5 Keys to Get Ahead of the Holiday Shopping Season

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By Tompkins Solutions

Coming off a chaotic year and an unprecedented holiday shopping season in 2020, businesses have barely had time to catch their breath as they grapple with changing consumer preferences, labor shortages and rising costs brought on by the pandemic. But as the 2021 holiday season swiftly approaches, businesses looking to get ahead this season need to prepare now.

For shippers, the holidays will be a major test of their ability to compete in a post-COVID era. Here are five ways to get ahead of the holiday season and optimize supply chain operations.

Take E-Commerce Strategy from Ad-Hoc to Agile

The pandemic completely transformed supply chains, with shoppers rushing to purchase everything from groceries to electronics online. 

Massive changes in shopping habits require massive changes to the way businesses manage their supply chains. But don’t make the mistake that many businesses did last year, scrambling to meet demand by creating a patchwork fulfillment plan. While this approach may be faster to implement, it’s less efficient and more expensive in the long run. Taking the time to develop a cost-effective and comprehensive e-commerce strategy will better prepare you for the holiday sales surge and beyond.

Design for Customer Experience

Your customers are everything, and their expectations have only grown higher during the pandemic. Customers want lower prices, a broader selection, more convenience and a more personalized experience. 

This all adds complexity for shippers, especially traditional brick-and-mortar businesses that are getting a crash course in e-commerce fulfillment. A thoughtful approach to network optimization can help improve delivery speed and create positive shopping experiences for customers.

Maximize Warehouse Space

Meeting the rising surge of holiday orders will be difficult without adequate warehouse space. CBRE predicts that the United States will need an additional 330 million square feet of warehouse space for e-commerce fulfillment by 2025.

To develop a successful warehouse strategy, businesses need to review all facilities and consider current and future requirements. Finding the gaps and areas to streamline will increase your company’s agility and help prepare for the holiday season.

Optimize Fulfillment Operations

E-commerce fulfillment requires three times the labor and space of traditional operations, according to Prologis. Coupled with market pressures like price hikes and parcel limits, it’s imperative to increase flexibility and efficiency within fulfillment operations.

Staying on top of fulfillment requires a mixture of smart planning, automation, network visibility and the workers to get it done. Fixing simple warehouse inefficiencies can improve operations and enable you to meet customer demands this holiday season.

Automate to Offset the Labor Shortage

As of June, 1.2 million retail jobs remain unfilled, including 460,000 jobs in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector. Not having enough workers can hinder your company’s growth and ability to meet customer demands.

Consider automation solutions like robotic goods-to-person solutions, which can reduce travel time for workers while increasing accuracy. Companies should also assess floor operations to increase efficiency and limit unnecessary product handling.

Check out our other resources to learn more about how to optimize your fulfillment operations and meet changing customer demands.