How Retailers Overcome Challenges of Seasonal Demand


The biggest shopping weekend of the year is right around the corner, and retailers have been planning for the increase in sales for months. Most retailers have adopted to the omni-channel environment, merging numerous shopping channels for the convenience of the customer. Modern shoppers avoid the long lines and huge crowds associated with Black Friday to buy from online vendors who offer the same markdowns, plus free shipping and various return options.

Consumer expectations put pressure on retailers to provide a high quality, omni-channel experience. According to a Dynatrace holiday survey, 46% of customers will shop elsewhere if an app or website fails to load in 3 seconds, and 52% of millennials shop more on their devices than in a store.

In the highly competitive omni-channel world, retailers who have built a sustainable strategy will find advantages over competition in areas like:

  • Inventory consolidation
  • Equipment optimization
  • Freight bundling
  • Effective transportation
  • Accurate data

Supply chain experts anticipate Cyber Monday to be one of the busiest delivery days of the year, largely in part to additional e-commerce shopping. In 2013, FedEx said it moved more than 22 million shipments worldwide on Cyber Monday. This season, FedEx predicts it will move a record-breaking 317 million shipments between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.

Half of holiday shoppers have concerns about timely deliveries, but according to an analysis by software provider ShipMatrix, last year, freight carriers provided on-time delivery; reassuring retailers and shoppers that products will arrive when wanted, and that carriers have the ability to handle large volumes of freight.

Omni-channel fulfillment has retailers asking questions about which mode is the best, where distribution centers should be located and how to make the supply chain more efficient. According to Brain J. Gibson, omni-channel isn’t the only trend shaping the retail supply chain. Retailers are struggling with inventory management, cost of labor, capacity, and rates.

For shippers concerned about delivery performance, a TMS provides shipment visibility and status notifications through track and trace features. TMS software documents data so that retailers can plan for capacity needs, increases of demand, fluctuating costs and shipment volume.

An efficient transportation network and solutions will overcome obstacles for retailers, especially during the seasonal rush. “You have to be able to manage the basics of freight movement, capacity, inventory accuracy, and labor productivity very closely and very well. You can’t jump ahead or forge the basics as you move forward,” says Gibson.

For retailers overwhelmed with the seasonal demand, outsourcing transportation management to a 3PL with a TMS and strategic focus will present opportunities for savings through competitive rates, more efficient processes, and optimized operations.

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