By HELEN MASTERS
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
Although the stakes are high, retailers can come out on top this holiday season with efficient technology that supports successful supply chain management. Here are three ways in which retailers can ready themselves for this holiday season:
Logistics providers need to ramp up their capacity before the holiday season is here. Beginning in the summer months, or even earlier, will leave an adequate amount of time to anticipate the holiday needs. Like with any distribution network, whether for energy, data or inventory, there will be surges when products are moving through the network. Therefore, the network needs to be ready with extra capacity to meet these needs.
Logistics providers need to think along three paths: storage, transportation and labor. Storage, in terms of warehousing capacity, needs to be secure and flexible in terms of the location of extra capacity. The same rules can be applied to the transportation aspects. Use historic data from inventory flows to better understand what the needs are for the network and how to start to plan for these potential needs. Historical data, coupled with robust planning, artificial intelligence and human planning will better prepare your network. Finally, labour must be taken into consideration. Labour is a seasonal need for logistics providers, but logistics players must look at how can they educate and arm employees with tools to make efficient decisions on hiring and retaining labour.
Retailers are increasingly dependent on their logistics backbone to provide the underlying infrastructure to ensure inventory and service to the customer, but retailers’ roles are also imperative to a smooth holiday shopping season. Of course, the standard efforts are required – when and how to run sales efforts, what products to push, what regions to target with what mix, etc. However, when it comes to the holiday season, retailers must strive to expand their lead times and better integrate within their own organisations. Brands and retailers are always looking to get ahead of customers’ needs, anticipate demand, and lock in the most favourable costs and markets. Therefore, retailers and brands need to be hyper-aware of changes in demand and leverage their digital footprint to better communicate with their networks. As can be seen through the battle for limited edition sneakers in June 2019, this was the case study on how the brand could react faster to unexpected demand. Could they have done a better job reacting to these demand signals? Retailers need to lean on, but not rely entirely, upon the digital data that they have access to. There must be a fine balance between the data, the people, and the systems in place to better address these potential issues and opportunities.
Anticipating customer needs
Brands and supply chains are trying to work in harmony to meet the consumers’ ever-growing and changing demands. Today we recognise that the power has swung over to the consumer. Via digital and always-on connectivity, the consumer is the entity that drives the conversation. Like consumers during the holiday season, retailers must be better at planning and anticipating needs, otherwise they will be caught scrambling and unable to fulfil customer demands. Access to a plethora of information regarding pricing, availability, size and colour, is necessary to navigate the waters of the holiday buying season better than previous generations. But like our supply chains, if we do not use this data properly, how can we expect better outcomes?
At the crux of the holiday season, logistic providers and retailers have the ability to better plan for, anticipate and react to what will inevitably be a hectic holiday season. Foundationally, it comes down to better usage of the digital data that is available. This data should power our decision-making and our ability to better see what is happening. While in isolation, this data holds minimal value, coupled with the people and systems at our disposal, can enlighten retailers as we enter the holiday shopping season.
Helen Masters is senior vice president and general manager, Infor Asia Pacific.