Data from eMarketer’s holiday sales preview forecast indicates ecommerce sales will jump 17.2% this holiday season. It’s a favorable outlook for certain, but unless e-tailers are perfectly prepared to handle the influx in demand it could be a long couple of months.
Here are three things you need to cover in order to succeed at meeting peak season demand:
Don’t leave customers in the dark
Order and delivery standards are mode-agnostic to the consumer. They don’t know the difference between freight (i.e. a kitchen appliance) and parcel or small package items (i.e. shoes), yet they require significantly different treatment. Shoppers expect the same transportation experience for products shipped Less-than-Truckload (LTL) and parcel when they shop online. To remain competitive, e-tailers need to provide the same delivery options and tracking visibility for both.
This is not the experience for most freight items bought online. Ecommerce businesses that don’t produce delivery options, transparent timelines and tracking visibility on those items are losing ground to competitors that do, like Amazon. For most ecommerce companies, online ordering and fulfillment of heavy items is still very manual. For example, there is no live data feed connecting the supplier, retailer and transportation provider with the consumer during purchase or delivery.
Without API (Application Programming Interface) connectivity, it’s increasingly difficult for ecommerce companies to meet customers’ on-demand needs. Those selling freight items through an online portal are missing out on innovative fulfillment solutions and losing customers to marketplaces like Alibaba and Jet.com/Walmart.com that can give them choice and transparency throughout the transaction.
Infuse your supply chain with technology
The need for real-time visibility into supply chain networks during peak season is a requirement for success. Yet many retailers still use on-premise and legacy technologies that simply can’t support the dynamic demands of both always-on consumers and global supply chains. Legacy systems and IT processes yield a greater amount of shopping cart abandonment, fail to meet customer demands for transparency and increase the cost of transportation.
Powering ecommerce platforms with intelligent APIs lets ecommerce companies better meet constantly evolving consumer demands while increasing productivity. Let’s take a brief look at what APIs are and how they work.
APIs allow a complete overhaul of supply chain technology, making way for unprecedented speed and scalability. The connectivity layer they create enables devices to speak to one another in real time, setting the stage for modern technology concepts like the Internet of Things (IoT). They make for the fastest, most seamless way to access data and make informed decisions across the retail supply chain.
A recent report co-authored by Boston University Professor Marshall Van Alstyne titled, “The Impact of APIs on Firm Performance,” found that using them to facilitate digital transactions can increase annual net income by over $250,000 with “potential profit boosts growing as platforms generate and exchange more data.”
This ultimately makes retailers more competitive in the new on-demand reality by facilitating real-time data transfer and communication across the supply chain. As demand for a more efficient and connected supply chain increases with global commerce growth, APIs will be a driver of enhanced performance and financial success.
Optimize your inventory
Retailers who have omnichannel execution strategies down pat this year will win, and those who can’t juggle the multi-mode shopping that consumers demand will fall behind – it’s that simple. Stock-outs are a big part of what defines the difference between the winners and the losers. And beyond the pain of losing out on immediate purchases, a GT Nexus study reports that 33% of U.S. consumers actually blame the retailer for the issue, which can reduce brand loyalty.
Excessive inventory is another issue. As the complexities of ecommerce and omnichannel user experiences continue, a somewhat surprising means of managing inventory to prevent stock-outs is better management of your freight transportation network.
Stock-outs commonly happen due to faulty in-store ordering and replenishing practices, as well as a lack of visibility into the location of inventory shipments. Efficient transportation management that ensures the timely flow of products and services without errors is critical, as is having technology to manage the ebb and flow of demand.
Transparency, a hyper-connected supply chain and inventory optimization are three critical components that will define the difference between ecommerce success and failure this peak season. All of them rely on having the right technology in place and being able to manage ever-evolving consumer demands. And all are critical to your peak season success.
Jett McCandless is CEO of project44