The holiday season is here, and businesses are working to provide the best customer experience through optimizing their supply chains. Here’s how you can meet demand and maximize profit during the busiest time of year.
Getting ahead of the game is vital in managing your supply chain over the holiday season. Some Black Friday deals now begin before November, so it’s essential to plan sooner than you think. The following will likely be the busiest shopping days.
- Black Friday
- November 25
- Cyber Monday
- The saturday before Christmas
- December 17
- December 26
- December 30
Customers expect more than ever with businesses competing to provide the best deals and fastest shipping times. Pair that with free returns, and you have no choice but to give the best service possible.
Market research evaluates the demographics of your customers as well as reviews and feedback from questionnaires and customer reviews. It takes some research but can help you best decide what products your customers might be after.
You can often collect data from online reviews about customer age, location and lifestyle. Surveys can also help you differentiate who purchases your product and who uses it. You can ask if the product was for them or someone else.
In comparison, trend projection uses previous sales to predict future sales. If a product did well in the past, it will likely continue to sell through the holiday season. Look at the history of each product and see when its sales were the highest and lowest.
You can learn much about how your products sell by looking into online reviews. If a product sells well but has many negative reviews, customers may stop purchasing it.
Research shows that more than half of online shoppers value the ability to track their orders and check the delivery status. When there is a higher demand for fast delivery, the chances of mixups and delays also increase. Most customers don’t want to feel ignored when they do.
You can communicate with your customers throughout their order process in a few ways.
- SMS: Allow customers to opt in to text message updates. Since their phone numbers link to only their orders, you can provide personalized details straight to their inboxes. Try to keep your SMS messages short, sweet and specific to avoid formatting issues.
- Push notifications: These notifications pop up on a customer’s phone to provide real-time updates on their order. If a delay happens or product goes out of stock, you can send notifications to any customer who wants them, helping them feel like they’re in the loop with you and your suppliers.
- Email: These emails are excellent for longer communications and are often the best way to automatically give order confirmations and offer promotions through the season. You can offer email updates as a less-invasive form of communication with customers. It also serves as an appropriate forum for apologies when there is a disappointing update.
By preparing for positive and negative customer experiences, you can work to make your sales go as smoothly as possible.
Managing your inventory can be a challenge during the holidays. You’ll likely see an influx in orders as people prepare gifts. Combined with changing customer habits, you don’t want to over or understock.
You can use various inventory forecasting techniques to create a report that helps you project upcoming sales. Factors like market research and trend projections allow you to predict the amount you need from different products. Prioritizing that supply enables you to give your customers what they want without facing overstocking or stock-outs.
Two of the most common are qualitative and quantitative forecasting.
- Qualitative looks at outside factors to predict sales. These factors can include the economy, political atmosphere and social changes.
- Quantitative examines internal factors like past sales for specific products and changes in customer behavior.
Many programs help you digitally organize your inventory and purchase trends to predict your needs best.
After forecasting, look at your stock and see what you need to supplement to avoid falling behind. Plan your reorder points so you’ll automatically get new inventory when you need it. You can use inventory management software to help with this process.
Each year, the holiday shopping season starts earlier. More customers begin shopping before Black Friday to avoid shipping delays. However, as more people adopt that trend, the busier shipping will become before the “official” shopping season. You can manage your inventory through the Internet of Things and radio frequency identification devices that allow you to track production from its creation to when it leaves the facility.
Finally, your employees are a part of your supply chain you should always pay attention to no matter the time of year, but especially during the holidays. Making your facilities more ergonomic can maximize employee comfort and boost productivity during stressful times.
The years of patiently waiting a week or two for products are over, putting strain on businesses. Smart route planning can help you achieve a majority of on-time deliveries and meet customer delivery expectations.
Around 85% of retailers worry they’ll run out of stock during big sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A steady supply of needed inventory is essential in fulfilling demand, but navigating congested roadways, severe weather, carrier driver strikes and other unexpected events can complicate things.
Monitor your shipments from when they leave your doorstep to when they arrive at your customers’. Choose transportation companies that share real-time tracking data and provide updates when things aren’t going as planned. Doing so can provide you peace of mind and help you keep your customers informed, so they always know where their items are.
You can create contingency plans to prepare customers and other retailers for delays. Using backup carriers and last-mile delivery drivers can be essential in meeting holiday demand.
Keep a map of which paths your items take to reach their destinations. Work with your shipping network to optimize deliveries from preparation through transportation. Identify at which points in the supply chain are most likely to stall and be prepared to handle those delays.
Clear communication with your customers can prevent dissatisfaction. Small businesses are more likely to face delivery delays. Using your communication tools to trigger messages as soon as you know a product won’t arrive on time can help take some stress out of the shipping process. Inform the consumer why the product got delayed, what you’re doing to manage the day and when they can expect the package’s arrival.
Improving Your Supply Chain for the Holidays
The holiday season is one of the busiest times for a company, but it is often the most rewarding. Optimizing your supply chain can give your company the best chance at the most profitable time of the year.
About the author
Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated.com, and has over 5 years of writing experience in the industry. Her work has been featured on The National Association of Realtors, the American Society of Home Inspectors, and other reputable publications. For more from Rose, you can follow her on X.