2020: Set Your Supply Chain for Success
Here’s the thing about time: we never have enough of it. This couldn’t ring any truer for U.S. retailers looking to bounce back from a challenging 2019 holiday season. With Thanksgiving landing on Nov. 28 — six days later than the holiday in 2018 — retailers were left with far less time to strategize and drive sales through Christmas.
And the numbers don’t lie: The Census Bureau recently released its sales report for the month of December 2019, showing decreased numbers across several verticals, including department stores, whose sales sunk 5.4 percent. The needle also barely moved from November to December, showing a mere 0.3 percent increase. While stats were a bit more positive for e-commerce retailers, it seems brick-and-mortar stores are still struggling to create a seamless omnichannel experience for both in-store and online consumers. According to Coresight Research, 2019 culminated in over 9,300 store closures, up 63 percent from the previous year.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom for retailers in 2020. Knowing the facts ahead of time, retail companies now have the chance to plan much more strategically in their efforts to boost sales numbers, revenue earnings and overall productivity. And since every new year starts us off with a clean slate, now is the best time for retailers to tackle the challenges Q1 may bring.
From executing a seamless shopping experience and maintaining accurate inventory levels to satisfying consumer expectations around service and returns, here are three key supply chain strategies all retailers can implement to grow business throughout 2020.
Showcasing Excellent Customer Service With Returns and Exchanges
According to a 2019 survey by the National Retail Federation, 55 percent of consumers said they planned to return or exchange unwanted gifts and holiday items within 30 days of receipt. Therefore, it’s no surprise January reigns as one of the busiest months in retail. In fact, UPS crowned Jan. 2 “National Returns Day” after predicting staff will process nearly 2 million returned packages during that single 24-hour period. On top of that, 74 percent of consumers also stated they’re likely to purchase additional items while returning or exchanging unwanted merchandise, which just goes to show how important January is in setting the tone for the business year ahead.
So while product returns and exchanges are inevitable, they should be seen as an opportunity for companies to create not just a positive retail experience for the consumer, but also a seamless customer journey between in-store and online channels. By having a less complex, hassle-free return policy in place, retailers have the ability to revive relationships with existing customers, win new business, and increase brand loyalty all at the same time.
Implementing Data Tools to Support Unexpected Market Shifts
In order to forecast when increases in sales and revenue will occur, it’s necessary for retailers big and small to analyze yearly emerging shopping trends with the aid of business intelligence tools to analyze historical data, supply chain proficiency, and inventory consumption. These solutions not only help in streamlining and optimizing all aspects of supply chain management, but they also provide visibility into each and every phase of the product life cycle. This in return will allow retailers to capture data in real time, prioritize order fulfillment based on said data, and manage the ebbs and flows of consumer demand.
Meeting Consumer Demand With Efficient, Transparent Solutions
In our digitally connected world, customers expect retailers to provide omnichannel shopping experiences across all selling channels, including in-store, online and social media. Additionally, consumers demand speed and convenience when it comes to product deliveries and returns. That's why retailers and supply chain professionals have to ensure their delivery and fulfillment services are operationally sound and able to follow through on the promise of a timely shipment.
As such, it’s important for retailers to leverage technology that allows for full visibility into each and every supply chain operation, therefore creating an easy and painless process to track and allocate in-transit inventory. These technologies also help facilitate consistent communication with consumers, keeping them informed of the most up-to-date information on their orders.
Preparing for Success
For retailers, preparing for the challenges of a new year is no easy task. However, by adopting the right software tools and business processes, brands, companies and their global trade partners can all achieve great success. The first step is to leverage digitization to enhance supply chain visibility. With these slight adjustments, retailers will be much better able to manage supply chain operations and ensure adequate inventory levels, therefore inviting increased sales, higher margins, and happily satisfied customers throughout 2020 and beyond.
Sue Welch is CEO of Bamboo Rose, the only marketplace powered by proven trade engines for product and supply chain management, enabling the B-to-B community to collaboratively and continuously discover, develop and deliver ideas and products to global markets.