Peak season is around the corner, and along with the predicted rise in sales come the usual headaches. Recent economic headwinds like supply chain delays, forecasting difficulties and labor availability issues can be especially difficult to roll with this time of year. Taking the time now to plan out your peak season sales and operations approach can help ensure you can meet the surge in orders that’s up ahead.
Part of good planning is setting your business up to pivot when needed — whether with your suppliers, fulfillment partners or even customers. From finding alternative delivery models to investing in greater order visibility and customer responsiveness, read on to learn how you can plan and pivot your way to success this peak season and all year long.
Start peak season early
Consumers are kicking off their holiday shopping earlier than ever these days. Your business can benefit by making peak season deals available weeks or months before Black Friday. Doing so helps even out demand for your products and services, so you don’t risk delaying orders or leaving business on the table by pushing your capacity limits.
The holiday surge can feel like an eternity on some days, but the season is a small part of your year, and as a result, justifying major capital investments to help address that demand can be difficult. Pulling some of that business forward makes the peak of the peak more manageable for your team and more convenient for your customers.
Check suppliers’ capacity
Supplier capacity planning is a collaborative process that helps retailers proactively spot and take steps to eliminate threats to their ability to meet demand. To effectively plan capacity, you'll need to provide suppliers with as much data as possible, from broader company information down to part- and process-level data.
Whether your operation’s peak happens during the year-end holidays, spring gardening season or back to school, stocking the products customers expect is vital to their satisfaction and long-term loyalty. Maintaining ongoing communication with your critical suppliers to get updates on their availability as the season progresses can help you avoid even the most minor of availability issues, keeping customers happy when demand spikes.
Be ready for disruption
As COVID-19 restrictions subside, many industries are working in an upturned market where demand outpaces supply and bottlenecks continue to swell. During periods of high uncertainty, mitigating your supply chain risks requires a careful understanding of each node in your value chain.
By understanding the complexities of your supply chain and where your biggest risks lie, you can pick the right mitigation tactic, whether it be diversifying your supplier base, pre-vetting alternative solutions or building strategically placed safety stocks. Consider these tactics:
Take a Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO) approach to safety stock. A TCO approach considers the risks of missed sales due to stockouts and balances them with carrying costs and the likelihood of inventory write-offs if the items become expired or obsolete. This tactic helps your team better address risk while limiting the potential for extra costs and keeping your business competitive.
Account for longer lead times. Keep your supplier lead times updated and include a buffer period to reduce the risk of delays. Asking suppliers for their average peak season lead times, their variability in transit times and their delivery performance can help gauge just how much buffer to add.
Increase visibility and responsiveness. With supply chain disruptions expected to linger, retailers are now looking to data dashboards like control tower technology to help identify and address blind spots in their operations, including supply shortages, logistical bottlenecks and shifts in consumer habits. Some of the most advanced control towers work in real-time and can help sense demand fluctuations and supply chain disruptions and even prescribe corrective actions.
Make pivoting part of your fulfillment plan
Predicting consumer demand has never been easy. Don’t let traditional carriers’ schedules or your in-house fleet’s capacity limit where, when and how quickly you can fulfill an order — or if you can even get it out the door. Working with a mix of fulfillment partners ensures you’re ready to deliver when the orders roll in. That’s where crowdsourcing can help. The national network of independent drivers who use Roadie can reach 90% of U.S. households with same-day delivery, letting you flex and scale your fulfillment capacity to keep up with the peak season rush.
Ready to learn more about how crowdsourced delivery and direct from distribution delivery can help you get ahead this peak season? Click here to check out Roadie’s roadmap to peak season success.
Dennis Moon has served in an executive management position in both public and privately held companies over the past 15 years. As COO at Roadie, he supervises the day-to-day operations of the largest local same-day delivery footprint in the nation, covering more than 20,000 zip codes.