It is never too early to prepare for the holiday season. In fact, the peak season is shifting to a more steady stream of consumer buying so preparedness is becoming the year-round status quo. Rather than a traditional surge in Q4 sales and shipments, consumers are getting savvy with their shopping to account for the current supply chain, labor, and inflation roller coaster.
How do you stay ahead of the curve? Having a resilient strategy, understanding the changing market patterns, and having the tools in place to manage your business can help you get a leg up this holiday season.
Online shopping has had quite an evolution over the past decade, but nothing compared to the ramp-up in e-commerce that came with the pandemic. At the start of store closures and lockdowns, online retail growth surged over 53%; however, online sales are now settling in the single digits based on US Department of Commerce figures.
While retail trends have evened out in some ways, accompanying the rise in online shopping have been inventory shortages. With the anticipation of supply chain shortages inflating retail prices, buyers are opting instead to make purchases throughout the year based on deals and inventory availability, rather than waiting for traditionally high sales volume times such as Prime Day and Black Friday.
Americans spent $204 billion online in November and December 2021, an 8% increase over the prior year. This year total holiday sales are projected to increase by 3%, with a 15% growth in e-commerce over last year’s holiday numbers, according to eMarketer.
Evaluating your organization’s shipment performance in 2021 and pre-pandemic with advanced reporting and analytics can help you prepare and forecast for the estimated volume this coming season.
With an increase in online shopping came an increase in another sector: a higher rate of returns. In 2021, shoppers returned between 30 and 40 percent of their online purchases.
Increased returns create unique challenges for distribution warehousing and shipment management. If you provide shipment services for big box retailers or online shopping vendors, you’ll likely see returns making their way back to you in their reverse logistics process.
Luckily, with advanced logistics management features, tackling the reverse logistics demand can be made easy. Tools that enable dispatchers to prioritize important pickups and drop-offs, optimize routes for efficiency, and balance driver workloads can help you stay ahead and balance your shipper’s return needs, enabling an efficient end-to-end supply chain.
Next to inventory, labor costs and retention are a struggle for organizations of any size, but the uptick in volume around the holidays certainly puts a strain on courier drivers.
According to Zippia Careers, there are over 1.3 million delivery drivers employed in the US. Even with these numbers, logistics companies find themselves at capacity during peak times affecting delivery performance, driver and customer satisfaction, and company growth.
Extending your market reach with IC drivers is a fluid option to adjust to the ebbs and flows of your business’s operations. Providers like Roadie, Loadchief, and Rova provide a marketplace to tap into fully vetted professional drivers on an as-needed basis allowing you to adjust to the demands of shipment volume without the lengthy process of recruitment.
Tools that are intuitive and easy to use are critical for the IC driver market, allowing drivers to seamlessly handle their contracted work without a technological learning curve.
Out-of-home (OOH) deliveries and pickup and drop-off (PUDO) points, including pickup lockers, are becoming commonplace for retail. From the retailer’s standpoint, they can streamline their customer interactions by having one convenient location for both pickup and drop-off needs. Additionally, they could be targeting incremental sales from the consumers if the designated location is onsite at their retail storefront.
From the delivery driver’s standpoint, these centralized locations can consolidate a number of your shipments for the day by only having one place to collect and drop off numerous packages.
Imagine the mileage and time savings dropping off 12 shipments to one spot, rather than driving to 12 different residential locations to complete your shipments. Reducing the number of stops with these consolidated locations can also free these drivers up to take on additional shipments and help grow your overall business.
While OOH and PUDO locations only accounted for around 3% of last-mile deliveries at the end of 2021, they are gaining popularity as consumers demand more flexibility for their shipment fulfillment.
When it comes to e-commerce, first impressions matter. With many brands existing with a purely online presence, their shipment and the delivery of that shipment are the first impressions to the consumer.
Shippers can enhance their brand with unique packaging and customized labeling, but as the carrier, it is your responsibility to ensure shipments arrive on time and undamaged. In this way, carriers emulate the customer service experience even though they are simply completing a delivery.
This is where dispatching and operational tools come into play. Executing your shipments with clear visibility, real-time tracking, and consignee and consignor status alerts helps provide transparency in the delivery process.
Managing consumer expectations for the delivery, communicating the vital updates of the shipment, and building a finely tuned itinerary for your drivers to complete their shipments on time keep all parties involved and satisfied throughout the shipment lifecycle.
You can set your holiday sights on success by understanding the changing trends, how they impact your workload, and how logistics management tools can help improve your day-to-day operations.
What trends are affecting your business? Reach out to our team and let us know how we can partner with you for a successful season now and year-round.