

Learning the Essentials of Young Living

Another notable session came from Lauren Walker, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Young Living Essential Oils, who talked about leveraging the complex nuances of supply chain management as a competitive advantage.

Walker tells the compelling story of her company and position, which was forged alongside founder Gary Young, seeking the highest quality ingredients from verified partner farms. For an urbanite from Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn now transplanted to a Utah-based natural products company, this was quite the formative experience!

She learned from a much-admired pioneer in the field, soaking up his decades of experience to understand the requirements of Young Living's sourcing and every aspect of ingredient processing.

Young Living Essential Oils brand

Following in the footsteps of her now-deceased mentor, Walker espouses the depth of her company's supply chain management and how it differentiates the brand from regular store brands. She now spends most of her time leading the oil sourcing operation and the many functions that flow from it, nurturing Young Living's "Seed-to-Seal" quality that she feels makes her brand unique.

"Every time you open up the bottle, there's a team of people dedicated to making it the very best," explains Walker. We live by that promise every day."

This final statement contrasts the inherent complexity of the supply chain with the apparent simplicity of a brand promise. It's easy to throw around tags like "luxury" and "premium," or "natural" and " clean," but those claims will increasingly be verified in today's consumer-driven marketplace.

Information can be shared broadly and quickly, meaning your brand must be out there showing customers who you are and how your product is created. That's not so easy to do unless you have suppliers and fulfillment partners willing to align with your company's values and get behind your brand promise as if it were their own.

Once again, we had an engaging and insightful time in partnership with the North American Etail Operations Summit. NAEOS 19 was a resounding success and we look forward to applying some of the learning points above to benefit our clients as we grow with them.