Holiday shopping has begun. For retailers, that means increased demand, extremely high customer expectations, and limited time for execution and fulfillment.
Consumers’ expectations of the retail experience have never been higher, placing intense pressure upon retailers’ shoulders to meet these demands. Although the stakes are high, retailers can come out on top this holiday season with efficient technology that supports successful supply-chain management. Here are three ways in which retailers can ready themselves for this holiday season.
Logistics providers need to ramp up their capacity before the holiday season is here. Beginning in the summer months, or even earlier, will leave an adequate amount of time to anticipate holiday needs. As with any distribution network, whether for energy, data or inventory, there will be surges when products are moving through the network. Therefore, the network needs to be ready with extra capacity to meet these needs.
Logistics providers need to think along three paths: storage, transportation and labor.
Storage, in terms of warehousing capacity, needs to be secure and flexible as to the location of extra capacity. The same rules can be applied to the transportation aspects. Use historic data from inventory flows to better understand what network’s needs, and how to start planning for them. Supply chains need to avoid what happened to the likes of Best Buy when its network could not meet demands placed on it by the front-end demand engines. Historical data, coupled with robust planning, artificial intelligence and human planning, will better prepare your network.
Finally, labor must be taken into consideration. Labor is a seasonal issue for logistics providers, who must look at how can they educate and arm employees with tools to make efficient decisions on hiring and retaining workers.
Retailers are increasingly dependent on their logistics backbone to provide the underlying infrastructure to ensure inventory and service to the customer. Their roles are also imperative to a smooth holiday shopping season. Of course, the standard efforts are required – when and how to run sales efforts, which products to push, which regions to target with what mix, etc. However, when it comes to the holiday season, retailers must strive to expand their lead times and better integrate within their own organizations.
Brands and retailers are always looking to get ahead of customer needs, anticipate demand, and lock in the most favorable costs and markets. Therefore, retailers and brands need to be hyper-aware of changes in demand, and leverage their digital footprint to better communicate with their networks.
Remember the run on Furbies in the late 1990s? How can the brand react faster to such unexpected demand? Could the supplier have done a better job reacting to demand signals? Retailers need to lean on, but not rely entirely upon, the digital data that they have access to. There must be a fine balance between data, people and systems in place to better address these potential issues and opportunities.
Anticipation of Customer Needs
Brands and supply chains are striving to work in harmony to meet consumers’ ever-growing and changing demands. Today we recognize that the power has swung over to the consumer. Via digital and always-on connectivity, the consumer is the entity that drives the conversation. Like consumers during the holiday season, retailers must be better at planning and anticipating needs. Otherwise they will be caught scrambling and unable to fulfill customer demands. Access to a plethora of information regarding pricing, availability, size and color, is necessary to navigate the waters of the holiday buying season better than prior generations. But if we do not use this data properly, how can we expect better outcomes?
At the crux of the holiday season, logistic providers and retailers have the ability to better plan for, anticipate and react to what will inevitably be a hectic holiday season. Foundationally, it comes down to better usage of the digital data that is available. This data should power our decision-making and ability to better see what is happening. In isolation, data holds minimal value. But coupled with the people and systems at our disposal, it can enlighten retailers as we enter the holiday shopping season.
Guy Courtin is vice president of industry and solution strategy for retail and fashion at Infor.
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