By Anar Mammadov, Founder & CEO — Senpex
Mingled among last year’s memories of chestnuts roasting on open fires are our less fond recollections of ships unable to unload cargo for days at Port Houston, cargo lining the docks for weeks, and the ubiquitous “out of stock” alerts on coveted Nintendo Switch OLEDs and Sony PlayStation 5s.
As a retailer, you and your customers are all probably approaching the season with a healthy dose of trepidation. Fortunately, this year’s supply chain outlook bodes better for everyone, and here are tips that can help you make things even smoother.
What customers and vendors can expect from the supply chain when ordering this holiday season
Going into this year’s holiday season, retail and shipping industries report that they are better prepared and do not expect difficulty from kinks in the supply chain. Everyone seems to be starting early. For example, during the summer, Port Houston added extra hours and opened on Saturdays.
Most retailers say their imports are already in the country well ahead of the holiday rush. The National Retail Federation reveals that retailers prepared ahead by importing far more between January and June than they did during the year before. “There are still challenges in the supply chain, but the majority of holiday merchandise is already on hand, and retailers are well prepared,” says National Retail Federation Vice President Jonathan Gold.
Overall, the retail industry is optimistic this year. The 2022 Deloitte survey reveals that 100% of retail executives expect to receive holiday inventory on time. Those numbers bode better than 57% who expected to receive inventory in 2021.
Consumers aren’t convinced they can trust the good tidings, though. Expecting stockouts in electronics, toys, and accessories, 58% of US consumers say they plan to start holiday shopping before November this year. Consumers have learned from the ghost of Christmas past — they are hitting the stores early and are likely to be surprised by fully stocked shelves.
How to optimize your supply chain before the holiday rush
As a retailer, hopefully you joined the industry and planned for the holiday rush months in advance. During the final stretch, it’s time to batten down the hatches and optimize your supply chain.
You face challenges as your shipping volume increases. Retailers attempting to fill the gap with multiple carriers find that some don’t provide the track-and-trace visibility customers expect. The complexity of various carriers also makes scheduling delivery times and operational visibility from the fulfillment center to customers less predictable. Much of the supply chain is out of your control, but here are tips that enable you to boost customer satisfaction this holiday.
Focus on the consumer impact of last-mile delivery
First, optimize your company’s retail footprint. The holiday season compounds your need for same-day delivery, tracking, and operational visibility. Find a local last-mile delivery service you can trust and utilize their faster fulfillment.
As you choose the last-mile delivery service to meet your holiday shipping needs, be sure to explore the technology it implements. The right tech allows you to provide purchase options, manage inventory in real time, and upsell or cross-sell other products.
You will want an application programming interface (API) that integrates on-demand delivery directly into your e-commerce website. Your customers want convenience. They are looking for ordering, payment, tracking, and scheduling options. You cannot meet these needs without a fully automated process and tools enabling real-time communication and visibility.
When customers place an order on your website, the API delivers that order and address straight to the dispatch location and drivers. Drivers come to your warehouse, grab the products, and deliver them to your customers. This tech makes ordering from a local brick-and-mortar store as convenient as ordering online.
Learn how to automate your delivery process
An automated process can also keep your costs down. With a two-hour window and tools to optimize routes, drivers can batch orders and deliver multiple packages.
Real-time communication and driver visibility are essential during the holiday rush. You need to know who is delivering every package and where each driver is along the route. Open channels between you, your drivers, and your customers prevent complaints before they happen. Ideally, you want a dashboard capable of tracking every order from the moment it is placed until a photo shows it on the doorstep.
Preparation for the holiday rush is key
Prepare ahead by ensuring that your last-mile delivery service has a protocol for optimizing the return process. No retailer wants to think about returns, but they can make or break a brand during the holidays. Your return policy should be clear, and technology should allow customers to redirect an item without a hassle.
Last-mile delivery, tracking, driver visibility, and convenient returns are all about aligning with your customers’ expectations. As they go into the holiday rush, customers want the option to change delivery details, track purchases in real time, and receive automatic notifications. The good news is that allaying this year’s supply chain stress will go a long way in building customer loyalty.
Choose a carrier who can help you provide on-time deliveries and positive experiences. If you choose wisely, you will likely discover a partnership that will carry your momentum into the new year.