3 Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Shipping Surge

LDL Voice

While many are trying to salvage the last few moments of summer, retailers and suppliers are thinking months ahead and gearing up for the holiday season. Preparing your supply chain for the holiday surge is no easy task. Inclement weather, ever-changing consumer demand and the rise of e-commerce are only a few issues retailers face during this period. But don’t let the stress send you into a frenzy. Here are three tips to help ensure you have a smooth holiday shipping season.

1. Plan for Seasonal Staff

With the holiday rush approaching, companies need to make proactive decisions in order to meet the increased demand. One way to do so is to prepare your supply chain in advance by adding seasonal staffers. Following last year’s holiday disaster, where customers experienced shipment delays and service disruptions, many retailers are hiring additional staffers in hopes to avoid a repeat. UPS recently announced plans to hire between 90,000-to-95,000 seasonal employees, up from about 85,000 last year. FedEx is also following suit and expects more than 50,000 temporary employees to be hired this season.  Hiring additional manpower is a critical step in ensuring that your supply chain is properly equipped to handle the upcoming rush and the increased outbound volume (Logistics Management).

2. Optimize Omni-channel Strategies

The retail landscape is rapidly evolving as consumers continue to turn to the web to purchase goods. This recent growth of e-commerce has caused retailers to alter their supply chain and expand their online presence.  Consumers’ desire for instant gratification has increased their expectations as they seek for same-day delivery and seamless mobile experiences. In order to remain competitive this holiday season, retailers need to optimize omni-channel strategies. Providing shipment visibility and inventory accuracy is a crucial aspect of an omni-channel retailing. This benefits retailers and consumers alike as it allows you to know where your inventory or shipment is at all times. Furthermore, predictive analytics is another core component of omni-channel retailing. Predictive analytics gives insight to consumer behaviors and trends, which allows retailers to better forecast demand and properly prepare (Logistics Management).

3. Implement a Reverse Logistics Plan

Unfortunately, the holiday headache doesn’t end after the first of the year.  Just as consumer spending starts to trail off, inbound volume skyrockets due to post-holiday returns and exchanges. The rise of e-commerce, direct-to-home shipments and in-store pickup has led to an increasing amount of in-store returns. In fact, holiday returns equal about 10 percent of overall sales (GreenBiz). Retailers need to establish a reverse logistics plan in order to sort through the excessive volume of inbound inventory. Reverse logistics is not an easy task, and there is no universal strategy that works best for all retailers. However, the proper reverse logistics plan will ultimately lead to cost-savings, improved customer satisfaction and waste reduction.

The holiday shipping season will always be hectic for retailers and suppliers. However, employing these tips will help prepare your supply chain for whatever the 2014 holiday season may bring. What are your tips for preparing for the holiday surge? Share with us in the comments below!

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