Now that the holiday season is in our rearview mirror, and everyone’s New Year’s resolutions are well underway, supply chains can begin to catch their breath in the wake of the biggest annual peak season. Although, when one peak ends, another begins, and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, romantics aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure to deliver on this special day. Online and offline retailers can find themselves buried under a mountain of flowers, teddy bears, and customer complaints if their post-click operations have not been sticking to their New Year’s regimens.
The following are four ways that omni-channel retailers can ensure they keep the “happy” in “happy Valentine’s Day:”
Proper planning prevents…the 6 P’s
With 3PLs coming out of Q4, a time when many experienced between 3-10x multipliers of volume, operations are typically feeling taxed in all areas including equipment, infrastructure, and workforce. If you don’t have a strong planning process in place throughout the year, particularly ahead of Q4’s holiday peak, it’s nearly impossible to have a successful first quarter. Arguably the most important questions to answer are “How are you maintaining equipment?” and “How are you treating people?” Regarding people and equipment, companies must ensure they are not working them both to exhaustion during peak, because there is a lot of additional business in Q1 that needs their full attention and capacity. Trying to manage returns is another increasingly huge undertaking for omni-channel companies in Q1, and the added volume from peaks related to health/wellness products and Valentine’s Day only further stresses the need for properly maintained processes year-round.
Massage customer relationships
The crazy holiday season volumes also lead to inevitable increases in dissatisfied customers who want answers at the beginning of the year. There is a great deal of customer experience massaging that goes on right after peak season with unhappy customers, and companies that are successful in doing so, set themselves up for increased business during the Valentine’s Day season. This holiday also tends to have more emotion tied to it which stresses the requirement for tight omni-channel retailer post-click processes. With Christmas, individuals typically receive multiple gifts from different people – so they can live with a late gift – but Valentine’s Day gifts are typically one-off, and you certainly don’t want your customers to be left empty handed or called-out for buying an obvious last minute backup gift. It’s very important to maintain current processing and shipping cut-off times online and just like during the holidays increase your CX by overcommunicated and providing personalized order status updates.
Find your 3PL soulmate
When it comes to relationships, everyone has heard about finding “the one,” that perfect match, which, when they come along, “you’ll just know.” We believe that this same cliché should be applied when it comes to choosing your supply-chain significant other. Many companies rely on various partnerships including those with 3PLs, manufacturers, and parcel services for final mile delivery, but the more layers of partnerships there are, the more opportunities there are for breakages in operations and services. Partnering with one 3PL that understands your infrastructure and can seamlessly integrate their technologies and capabilities into your operations will ensure your customers are struck by cupid this year.
Be robotic…trust us
We certainly don’t encourage being robotic with your personal relationships, but when it comes to keeping things running smoothly in your supply chain, having an automated approach will only up your game. The following are essential technologies and capabilities your 3PL should have if you want to keep hearts in the eyes of your customers:
- Distribution Order Management (DOM) provides order routing logic to ensure products ship from the facility closest to the customer, ensuring fast delivery and the best shipping rates.
- Labor Management Systems (LMS) increase employee productivity, while minimizing labor costs, and are essential for maintaining high customer service levels.
- Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are software applications that help control and manage the day-to-day operations in a warehouse. WMS software guides inventory receiving and put-away, optimizes picking and shipping of orders, and advises on inventory replenishment.
- A platform with direct integrations with your customers’ sales channels will reduce operational downtime and streamline data capture and analysis. This includes platforms like Shopify, Magento, value-added networks like Zentail, ChannelAdvisor, and Stichlabs, as well as marketplaces like Amazon, Google Shopping, eBay, and Walmart.
A 3PL with a forward-thinking approach to investing their time and resources in innovative technologies is the most important item to cross off your “must have” checklist when selecting a logistics partner. While relationships take compromise, this is one characteristic that cannot be overlooked if you want this Valentine’s day to end happily ever after.