5 Must-Take Actions to Prepare for the 2020 Holiday Season

Tags: Retail, Demand Planning, E-commerce

This year has been, and continues to be, unprecedented. Not since the Second World War have global supply chains been so dramatically interrupted. And given the integration of these global supply chains (thanks to the marvels of the integrated circuit) and advances in modern transportation, the disruption caused by COVID-19 is, arguably, unprecedented in modern times.

Global manufacturing, assembly, transportation, final mile delivery and even raw material sourcing has been stopped, altered or bottlenecked throughout much of 2020. And while some parts of the supply chain are starting to open back up, it appears that the remainder of the year (and right in time for retail’s Q4 holiday or peak period) will see historic challenges due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Given this new normal, what are global supply chains to do? How are they supposed to keep inbound goods flowing, deliver products and reduce bottom-line risk? The best tactics to plan for 2020’s holiday season are simply variations of tried and true practices. If ever the old adage “there’s nothing new under the sun” was apropos, this is the year. There is nothing magical or zen-like about these steps. In fact, you’ll recognize all of them because they are already part of your toolkit. Now that your expectations are, hopefully, somewhat realistic, let’s dive into a few actions you can, and should, take this season.

COVID-19 Disruptions

Recognize that this year is not like other years. Amazon and countless other retailers have had to tell customers that their goods were not going to be delivered in one or two days. Global supply and transportation were disrupted and goods weren’t available. When they were, they often couldn’t get delivered on time. Guess what? We made it anyway. While it’s difficult to accept, customers in 2020 were generally very understanding of the impact the pandemic had on getting goods delivered on time.

Communication is Key

You’re already doing this, but increase the frequency of communication with everyone from your suppliers to your customers. It’s impossible to over-communicate (as long as it’s sincere and relevant). One of the worst mistakes one can make is to under-communicate when there is massive change taking place. While commonplace, this is simply to remedy.

Keep Stakeholders Close

Go upstream and align even more tightly with your suppliers, carriers and every stakeholder involved in getting goods to you. This is a variation of #2 (Communication). It simply means talking with your suppliers and upstream stakeholders more frequently. Find out when the factory in Southeast Asia is opening up. Find out when the Port of Los Angeles will be 100% operational. Find out when the carrier will have a full fleet of drivers back on the road.

Transparency

Demand honest, transparent information from these upstream stakeholders. It’s better to have accurate information that is difficult than it is to have incorrect information that calms emotions and nerves in the short-term. You’re much better off knowing the port will be closed indefinitely than to be told (incorrectly) that it will open next week. Having the most accurate information possible will allow you to build better contingency plans. Of course accurate, reliable information is easier to obtain if you already have great relationships with your upstream supply chain partners.

Unlock the Data

Continue to use predictive modeling, coupled with emerging data from 2020 trends, to forecast and plan outbound, downstream demand. It’s likely Black Friday this year will be a big day in retail just like previous years. Of course, the accuracy of prediction modeling may be less than prior years, but don’t throw out all the tools, analytics and historical data just because demand in Q1-Q3 was so skewed. Yes, in the end it’s a guess of sorts, but make it the best guess (forecast) you possibly can by combining history data, 2020 data, and macro-economic and political trends, with your organization’s collective intelligence into a forecast. Will it be wrong, yes. But it will be better than if you throw a dart at the wall.

We all know that 2020 has been a tough year and created numerous challenges in the global supply chain. It has also created countless opportunities for new business ventures. With regards to inbound and outbound forecasting, do the best you can. Have awareness and maintain perspective. Communicate broadly. Go upstream at a more granular level than typical. Seek honest, clear information from your supply chain stakeholders. And, finally, use all the tried and true tools and systems you normally use, augmented with 2020 data and trends. Use 2020 challenges as a catalyst to develop new skills, hone old skills, strengthen old relationships and develop new ones.






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