Leveraging Supply Chain Automation to Meet This Year’s Holiday Shopping Demands

Businesses face an increase in order volumes as shoppers stock up for the holidays. According to Deloitte’s annual retail holiday sales forecast, sales are expected to rise 4 to 4.5 percent from 2016. At the same time, online sales are predicted to reach $111 to $114 billion as more customers move away from brick-and-mortar shops and toward e-tailers.

As seasonal sales draw larger consumer crowds year over year, shippers will need to ensure their supply chain operations are ready to keep up with the holiday rush. The last thing shopkeepers want during this critical holiday period is a shortage of inventory and delayed shipments. Businesses risk losing valuable customers to competitors if they fail to deliver packages on time or if they run out of in-demand items in store.

Small to mid-sized shippers can no longer rely on manual processes to meet the growing expectations of customers, especially during the holiday rush. Businesses need to leverage supply chain automation to capture sales during the peak season without drowning amid increasing consumer demands.

Supply chain automation empowers shippers to meet increasing consumer demands.

The holidays represent the potential for high-volume sales in a shortened timeframe. This spells trouble for shippers that continue to rely on manual fulfillment processes as they risk losing valuable sales and failing to complete complex shipping orders. Automating parts of the supply chain that are labor-intensive and time consuming frees up employees to focus on providing better customer service and maximizing inventory utilization.

Faced with new levels of customer demands and pressure to streamline supply chains, shippers are embracing automated technology to increase their overall operational efficiencies. One area shippers can take advantage of automation is increasing data transparency with shoppers who expect to be able to track their purchases anywhere and anytime.

Automation can also help shippers reduce operation costs, expedite customer service, and augment human workforces. In addition to onboarding and offboarding temporary warehouse staff for the holidays, businesses can use supply chain technology to handle inventory activities such as generating shipping labels and finding products for packaging. Automated technology can work continuously to fulfill orders, helping shippers meet the heavy demand during the winter months and reducing operational costs in the long run.

Similarly, shippers with brick-and-mortar stores should consider digitizing aspects of their shops with supply chain automation wherever possible. Retailers, for example, can use relatively inexpensive sensors on shelves to alert employees when it’s time to restock supplies to ensure a seamless shopping experience. Supply chain automation empowers shippers to keep their holiday shoppers happy while simplifying the customer’s path to a final purchase.

What shippers should look for in an automated workflow solution

While automated solutions are cheaper to implement than ever before, even the most sophisticated tools are useless if shippers fail to capture actionable data.

Shippers should look for a cloud-based tool that integrates with existing infrastructure and can be easily deployed across all operations. A simple, intuitive web-friendly interface with few coding requirements can set shippers up for immediate success and help businesses maximize holiday sales opportunities. To simplify adoption further, companies should look for automated tools that connect with various business applications and can be configured on an as-needed basis.

Above all, businesses need to identify areas where technology can supplement manual processes to help employees perform their jobs to the best of their ability. Cutting expenses is finite: The real advantage shippers gain from automation is a more efficient workplace with productive employees and better customer service. When evaluating the automated tools marketplace, shippers should look for solutions that can adapt to growing business needs and elevates employee performance.

The holiday sales rush presents both an opportunity and a challenge for shippers as they navigate high-volume orders and expectations for next-day shipping. By leveraging supply chain automation, shippers can meet this year’s higher-than-ever consumer demands while staying competitive during peak shopping season.

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