Social Media and Demand Planning: Predicting Future Trends

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Business Planning in the Social Media Age

Instagram Launches With The Hopes Of Igniting Communications Through Images” Almost ten years ago, the world was introduced to Instagram, a free-to-download app that was released amongst giants like Facebook and Twitter. “I think that communicating via images is one of these mediums that you’re going to see take off over the next few years because of a fundamental shift in the enabling technology,” said creator, Kevin Systrom. Social media and demand planning have now become areas to consider together in supply chain strategies.

Systrom couldn’t have predicted Instagram’s popularity more precisely. With over 1 Billion monthly users, Instagram has exceeded its original intention of being a photo-sharing platform. Instagram is now not only a way to share photos, but a means of getting the news, building brand awareness, hosting promotional contests, posting for celebrity tabloids, and a powerful tool in shaping e-commerce and how consumers shop. Instagram has played a critical role in changing the look and nature of products consumers buy, and the locations of where they shop.

Instagram has moved some items, such as ugly Christmas sweaters and whimsical Unicorn Frappuccinos, into a must-have category. These items have become so popular this past decade because they were Instagram shareable. Consumers purchased items like these solely because they photograph well and rack up likes and comments. Furthermore, influencers, like any member of the Kardashian clan, can break any demand forecast by simply posing with an item in their hands. Social media and demand planning trends need to be considered together for forecasting purposes.

Entire product categories have benefited from this photo-centric social media outlet.  The cosmetic industry has definitely seen growth since Instagram’s release due to make-up trends that flood users’ feeds.  Instagram is a great platform for the cosmetic industry due to the visual appeal in content, the ability to share tutorials, and the encouragement of users to generate their own content.  Our clients in the cosmetic industry have created a separate category of promotion for their items trending on social media, which speaks volumes to the impact platforms, like Instagram, have on businesses.

Physical stores themselves have changed over the past decade to conform to Instagram’s shareable craze.  The sole purpose of stores used to be to stock and sell products, but now in the digital age, a store must be a place for experiences.  Meanwhile, restaurants are also adapting to the “Instagrammable” lifestyle by adjusting lights knowing that diners’ photos can be the most powerful marketing tool.

Instagram has also given rise to new purchase opportunities around life’s milestones.  Maternity, birth, and newborn photo shoots have become commonplace.  With these new sharable moments on the rise, there is a new category of consumer goods that has never been needed before people shared news through a visual medium.  Props for anything from engagement and pregnancy announcements to gender reveals, consumers can now buy chalkboards, signs, and even dog outfits ready for any photographable announcement.

Instagram did not change or create any product themselves, but what it did change was consumer culture in which supply chains have to be more adaptive than ever before. When items can sell out overnight due to influencer engagement, an accurate forecast can be thrown out the window. This does not change how things are bought or why they were bought but it introduces a challenge for planners to be able to respond and accommodate the instantaneous changes in inventory due to social media activity.