2017 has been an exciting year for the tech industry and holiday shoppers alike. According to a recent study, 34.6% of people would like to receive electronics as gifts. Some of the most sought after gadgets include the Apple TV, the Roku Media Streaming Player, Google Home, and Amazon Echo. Avid gamers can choose between the new Playstation, Nintendo Switch, or DJI’s Spark Portable Mini Quadcopter Drone. Other popular tech items this season include the iPad Mini 4, the Kindle Paperwhite, DSLR and Instax cameras, the GoPro, the FitBit, and, of course, the newest iPhone models.
As spending on the holidays continues to grow, retailers and logistics operators have to take special measures to meet the demand. The United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx combined delivered a total of 1.8 billion packages during the 2016 holiday season. To provide the extra manpower needed for increased operations, 738,800 new employees were hired by retail and shipping companies. USPS, UPS, and FedEx hired 180,000 people. Amazon alone hired 120,000. These numbers show just how inflated demand becomes during the holidays — and consequently, how alert businesses must be to cash in on the retail spirit.
While the holidays in the US officially begin on November 1, 25% of Americans report that they start shopping before November. The shopping frenzy kicks into full gear on Thanksgiving Day, followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday — both major opportunities for stores to offer discounts and get shoppers flooding their aisles (real and virtual).
With so many opportunities for customers to shop, the biggest problem brands encounter is predicting and meeting customer demand. Forecasting customer demand is, of course, vital for success year round. Retail and logistics companies must ensure that products are manufactured and shipped in sufficient quantities so that stock is on the shelves when customers want it. Damage control is never more important than during the busiest shopping season of the year, when the stakes are higher for lost or late shipments. Vendors must be prepared for communication issues, weather-related problems, and supply chain disruptions. They also need to have flexibility when encountering such issues, as no two supply chain mishaps are alike.
In order to deliver on brand promise and make sure that products are readily available, here are some tips for businesses to secure the holiday season:
- Start forecasting early. Check inventory and monitor consumer reports to predict which products are going to be in demand.
- Fix communication issues early on and perform stress tests. Communication with suppliers, manufacturers, logistics, etc. should be ironed out. There should be a game plan for unexpected hiccups, and everyone should be on the same page with regards to deadlines in order to avoid preventable chaos.
- Make sure your seasonal workforce is prepared with the same tools and knowledge as your regular workforce. They should be properly trained for anything that may go wrong and should have everything they need to be proactive in pressing logistical situations.
With continuing innovations in tech and other products, and the increasing ease of purchasing (and returning) items online, holiday retail activity is poised to keep growing on a dramatic trajectory. By forecasting demand, reinforcing on-the-ground labor, adapting with flexibility to issues as they turn up, and integrating communications across all operations — in other words, by running a tight supply chain — retailers will ensure that their products are in customers’ eager hands, and not languishing in distribution centers, during this most profitable of seasons.