Three Keys to Mastering the Omnichannel Holiday Season
Ready or not, the holidays are coming!
For consumers, it may still seem early to think about holiday shopping, but for retailers the preparation is already well underway. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into organizing a successful holiday season, and execution has only become more challenging in the age of the omnichannel shopper. This year, retailers can expect omnichannel shopping will be more prevalent than ever, which means they must prepare for increasingly challenging order management and fulfillment scenarios. Keeping this in mind, below are three key areas that retailers should focus on as they prepare to be commerce-ready this holiday season.
Keep Things Flexible
As much as retailers prepare for the holiday shopping season, ultimately planning can only take them so far. Inevitably, certain items will see more popularity in one region than another, and some stores will be overstocked while others sell out of items. One of the best things retailers can do to confront these holiday issues is to ensure their supply chain is flexible enough to meet demand, no matter where it occurs. For example, let’s say a certain clothing line sees a lot of success in the Chicago region, but falls flat in LA. Having the ability to redirect that inventory to fulfill the localized need prevents both a loss of sales in one region and a surplus of inventory in another. Historically, the distribution center served as the heart of the fulfillment machine, but in today’s environment demand can be met in numerous ways – orders can be shipped store-to-store and even direct from vendors to customers. No matter how orders are filled, however, retailers must have a flexible fulfillment strategy in place in order to be commerce-ready come Black Friday. Retailer should accept that there’s no way to predict what products will be popular where, and instead focus on being able to adapt and deliver, no matter where demand stems from this holiday season.
Go the Distance
Black Friday has long been synonymous with the start of holiday shopping, but these days preparing for the holiday rush means more than being ready for one day of mayhem. Black Friday itself will always be around, but the traditional day-long window associated with it is changing. Stores are starting to open up on Thanksgiving Day, and deep sales are lasting longer. These shifts impact both supply chain functions and inventory management, putting an even greater emphasis on the need for crystal clear visibility throughout the entire holiday period. The rules around peak holiday sales time continue to evolve, which makes it increasingly difficult for retailers to balance their inventory with demand – not to mention sustain that balance for weeks on end. Retailers must get ready for the long haul when it comes to order management and inventory fulfillment this holiday season – it’s no longer a one-weekend event. This again means having high inventory visibility as well as the flexibility to respond to need whenever it happens and fill demand, wherever it comes from.
Always Stay Stocked
With the rise of ecommerce, consumers now have the ability to purchase 24/7, which means that orders can pile up fast! Retailers can easily find themselves with tens of thousands of orders to fill in a given day, each with its own complexities. Fulfilling thousands of online orders not only takes a dedicated workforce, it also takes significant planning and attention to detail. When dealing with this kind of volume, retailers must make sure that they don’t run into any back-end fulfillment issues that could slow them down. This means taking care of the details, such as ensuring that shipping materials like boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, etc. all remain well-stocked and on-hand during holiday shopping mayhem. These elements are certainly not exciting components of order fulfillment, but they are critical ones. The devil is in the details, and if planning isn’t executed properly, retailers could easily fall down in this area.
There are many elements that go into making holiday shopping a success. As we enter the final weeks of pre-holiday preparation, retailers should focus on their fulfillment strategies and their ability to deliver throughout a dynamic holiday shopping period. Holiday needs have undoubtedly changed in recent years, but with a little planning and additional flexibility retailers can still deliver and prosper in today’s omnichannel holiday world.