How to Optimize Your Supply Chain Before the Holidays
As the holidays quickly approach, retailers are feeling the strain brought on by global supply chain issues. Between port closures, labor shortages, and delayed shipping times, it is more important than ever that retailers optimize their supply chains before going into the busiest time of the year.
Especially since customers expect (and demand) positive experiences with retailers, anything less may cause businesses to suffer. With demand growing at a faster rate than many can keep up with, it is imperative that retailers find a way to bridge this gap, but doing so comes with several challenges.
One roadblock facing supply chains is managing multiple carriers. Although they are needed in order to meet the increasing demands, they typically don’t allow for the track-and-trace visibility that customers want. As these partnerships grow more complex, many retailers say scheduling delivery times with customers is a major issue when trying to scale operations.
Businesses are also struggling with a lack of operational visibility from the fulfillment center to the customer, often frustrating retailers’ efforts to add value for their customer base. This limits their ability to ship orders in a timely manner, expand retail fulfillment operations, and promote effective inventory management. Luckily, there are a few key areas that retailers can home in on in order to avoid these pitfalls going into the peak season.
To start, leaders should focus on optimizing their company’s retail footprint. Since holiday shopping only compounds the pressing need for same-day delivery, businesses should utilize their local real estate, especially for faster fulfillment.
Implementing an efficient technology is an important part of this since it allows for retailers to offer different purchase options, like buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup. Further, a proper technology can help manage inventory so retailers can track inventory in real time. Brick-and-mortar stores are also great opportunities to facilitate returns since they allow for retailers to upsell or cross sell other products.
Mastering Reverse Logistics
The return process is another step that retailers should optimize, since it can make or break a brand during the holidays. Return policies should be clearly outlined and readily available on a company’s website. Customers are looking for ease and simplicity when making returns, so something like adding post-order FAQs can help customers find relevant information on the return process.
For customers who choose to ship e-commerce returns, technology should be in place that allows for labelless solutions and the ability to redirect a return to a different location. This allows for a quick turnaround time that is crucial during these next few months when demand is high and availability is not. Lastly, e-commerce returns should be able to drive a credit with the first scan, since customers are looking for a speedy refund.
Managing Customer Expectations
Finally, retailers should align with the expectations of customers. Real-time last-mile visibility is a major part of this, since it allows for customers to change the delivery point according to their specific needs. Make sure tracking information is sent with order confirmations so customers can sign up for automatic notifications. With many customers expecting quick shipping times, it is better to over communicate the order status since they would rather have too much information than not enough. By maintaining transparency on a delivery status, retailers will build customer loyalty.
What happens during the peak of the season can often predict the following year to come, which means it’s crucial that retailers provide as many on-time deliveries and successful interactions as possible. As demand grows, partnerships and best practices will be important in order for businesses to continue their momentum beyond the peak season. If retailers are able to optimize their supply chain and perform well during the holidays, the next year will likely be one to look forward to.