Whether it's the sales, Black Friday, Christmas or a peak season, periods with a high order volume are a real challenge for e-commerce managers. During a peak season, the volume of goods to process can suddenly increase by 40%!
Good stocktaking, optimized order management and well-thought-out logistics are essential to meet demand and cope with an unexpected influx, with the key word being forward planning!
Our years of experience at GEODIS and the challenges we've faced have taught us a lot about these peak seasons. Today, we're giving you the three insights for successful inventory management: strategic stock allocation, last-mile delivery and real-time stock monitoring for improved estimating. Using these tips, you can optimize your logistics strategy, ensure fast deliveries, prevent stockouts and increase your level of customer satisfaction!
As you know, when it comes to online sales, the quality of the customer experience is all that matters and the quality and rapidity of the shipping play a big role. But ensuring fast, smooth shipping during a peak season isn't always straightforward.
To achieve optimal shipping, you must make sure your stocks are strategically located. The easiest way to ensure high customer satisfaction is to keep your stock geographically close to the markets you want to reach. The closer you are to your e-commerce customers, the more customer satisfaction you will generate through efficient order preparation and fast delivery (even with non-express). Fast shipping and delivery will give you a real competitive advantage during peak season.
Previous to splitting you stock in several locations, your sales forecast will allow you to pick the references you want in each location and in which quantity. You will probably want the high runners close to the customer and in high quantity for the peak season, whereas low runners can come from an upstream warehouse and with higher delivery time, allowing you to reduce your storage costs.
It's important to think about this strategy outside a busy period, as it can also be beneficial all year round. The main benefits of moving your stock closer to your customers include accelerating international growth and boosting brand awareness and customer satisfaction thanks to a competitive lead time, reducing last-mile delivery costs and maintaining a suitable safety stock.
Storing your inventory as close to your customers as possible can reduce the charges invoiced for last-mile delivery. You can offer them a wide range of delivery options: home delivery or delivery to a collection point, express delivery or even delivery within 24 or 48 hours.
Whichever delivery option you chose, work closely with your carriers, and maintain a good relationship. Hold regular meetings to review the volumes to be processed and the pick-up times that suit you. This is particularly important for peak period, where all the e-businesses will need carrier availability. Negotiating the volumes and the pick-up times far ahead of the peak period can guarantee you a real competitive advantage.
It is also important to review all the transport incidents your carrier might have had. The reasons, the corrective actions, all the areas of improvement are important so that you can always guarantee your customers fast, punctual and smooth delivery, thereby securing their loyalty.
If you haven't already done so, you can also choose to outsource your logistics to a trusted and experienced logistics provider. Logistics specialists handle large volumes and therefore have preferred relationships with carriers. They are in a better position than a company to negotiate competitive rates for last-mile delivery. If you're short of manpower for delivery organisation, this is also a very suitable solution.
To be better prepared for peak season, your team needs to carefully consider all aspects of the supply chain. For effective e-commerce logistics, it's essential to put in place an inventory management and tracking system that ensures efficiency and real-time availability. The more you keep track of inventory turnover, the better you'll be able to forecast future sales, anticipate demand and therefore adjust the level of inventory you need throughout the year. You'll have better control over your logistics costs and be able to guarantee an optimal customer experience thanks to this planning and accurate stocktaking.
Technology can help to improve centralized stock monitoring. Efficient warehousing includes barcode scanning, advanced inventory management and real-time API between your WMS and CMS. Not only will this reduce the error rate, it will also help reducing the time taken to prepare orders, then dispatch them. You will be able to identify a potential stock shortage before it happens. Real-time monitoring will enable you to strike the right balance between having enough stock to meet orders and overstocking, which would obviously make storage more costly. Regarding this last point, taking advantage of a logistics service provider's pooled network can help you cut costs.
And don't lose sight of the fact that, as the number of orders increases, so will the number of potential returns. An order management system will also be very useful for managing returns, tracking them, restocking them if necessary, then refunding customers quickly and smoothly. This too is a key part of your customer service!
Lastly, digital technology is also a way to provide your customers with much-appreciated information. Did you know, for example, that 81% of them check the progress of their order during the delivery cycle? Real-time monitoring certainly requires a complex order management system and a certain level of connectivity between your IT system and your partners' system. But whether it's through CMS, ERP software or a marketplace, this additional communication will add a lot of value to your e-commerce business.
Making a success of a peak season is a challenge that plays out on several levels. When choosing warehouses, this aspect needs to be taken into account so as to optimize the geographical position of inventory. Then there's transport. Customers want faster, more flexible and cheaper delivery. Which carrier or logistics partner will you choose to meet these expectations? Lastly, throughout the supply chain you need to ensure that goods are tracked in real time: to avoid shortages, limit storage costs, manage returns or improve the customer experience through order tracking.
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