Planning for the Holiday Season Starts Now for Retailers and WholesalersOctober 10, 2017 - 14 minutes read
Are you ready for the peak season? If not, start planning today.
Whether you’re in eCommerce, brick-and-mortar industry, retail, distribution, wholesale, or light manufacturing, one thing is for certain; you’re well aware that the holiday season is quite arguably one of the most stressful times in any annual cycle.
This rings especially true for those handling inventory and order management. The sales from this season alone can make or break profits for the rest of the year, which means you’ve got to be prepared to handle the load of order processing from your clients no matter what.
Before you brace yourself for impending doom, rest assured that you’re sure to find a way to survival. After all, there are innumerable companies that have had excellent performance during the holidays, and you’re going to be one of them.
Now is the time to strap up your boots and step up your game. Don’t spend the holiday season struggling with dissatisfied customers, order inaccuracies, and delays. You’re better than that. So as a courtesy, we’ve created a list of thirteen questions you should be asking yourself to ensure that you’re on top of everything for the holiday peak season.
Potential issues to consider
However, before we go to our question checklist, let’s briefly discuss what sort of problems you might encounter with your inventory during the holidays. You may have already encountered a few of these with your order management software, or with other tools that you are already working with. If that is not the case, wonderful! It means you’re probably using Agiliron. We are very happy for you. But we can’t emphasize enough the need to always be prepared.
Unpredictable demand. This can be surprising. Even if there are some problems with the economy and the market, it doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to spend during the holidays.
This also means that you have to be two steps ahead in your inventory planning. If you take note of your sales history properly and pay attention to how you create your sales plans, you may have enough room to prepare for unpredictable demand. It’s always better to be prepared than to have too much or too less of anything.
Technological trends. These happen all the time. If you currently specialize in the tech industry, you will understand how certain new product launches can suddenly and drastically increase demand – so anticipate and be prepared to handle new orders.
Legislation changes. Legislation can actually impact your inventory in ways you can’t predict. New scientific studies or news bites about potentially hazardous materials can have compounding effects on your end goal.
If, for instance, a law that has some significant effect on your range of products has been passed, you will have to be prepared to make the appropriate adjustments. A keen eye on trends and how certain big figures are influencing the market will go a long way in helping to keep you ahead of things.
When it comes to you and those you work with, there are a handful of questions you should already be asking yourself in preparation for the coming weeks.
Are your schedules prepared? Have you checked to ensure you’ll have ample coverage throughout the peak season? Given that the holidays often coincide with much-needed vacation time, it can be a struggle to keep a large number of hands on-deck you need.
Did you know that Amazon once hired 80,000 temporary workers so they could meet the holiday demand a couple years back?
Making sure that both, your staff schedules and operation schedules, are going to be sufficient enough to meet the potential uptick in demand is a crucial step.
Always remember to keep your plans detailed and to account for everything you can think of. It’s always better to have multiple plans in store than to have one plan that can fail and jeopardize everything else.
Is your team ready? Make sure everyone in your team is aware of what they’re supposed to do by the time the holidays officially begin. This is where preparation and training pay off.
If it is possible, try to have a special team dedicated to utilizing your order management software carefully and properly. Always be prepared to offer extra time to offer training to employees in critical positions.
What about your partners? Have you had the necessary discussions with your suppliers and shipping providers? If you’re taking a look at sales data and projections, you should be sharing this information with them as well.
Keep communications open and clear and be sure to let your partners know exactly what your expectations are for the coming months. Discuss backup plans and make sure you have everything in order in case an unforeseeable issue should arise.
Is your contingency ready? You really can’t tell whether or not issues can suddenly come up in the holidays. Always be prepared for anything.
Your contingency can vary depending on the industry and what kind of situations you plan for, but if you get your preparations correctly, then your contingency can actually save the day.
Staying on top of your inventory is perhaps one of the single most important things you can do in order to prepare for the holiday buzz. Questions you should be asking yourself are:
Have you studied your sales data? Studying your sales history properly can help you gain further insight into the coming events and also work to help you spot any potential issues early on.
Is your inventory ready? Always make sure that your inventory has a handy way of letting you know whether there are issues with the products you currently have, especially in stocks. Make use of order management software applications to ensure accuracy and customer satisfaction with all the products you have. A robust software program does wonders in helping you make sure that your team is capable and prepared.
Have you done your analyses lately? We’re only human and we can’t do it alone, which is why we are completely dependent on our inventory management systems. Try to make use of your software to conduct ABC analysis, and subject SKUs to a special Inventory Turnover Ratio analysis. This will allow you to check just how efficient your current inventory is. You can also properly adjust your systems with these accordingly.
Regardless of how well you think you’re prepared, if your technology can’t match demand, you’re going to be in for a rough time. Make sure you follow these tips to ensure that all your digital tools, software, and assistants are more than capable of handling the extra load by the time the holidays arrive.
Is your technology up to par? It goes without saying that inventory management software applications are a blessing to digital entrepreneurs and businessmen, but are you sure you’re making the best use of technology that you can?
Is your technology running slow, is outdated, or seems like it’s getting maxed out? If any of these is the case, then now is the best time to tackle those much-needed updates.
Your technology could be doing just fine but have you checked to confirm that your processes are automated to the best of your abilities? Is your inventory control software robust enough to meet the holiday demands? You need to be absolutely certain of this.
Are you using predictive analytics? Predictive analysis in your software can actually help forecast demand and provide very accurate values. You can try to optimize inventory management with allocation and other perks to balance and optimize inventory across all your locations. When you use the right kind of predictive analytics on your sales plan, you can actually brace yourself for quite a profitable holiday.
Is your website ready? Always remember that websites take a heavy load when it comes to holiday season sales. It’s a good idea to begin testing your site’s capacity now, sooner than later.
So, check the load time for your APIs and your website’s speed. If you handle credit cards, check that your website is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.
The PCI Data Security Standard is a set of requirements you have to fulfill to check that your website is secure enough to handle sensitive credit card information without compromising customer information.
Is your security intact? This doesn’t just apply to websites, but for all of your software as well. Make sure your IT team is skilled and oriented with what they have to do to ensure the security of all your digital tools, especially those that have access to the Internet.
Always remember that websites tend to be a hot target during the holidays, so if your IT team isn’t ready, a security consultant will come in handy. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is your website or app mobile-friendly? We recommend that it should be, given that a lot of transactions are much more convenient with online and mobile shopping. This means that you ought to make sure that your app and websites are mobile-friendly, so you don’t run the risk of losing out on a lot of potential customers.
The holiday season can be extremely stressful, especially when it comes to inventory management. Inadequate planning during this time of year can, unfortunately, result in some catastrophic consequences.
Keep these questions in mind and let them serve as a checklist of reminders for things you need to stay on top of for the holiday season. These questions, when combined with efficient pre-planning and execution, can help you survive the holidays, keep your business thriving and your customers cool as cucumbers.
What are some tactics you’ve implemented to help prepare yourself for the holiday peak season?
Tags: holiday shoppers, retail holiday season, seasonal shopping