We are mere weeks away from the holiday shopping season, and many consumers have already gotten started! This holiday shopping season will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. While ecommerce shopping has been on the rise every year for the better part of the decade, the effects of COVID-19 are likely going to have an effect on the holiday supply chain.
The effects of COVID-19 on holiday shopping and the supply chain
While we are more than 6 months into the COVID-19 crisis, its effects are still being felt by small and large businesses all across the supply chain. These effects are not likely to let up as we enter the holiday season. Here’s what you can expect to face as we get closer to the holidays:
- Decreased supply: manufacturers (especially those overseas) are still catching up on production after factory shutdowns and increases in consumer demand that left store shelves empty earlier in the year. Brick and mortar stores are still struggling to keep certain products on shelves.
- Tightening carrier capacity: as products are released back into the supply chain, capacity is sure to tighten. Some carriers remain off the road due to COVID, and the holiday rush is sure to exacerbate a capacity crunch that could increase rates for shippers.
- Decreases in store foot traffic: some states still have limits on the number of customers that can be in any one store at any time, and more so, many consumers are still choosing to stay home for their own safety. Surveys have shown that 61 percent of consumers are shopping at brick-and-mortar stores less than usual. While we can only speculate at this time, it’s highly likely that foot traffic in stores will be down when compared to previous years.
- Increases in ecommerce: ecommerce may have reached new heights every year during the holiday season, but we can expect to see a massive increase in the 2020 holiday season. With store customer limits, shutdowns and general consumers concerns over COVID, many people will simply choose to do their holiday shopping online this year. Shippers will need to be prepared to meet these demands.
Keeping these four points in mind, there’s a lot that needs to be done in order to prepare for what will be known as the COVID-19 holiday shopping season. But it’s not too late to begin preparing for the holiday rush. Here’s what you can do to get into gear.
Make sure your online systems are up to the task
When it comes to online shopping, the technology you have put into place will make the difference between a good and bad user experience, not to mention how organized your business remains when it comes to fulfilling incoming orders. Some of the many systems businesses should consider using and, if they use them already, make sure they are primed and ready to go include:
- Ecommerce stores and websites
- Payment processors
- Inventory management systems
- Transportation management systems
- Warehouse management software
These systems should be tested to ensure they are able to handle the increase in digital traffic and orders that will be placed throughout the holiday season. Now is the time to find those bugs, glitches and inefficiencies and work through them.
Prep your warehouse for the rush
Online shoppers have become accustomed to fast and speedy delivery, and this becomes even more crucial the closer we get to the holidays. Last minute shoppers will need their orders fulfilled and shipped ASAP, so it’s on warehouse managers to ensure that their fulfillment and shipping processes are efficient and ready to go.
Some of the things your warehouse can do to prepare are:
- Organize their layout to ensure that items are stored in ways that make them accessible and quick to pick.
- Review their pick-pack-and-ship processes to increase their efficiency while reducing errors.
- Have “dock sweeping” processes in place that keeps docks clear and shipments moving in and out of facilities quickly. This includes reducing loading and unloading times to allow trailers to drop or pickup loads and clear the way for other trailers.
Consider ALL methods of shipping
Every shipping option should be on the table during the holidays. Keep in mind that there are many ways to move freight, and carriers are not always the quickest. Consider implementing an intermodal shipping program that helps you move freight via air, sea, and rail, all on top of your traditional methods of carrier shipping.
When it comes to shipping via freight haulers, it’s best to diversify your shipping options even further. Are you only using full truckloads to haul freight? This isn’t always the quickest and most affordable way to ship orders via roadways. Consider implementing one of the following shipping processes:
- Less than truckload (LTL) shipping
- Partial truckload
- Parcel (package) delivery
Get it all done with a 3PL
Working with a third-party logistics provider does more than take your warehousing, shipping and fulfillment off of your plate. It’s can be the most cost-efficient and suitable way to store and ship your freight, especially during the busy holiday season.
At King Solutions, we specialize in tailoring custom solutions for our clients, often implementing more than one method of shipping and fulfillment to help them service their customers best. We know the technology and stay on top of shipping best practices; this is all on top of our top-notch warehousing and fulfillment team and our longstanding partnerships with carriers all over the country. We can help you avoid the inevitable capacity crunch that will happen this holiday season, prime your inventory management systems for increased orders, and create a logistics process that will work for you this holiday season.
It’s not too late, get in touch with King today to get ready for the holidays!