Santa is plotting a very busy Christmas this holiday season.
FedEx expects package deliveries from Black Friday through Christmas Eve to rise 12.4% over last year, to 317 million pieces.
The surge no doubt reflects the growth of online and mobile shopping, but also retailers’ expanding same-day shipping, buy online, pick-up in store perks.
Michele Dupre, head of Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ retail and distribution practices, shared with Retail Dive best practices in handling the surge as retailers navigate a more complex supply chain fueled by digital-era shipping incentives.
1. Challenge: Same-day shipping
Solution: Data analytics and smart sorting methods
Generating more accurate data forecasts across the supply chain can help retailers determine seasonal hire needs and fleet requirements, particularly for same-day shipping deliveries, Dupre said. “In addition, better sorting methods by retailers such as sorting packages by destination or zip code before handing over to the shipper, can help to expedite the ‘last mile’ delivery process.”
What’s more, the combination of telematics — the use of wireless device technologies to transmit data in real time back to an organization — and algorithms that calculate optimized delivery routes for drivers, “can speed delivery and provide insight into vehicle performance and driver-safety practices,” she said.
This holiday, retailers are also leveraging distributed order management (DOS) systems to get better insight on where merchandise is at any given time, Dupre said. At the same time, “shippers are using web portals to exchange information with retailers on the delivery process.”
2. Challenge: Shipping Surge
Solution: Daily/Hourly Forecasting
Retailers have evaluated their shipping trends — and missteps — from recent years, and have adjusted strategies and ramped up staff accordingly, Dupre said. “Whether it’s the warehouse distribution center, call centers or drivers, many retailers are [now better] prepared.”
“Handling the tremendous onslaught of packages will require accurate and rapid data forecasting on a daily/hourly basis,” she said. That calls for modernized logistics systems that glean data about the status of merchandise deliveries for communicating with their supply chain and with their customers. The idea is to “ensure prompt and accurate communications with both the shippers as well as customers via mobile apps,” she said.
3. Challenge: More buy online, ship to store orders
Solution: Streamlined processes, in-store follow up
No matter if a retailer is fulfilling orders from a nearby warehouse or a store location, a robust logistics system is critical to ensuring that communications with the customer to their channel of choice, be it mobile text, email, or social media, is consistent and accurate, Dupre said. This way when the customer arrives at the store, “the ordered items are ready for pick-up as promised.”
To raise the customer-experience bar, retailers are leveraging mobile shopper-engagement technologies, such as geo-fencing, so that in-store sales associates are best prepared to answer questions about an ordered product, and suggest complementary offerings that may coax shoppers to make additional, unplanned purchases, Dupre said. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of retailers who know their customers, can make recommendations for additional products of interest, and think this will prove a pivotal year for this practice.”
4. Challenge: Maximizing seasonal staff
Solution: Leverage tech savvy workers
“The rise of e-commerce, BOPIS, same-day delivery and other key retail trends are creating a demand for seasonal workers with technology skills, as these areas hinge on agile and robust technology solutions,” Dupre said. “Therefore, retailers are hiring seasonal workers with expertise in everything from cybersecurity for detecting fraud and hacking to troubleshooters and coders who can quickly resolve glitches, and write code for e-commerce sites, to employees who understand mobile engagement and can deliver a satisfying experience to customers.”
5. Challenge: Assessing Cyber Monday needs
Solution: Adopt holistic, omnichannel-holiday approach
Holiday 2014 revealed that in the rapidly evolving shopping paradigm, “it’s becoming less about dedicating one day in the season for a particular kind of shopping, in this case e-commerce, and is more about being prepared as a retailer to serve customers on any given day through whichever channel that a consumer want to engage, be it online, mobile, in-store,” Dupre said.
“Retailers are now offering attractive incentives tied to their ecommerce channels throughout the season, which means that the industry must be prepared to deliver an optimal customer experience at all times,” she said. “This means continual engagement with customers to keep them apprised of delivery status; proper targeting of offers and merchandise that will interest rather than annoy them; and offering enticing deals throughout the season that will help prevent customers from holding out for a better deal as Christmas approaches.”