Peak Season is Coming, Is Your EDI Solution Ready?
All businesses want to be busy year-round, but for most organisations, certain seasons, weeks, or even individual days represent huge opportunities and can make or break their year. Companies that can capitalise on peak season trading - typically the run up to and post-Christmas period for most – can solidify their yearly performance, whereas those who don’t risk peril. For many, the difference comes down to automated technologies like electronic data interchange (EDI).
What is Peak Season?
The peak season means different things to different companies. For DIY or sporting goods suppliers, peak season arrives during warm, summer months. For florists, it’s the week leading to February 14th. And for most in the retail, CPG and apparel space, it’s the all-important Christmas period. Some industries have multiple peak periods, like greeting cards, which see increased volumes on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and again before Christmas, or candy, which surges around Halloween and Easter.
No matter when your business’s peak season is, all peak periods have one thing in common: they’re a time of drastic order increases and high customer expectations. And success depends on your ability to keep up...
What challenges do sellers face during peak shopping periods?
Most of the focus tends to go to retailers during peak periods as they’re typically larger businesses who enjoy record trading periods across peak seasons, but suppliers and distributors face serious challenges too.
Demand influxes can cause serious challenges and periods of hyperinflation pose risks for organisations without the processes in place to manage significant sales uplift profitably.
We’ll delve into some of the most common challenges suppliers face during peak season below.
1. Fulfilling Inflated Sales Volumes
Peak trading season can represent 20 percent of a business’s annual sales in only eight weeks and whilst sales are great, consumer expectations don’t cater for the inevitable admin surge that adds to already overworked staffing schedules. Businesses are expected to meet inflated demand on time, every time and within budget. Unfortunately for many organisations - this simply isn’t possible.
2. Inventory Shortages
Raised demand can strain supply chains and cause inventory issues. The Covid-19 pandemic caused well-publicised supply chain issues which show no sign of slowing and sales surges during peak seasons only compound existing problems. Selling more stock requires more inventory but when supply chains are halted and trading operations affected, it becomes harder and harder to keep up with demand.
Managing inventory is only one part of the challenge. Keeping inventory levels accurate across sales channels is also critical. Without up-to-date inventory levels, businesses risk overselling and being unable to fulfil orders. In the short term, that results in lost sales, but in the long term, it can harm customer trust.
3. Lack of Value-Added Tools
Automation is a key component of success and when value-added tools fail, they can cause huge issues. For many businesses, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is a mandatory requirement for doing business and if your EDI solution can’t manage peak sales volume, it can lead to missed messages, unhappy customers and ultimately, lost revenue.
The pitfalls of some EDI solutions during peak season
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or small manufacturer, EDI is critical to success. It automates the transfer of your organisation's most critical messages and directly impacts your bottom line. However, not all EDI solutions are equal, and during high-demand periods, the wrong solution could mean the difference between customer satisfaction and frustration.
1. Inflexible On-Site Infrastructure
For most of us, the corporate landscape is vastly different to how it looked a few years ago. As more and more organisations embrace remote working, inflexible infrastructures simply aren’t fit for purpose. Unlike cloud-based EDI solutions which give businesses the flexibility and security to access their operations anywhere, at any time, from any device, on-premises EDI solutions require in-house staff and continuous physical and monetary investment.
2. Non-Integrated High Touch Setups
EDI is a value-add business process and should reduce the time taken to communicate with trading partners, not add to it. Non-integrated EDI solutions require internal teams to rekey data into your ERP system. These manual processes are notoriously error prone. Without integration, businesses can find that instead of seamless, automated partner communications, they have to constantly monitor, amend and rectify missed or inaccurate transactions.
3. Lack of Real-Time Data Exchange
Automation plays a critical role in the success of an EDI program, and the importance of automation is elevated at essential trading periods. If your EDI solution is clunky or slow or lacks agility then the chances are you’ll struggle to react quickly to demand changes, which will impact your ability to fulfil orders quickly and as a result, could lead to customer dissatisfaction.
Cloud-Based, Integrated EID is the answer
Cloud- based, integrated EDI gives businesses the best chance of success, not just throughout the busiest times of the year, but year after year, after year.
Competition is only getting fiercer and as a result, businesses need to adapt to get and stay ahead. Flexible, cloud-based EDI combined with ERP integration can be the key ingredient in a winning mix. It enables your business to:
ERP integration removes any manual rekeying of data between your front and back-end systems and lets you automate EDI transactions between your trading partners and ERP system. This integration allows you to speed up order processing time whilst also removing errors, improving visibility and accelerating your order-to-cash lifecycle.
“Our decision to move from Microsoft AX2009 to Dynamics 365 demanded a change of architecture, creating an opportunity to improve the performance, reliability and traceability of the integration into our third-party logistics provider. The TrueCommerce EDI solution was the perfect fit for Fortnum & Mason, its flexible connectivity options equipped us with the ideal infrastructure to develop our internal processes at the most appropriate cost.” - Tony Longhurst, Director of IT at Fortnum & Mason
Improve Your Customer Service
Typically, customers using EDI represents a business’s most lucrative contracts and it’s essential to keep these trading partner happy. Providing an efficient and reliable service is the fastest way to ensure you extend contracts, improve customer relationships and avoid chargebacks.
Companies can transform EDI from a potentially expensive but unavoidable overhead into a business opportunity with TrueCommerce’s fully managed EDI service. We provide the experience, skills and infrastructure to allow you to concentrate on your core business without the need for expensive on-site EDI expertise or ongoing hardware maintenance costs.
Jason King at Fresca Group highlighted the benefit of freeing up IT resource previously employed into managing EDI solutions, “Since moving to TrueCommerce’s EDI managed service we have benefited from a single EDI platform for all divisions within the group, which has hugely reduced the amount of in-house IT resource required to support EDI on a day to day basis.”
Gain Flexibility and Security
All hardware can break or run the risk of obsolescence and EDI installed on-premises is no different. But an outsourced, cloud-based EDI solution is managed by an EDI provider who will ensure your EDI system is well maintained and up to date. Updates are easily rolled out to cloud-based solutions and additions such as new trading partners can be configured remotely, rather than requiring new infrastructure.
Use Cloud-Based EDI to Prepare for Peak Season
EDI can help businesses of all sizes prepare for peak season and ensure they are positioned to succeed in competitive markets. If you would like more information on how we can help you meet demand, improve your trading processes and position your business for success, please get in touch.
About the Author: Ryan Tierney is the VP, Product Management focused on Integrations at TrueCommerce. He has spent the last 17 years with TrueCommerce in various roles with services and Product Management. He and his team are responsible for the TrueCommerce TC.Net platform, Business System and Channel Integrations as well as Trading Partner Mapping. Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 sons and in his spare time enjoys golfing.