Here for the Holidays: How to Strengthen Your Holiday Supply Chain
It was around this time just last year, the end of summer 2020, when retailers began to prepare for the holiday season in light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Brick and mortar businesses struggled as people were quarantined in place and doing everything in their power to avoid crowds. eCommerce had surged, but supply chain disruptions were creating massive fulfillment delays. The fear of a lackluster holiday shopping season was widespread among retailers and brands.
Fortunately, 2020 saw numbers that reached new heights for sellers. Although foot traffic declined by 48% and in-store sales dropped by 29%, shopper yield, which measures spend per consumer, increased 36%. In other words, in-store buyers were shopping more intentionally, and spending more in the stores they decided to buy from.
For the first time, online shoppers passed 100 million, an eight percent increase over the previous year. Black Friday sales in 2020 increased 19% over the year before, bringing in a staggering $14.3 billion in online sales.
Based on these statistics, we can reasonably expect to see the numbers in online shopping go up even further in 2021, which means retailers, brands, and distributors can take advantage of the available time now to prepare accordingly.
On the other hand, the country has opened up significantly compared to a year ago, so there’s a tremendous opportunity to be seized in-store since we should expect to see an increase in foot traffic, as well. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to leverage technology to create a superb experience for your customers, both online and in-store.
There are several ways your business can prepare for a smooth, profitable 2021 holiday, namely:
- Supercharge your content
- Broaden your sales channels
- Streamline your fulfillment
- Maintain customer satisfaction with order transparency
- Embrace drop shipping
Enrich Your Content and Put Your Best Info Forward
Today’s buyers are more intentional than ever with their time and with their money. Therefore retailers and brands must present the best iteration of product information at all times.
For eCommerce shoppers, your goal is to reduce risk and uncertainty, so they can feel confident buying your products. Every piece of the product’s content should paint a clear picture of how it can make the buyer’s life better.
- Your product photos should be high quality, and show multiple views of the product
- Your descriptions should be compelling
- Your specifications should be complete and accurate
Between sourcing, curating, formatting, distributing this information, and more, working to improve the content across your product lines is no easy task. Neither is keeping it consistent across multiple digital channels. Here, a Product Information Management or PIM solution can help, by providing a platform through which you can manage all of your content and sync it across all of your channels.
Using a PIM, you can ensure your content is up-to-date and on par with your brand and your expectations in quality, without having to shuffle between spreadsheets, documents, or programs. Instead, you can manage this information without it getting unruly, since everything you need content-wise is available in a single platform designed to integrate across your existing solutions. Plus, you’ll be able to drive more sales if you can enhance the customer experience by adding high-quality product videos or 360-degree product views so they can be confident when making their holiday purchases, especially if these purchases are gifts!
Broaden Your Sales Channels to Reach More Customers
Now is a great time to start building new channels to get in front of customers in new ways. If you don’t expand your outlets, you might be missing out on untapped potential.
While retailers may benefit from entering the eCommerce space or growing their drop ship program, brands can find new customers by selling through sites like Facebook, Walmart, and hundreds of other marketplaces online. When considering which channels are best for your business channels, the two most important questions to ask are:
- Will this channel benefit my particular business and expand my sales potential?
- Will this channel offer a positive shopping experience for the customer?
When breaking into a new channel, one of the biggest barriers is connectivity. After all, you’re investing resources into it, so you want to make sure each channel is going to be fully supported for the best consumer shopping and fulfillment experience. If you think you might be missing out on opportunities, keep in mind that there are fully managed service providers whose sole focus is on helping companies expand their sales channels.
For example, if your business is thinking of selling on multiple platforms, the daunting task of handling incoming orders from all of them might hold you back. But with the right unified commerce platform, you can manage all your channels from one place, and send orders directly to your accounting system or ERP for processing.
Similarly, if your brand has operated solely B2B, but wants to get started with a direct-to-consumer selling model, having a fully integrated eCommerce platform is a must. These platforms can do everything from automatically updating inventory availability, to letting you manage your eCommerce SEO, to sending orders to your ERP, to providing customers with all-important shipping and delivery information.
Streamline Your Fulfillment with Cutting Edge Solutions
If you have quick, efficient fulfillment, you have happy customers. If you don’t, consumers left wondering when their package will ship eventually begin to imagine a warehouse full of people twiddling their thumbs.
A web-based shipping solution can help you streamline and manage this process more efficiently so you can ship more packages on time with fewer costly errors. Many of these solutions enable you to track any package no matter where it is in its journey, minimizing shipping lead times, reducing costs, and eliminating errors.
If you want a competitive edge for the holiday season, leverage your fulfillment software’s analytical capabilities to track:
- Your team’s abilities to meet key performance indicators (KPIs)
- The regions that are performing the best
- Which carriers you work with most frequently
- How much you’re spending on shipping, and so much more
With all this information, you can adjust your procedures to create the most efficient workflow for your business so that the holidays don’t slow you down.
Keep Customers Happy with Order Transparency
Customers have high expectations when it comes to shipping. They want to know when the product ships, when it will arrive, and how they can track what happens in between. If you’re taking advantage of a streamlined fulfillment solution as mentioned above, the best thing you can do is make the process as transparent as possible to your customer.
To do this, you can use an electronic data interchange or EDI solution to:
- Securely generate and send ASNs to retailers so customers have their tracking information quickly
- Eliminate the need to manually enter invoice and related information, reducing time, labor, and paper documents
- Send automated emails to customers to keep them up to date
- Integrate with your existing accounting, ERP, and sales channels
This transparency, hand-in-hand with your improved fulfillment schedule, creates a superb customer experience that will keep them coming back. That’s important for the holidays and perhaps even more important for the season that follows.
Transparency is also important for keeping track of inventory, and there are great solutions to make this process easier, reducing the potential risk of human error, especially with regards to the holiday craze! For example, you can use your eCommerce software to:
- Automatically adjust inventory numbers upon order
- Integrate with your ERP, and other backend business systems
- Allow customers to see if a product is out of stock or back-ordered or discontinued
- Enable customers to sign up for notifications when an item is back in stock
Embrace Drop Shipping and All of its Benefits
Drop shipping has historically been a complex world to navigate, but the benefits are clear.
Through drop shipping, retailers can offer product lines they otherwise couldn’t, get their products to customers they couldn’t reach and reduce the amount of capital they invest upfront in inventory. At the same time, manufacturers can expand their audience, take advantage of etailer and retailer loyalty and marketing efforts to grow their sales.
However, trying to coordinate drop shipping across various sales channels can be a daunting task, especially if you’re juggling more than one software suite. Thankfully, there are a number of retail drop ship solutions available that allow your channels to sync with your ERP, eCommerce, and warehouse management systems (WMS), evento drop ship suppliers. So if you’re not already taking advantage of drop shipping or optimizing your existing drop shipping, now is a great time to embrace it before the holidays.
Don’t Wait - The Time to Prepare for the Holidays is Now!
You already know how fast the holiday season comes and goes, so take advantage of this time and prepare with the right retail solutions to ensure a trouble-free, highly profitable holiday season and beyond. If you’d like to learn more about any of these solutions or how TrueCommerce can help your company, contact us today.
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About the Author: Steve Norris is the VP of Pre-Sales Engineering, Supply Chain Collaboration, at TrueCommerce. He is responsible for helping engineer solutions that allow small to enterprise businesses more efficiently and effectively collaborate with their supply chain partners and expand their sales channels. With over 15 years of supply chain experience ranging from consulting to sales, Steve helps organizations looking to achieve growth and profitability through providing solutions that allow seamless connectivity to customers, suppliers, channels, and systems.