Most chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) could get more benefit from their digitalization plans if they also took their customers’ operations into account, according to a survey from the technology consulting firm Gartner Inc.
While an increasing number of companies are creating digital twins of their own supply chains, they are missing an opportunity to also build a “digital twin of the customer” (DToC), mirroring conditions at retailers, consumers, patients, or machine customers, the firm said. That nascent technology has the potential to revolutionize demand forecasting accuracy, vastly improve customer experience, and serve as a critical input to enhance the use of AI/ML tools.
The analysis comes from a Gartner survey of 380 supply chain leaders conducted in January 2023, which found that while 60% are piloting or plan to implement a digital supply chain twin (DSCT), just 27% were also planning to incorporate a DToC as part of their digital strategy.
Gartner defines DToC as a dynamic, virtual representation of a customer that simulates and learns to emulate and anticipate behavior. A DToC can and should complement a broader DSCT, helping to shift from a cost-centric and reactive posture to one that is instead proactive and growth-oriented.
Despite those potential gains, the barriers to adoption of DToCs include a lack of awareness of the transformational benefits, a lack of digitalization skills, and concerns about customer trust and data privacy regulations, Gartner said.
“Supply chain leaders understand the importance of the customer in their physical supply chains, but most have not yet translated this lesson to the digital realm,” Beth Coppinger, senior director analyst in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice, said in a release. “The opportunity for transformational benefits from a digital twin of the customer far exceeds the potential that most supply chain leaders see today. A digital supply chain twin that includes a digital twin of the customer can account for changing customer behaviors under a variety of conditions and support the growth plans of the organization.”