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Prepping for peak success

By Retail Technology | Friday December 13 2019

This has been a troubling peak season for retailers but there are lessons to be learnt. Rob DeStefano from Ivanti Supply Chain looks at some best practice for a successful peak season

Today, retailers are offering an increased number of promotions during peak periods in the bid to stay afloat as the global economic uncertainty grows. These peak periods typically occur in the final quarter of the year and comprise Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and even the January sales.


In the midst of this unsettled climate, the 2019 peak season may provide retailers a welcome break and the promise of ending the year in the black – although this is far from guaranteed. 


Last year’s retail peak season saw an encouraging surge in sales as it begun. However, by December, some were struggling to realise the growth they had expected. Taking heed of past lessons and investing in the future can protect retailers during this unpredictable time.


Peak preparation  


Securing positive customer experience is a vital part of a retailer’s arsenal in the battle to survive the retail peak season. The good news is that they can achieve this utopia of customer satisfaction in a variety of ways, many of which go beyond simple order fulfilment. 


Take for example, seasonal or temporary workers. Traditionally, businesses may experience such an influx of business over retail peak season where they need to expand their workforce to meet demand. 


During these busy periods, the seasonal workforce is essential for maintaining customer satisfaction and helping deliver seamless supply chain processes. This includes picking and delivery, right through to answering customer queries and managing returns.


When it comes to the supply chain, ensuring that the extended workforce is onboarded quickly and efficiently is key to maximising productivity – and mobile technology makes this possible. 


Instead of allocating weeks for training, the latest generation of mobile devices and mobile apps that deliver a modern user experience enable seasonal workers to hit the ground running and more easily navigate task workflows. For retailers, this can ensure that the increased levels of demand are achieved and that customer service levels remain high.


The implementation of mobile technology within the warehouse and extended supply chain is showing no signs of slowing down. The most widely deployed solutions comprise handheld devices, visually intuitive mobile applications, and voice picking technology all connecting to optimised order management systems (OMS). When implemented effectively, these systems and technologies enable retailers to fulfil orders quickly and correctly, each and every time. 


For example, through mobile interaction with the OMS, retailers can ensure that products are scanned regularly during their journey from warehouse to the customer. In addition, this allows companies to resolve any issues before they escalate by providing enhanced visibility. 


This enables the OMS to provide accurate stock levels for the retailer’s website, ensuring that customers can’t purchase items that aren’t available.


Flexible delivery 


Beyond this, as competition between retailers intensifies, an increasing number of businesses are offering different fulfilment options to entice customers with convenience by maximising flexibility of delivery. This includes incentives such as Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS). In fact, last year saw the highest adoption rate of retailers offering BOPIS during the peak season. As this option gains popularity and becomes expected, those that don’t have the capabilities to offer it will lag behind.


Order fulfilment is just one aspect that retailers need to contend with during these peak periods. Managing returns can also be a pain point for retailers. In fact, over half of online shoppers have admitted that they place an order with the intention of returning some of the items. This trend is particularly widespread during periods of discounting when impulse buying is rife. 


Fortunately, retailers can take steps to mitigate their workload and keep returns to a minimum. This includes ensuring that their website contains up-to-date and accurate information, including available stock, sizing and colour. Managing returns well is essential when businesses are already focused on shipping high numbers of orders. Having to deal with an avoidable spike in returns could risk tipping the scale in the wrong direction.


If businesses heed the lessons learned from previous retail peak seasons and invest in preparation and forward planning from the warehouse to the shop floor, they will be in a good position to benefit from this period and beyond. 


Investments in visibility and accuracy within the warehouse and supply chain are especially crucial for a fruitful holiday period.


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