Ready or Not—Here Comes the Holiday Season
Posted on: 08 November '17
Prepare for the Holiday Season with 5 Best Practices for your Supply Chain and Warehousing Processes
It’s that time of the year again—the nip in the air, Christmas carols playing in stores, celebrations, family and gifts. For retailers, however, the highlight of the season is an array of antacids, chewed finger nails, sleepless nights and inordinate amounts of coffee. If you are like most retailers, Holiday Preparedness or Preparing for the Peak would have included readying your store, systems, your website, and your staff for the busiest shopping time of the year—and with good reason. Last year, digital spending during Black Friday reached $3.3 billion with $1.2 billion from mobile sales, alone.
Although Black Friday started in the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving has grown to become one of the largest shopping days around the world, both online and in-store. Every year, more and more countries adopt the American holiday sales season, converting consumers to this emerging Peak.
To make the most of holiday sales that start with Black Friday, retailers need to ensure that the systems supporting offline and online stores are working efficiently. To do this, they need continuous monitoring, high alert capabilities and a solid vendor strategy.
Retailers who worked during the year to build robust systems and processes are better equipped to deal with both the planned and unplanned spikes and lows in activity that come with this retail peak. They can monitor their activity more acutely during this period and maximize retail opportunities across channels.
For those of you who are either questioning your Retail readiness for the holiday season or uncertain about what to do now that the Holiday season is upon you, we’ve come up with five Retail best practices. Coming just ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this could help you prepare for and thrive during this holiday season.
- If you are not holiday-season ready, don’t panic. If you don’t have the right process already in place, don’t worry. Ask yourself if it’s possible to build and test a process to fit seamlessly into your current environment before Black Friday arrives. If not, include it in your future planning. For right now, do a quick assessment, bring in key stakeholders—make sure you connect the dots right through the process. Then set-up monitoring and alerts, reaction plans, partner ecosystem preparedness and communication plans to easily manage and rapidly resolve potential issues. Ensure you monitor areas identified as your vulnerabilities and have your action plans ready to manage them.
- Test backup power and systems. This is basic, though, not often included in overall checklists. With winter almost here, weather plays a part in your infrastructure. Make sure to Test your backup power and recovery systems to ensure they are always working during this critical sales period. Document where and how your back-up systems will kick in, and in case of a change-over, ensure this communication is sent back to your IT services providers. This is to ensure that Servers/Systems are tested and monitored during a change-over and order and information flow is not impacted.
- Break down Inventory and Warehousing processes. Review and test your processes to ensure that multiple models of replenishments can continue—inventory continues to be received while orders are being picked, packed and shipped. The Demand Management process needs to be validated, and back-end processes reviewed and tested with a plan on how to manage unplanned replenishments. Make sure your internal order and warehouse management systems are tested for the expected increase in the volume of orders. Get a deeper understanding of warehouse management system, back-up plans, including monitoring of batch jobs, and review plans to manage and update systems for real-time replenishments. Identifying and addressing gaps early, will help you navigate the holiday season with greater ease.
- Assess hardware, end-to-end. Scanners, printers, forklifts, stocking and packaging racks and sensors are all important to the fulfillment process and should be routinely tested. Make sure, backups are available in case of hardware failure or for periods of heavy workloads. For example, do you have enough barcode scanners to accommodate larger or added shifts? Are your computers updated with the latest virus definitions? Are the right applications loaded on all relevant computers, and are training and help manuals readily available? Especially factor in, that you will have a high number of temporary staff during this season.
- Ensure stakeholder involvement. It is critical for the Business and Process Stakeholders to understand the processes of back-up, monitoring and alert plans that your vendors, partners and internal IT services teams have in place. This is an absolute to ensure a seamless experience for the customer – especially during Black Friday and through the holiday season. Have a day-to-day touchpoint, and make sure every stakeholder is represented and they bring in their plans, forecasts and concerns for the day. This could be in terms of the forecast volume that needs to be processed, plans to ramp up/down resources, replenishments expected and so on. Each stakeholder needs to be part of each process, especially the escalation and reporting processes—ensuring business impact remains the central consideration for all decisions.
Asking each Business/Process owner, Service provider and IT Service team these questions, will enable you to feel the pulse of your Warehousing and Inventory operations and ensure a quicker time-to- solution, in a crisis.
Coming up in our series on holiday preparedness for Retail, is Order Management for both in-store and online orders, Last Mile Delivery and the ever-important Customer Support Centers and Customer Communication. Stay tuned…
Meanwhile, from all of us at Mindtree, we wish you a successful, low-stress and happy holiday season!
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