Matías Gilly looks at how optimising warehousing and distribution processes can help businesses to capitalise on the festive Black Friday shopping weekend.
It’s predicted that UK shoppers will spend a staggering £2.83m a minute over the long Black Friday weekend. However, overall spending is expected to be down by 12.4% on 2019, in the main due to COVID-related store closures, but also due to the fact that 42% of shoppers started earlier than usual with their festive purchases this year, and some retailers are even rejecting Black Friday altogether. All is not lost though, with online sales expected to rise by 52.9%, totalling a whopping £5.7 bn, meaning that for 2020, there’s a distinct possibility that Cyber Monday will take centre stage.
Regardless of when exactly the bulk of the shopping bonanza falls this year, the pressure is on those firms which have yet to get their distribution models up and running in preparation. And, while it might be too late to make any changes in time for 2020’s Black Friday weekend, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. With this in mind, how can businesses optimise their distribution processes to ensure they fully capitalise on the opportunity, while meeting customer expectations and upholding brand reputation?
One Step Ahead
Just keeping up with sales is no longer good enough. What’s required is a responsive, efficient and flexible distribution function that’s able to meet customer demand while maintaining profitability. The key to achieving this is technology, with the right joined-up systems helping businesses to strike the crucial balance between fulfilling customer demands while maintaining healthy margins. Disjointed, disconnected systems simply don’t afford the levels of agility required to cope with fluctuations in demand, such as those associated with the Black Friday weekend, with a real need for integrated, centralised solutions to unite different areas of the business for a slick, efficient approach to distribution.
Such systems serve to streamline processes, bringing together business functions to provide clear visibility of stock and order statuses, as well as key information regarding sales, finance, transport and warehousing wherever relevant. Such is the fast-paced nature of commerce in our digital age that it’s vital to have systems in place to enable collaborative working, improving workflows between departments and readily identifying where inefficiencies lie.
Accessible, in-depth reports and dashboards turn data into insight, providing the right information, to the right people in real-time, underpinning rapid, effective decision-making with accurate, up-to-date information. It’s with these better, faster decisions that firms can achieve the levels of agility needed to best manage the peak in demand that is Black Friday weekend, able to respond quickly to changing circumstances to maintain optimum service levels and customer satisfaction.
The same can be said for planning and forecasting. With the right systems in place, it’s possible to analyse trends and patterns in buying behaviours alongside historical data, combining this with data and insight from across the supply chain to enable precise demand planning. For industries where margins are slim, this enhanced planning precision is extremely valuable, bringing some very welcome certainty to an increasingly uncertain global marketplace.
Greater forecasting accuracy goes hand-in-hand with improvements to inventory management, another area of the business that benefits greatly from a joined-up approach. It’s possible to manage all inventory data, tracking and recording stock movements in real-time to not only improve but streamline inventory control.
With a centralised system in place, one which takes a holistic view of the organisation, amalgamating and analysing data from right across the business, you achieve fewer stock shortages, more on-time deliveries and improved customer satisfaction. Greater inventory accuracy reduces surplus inventory levels and the associated costs, with slick, efficient inventory management enabling the implementation of more automation, which in itself can increase efficiencies further still. This all serves to pave the way for on-time, in-full deliveries across the board every time.
Flexibility of systems is also crucial, not only in terms of how well they can scale up and down to deal with peaks and troughs in demand, but how easy it is to introduce new product lines or new working processes into everyday operations. While businesses are constantly striving to do more for less, it’s very often their own systems that are holding them back, unable to cope with efficiency saving measures such as increased automation or mobile working, and so thwarting any progress that businesses could otherwise make. For companies who are serious about maximising all opportunities when they arise, having flexible, scalable systems in place is a must.
To cope with even the busiest of shopping seasons, businesses need to keep one step ahead. It’s no longer enough to keep pace with competitors and customers, with quicker more informed decision-making and forecasting the key to doing just this. Access to comprehensive, real-time information and insight from right across the business is the only way to achieve this, with intelligent, value-add systems capable of reducing inventory and costs, optimising warehouse and distribution efficiencies to deliver customer service excellence while making a real difference to the bottom line.