Plan ahead

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DX Group’s Stuart Godman warns retailers and their logistics partners that they need to prepare now for this year’s Christmas period

With less than four months to go until Christmas, the countdown has begun for retailers and their logistics partners who need to begin forecasting and capacity planning. The period before and after the holiday season is unquestionably the busiest time of year for retailers who want to take full advantage of the opportunities it presents. However, due to the huge potential on offer – and the pressure this naturally brings – the festive season can mean either sink or swim for retailers and carriers.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and the post-Christmas sales all happening within a month, there is immense pressure on retailers to get everything right. After all, with customer demands increasing with every year that passes, those who fail to prepare fully are not likely to have a merry Christmas period.

What can we learn from Christmases past?

In this modern era of online shopping it is essential that retailers and logistics firms link up as soon as possible to agree what delivery options will be realistic over the holidays. For some, offering a ‘business as usual’ service over the festive period might be impossible, especially when it comes to premium services such as next-day delivery and one-hour delivery slots. Communicating these limitations to customers early on will help to manage expectations.

The period before and after Christmas is not only important in terms of sales and profits, but also for the reputations of both retailers and logistics firms. Retailers who are able to meet the expectations of their customers are likely to earn – and maintain – a good reputation. However, the opposite is also true; businesses that fail to make good on their promises can quickly find their reputations in tatters. One of the most common mistakes that retailers make is not managing their customers’ expectations effectively and over-promising on what they can deliver during the peak season.

Another important way to help minimize customer dissatisfaction is to educate customers on the delivery options available, so that their experience meets their expectations when their packages arrive. Online shoppers expect a consistent experience from the moment they arrive at a website through to delivery. However, due to the immediacy of online shopping, shoppers will often select the cheapest or quickest delivery option without considering whether the service is the most suitable delivery method for the goods they’ve ordered. Providing sufficient information so that customers understand which delivery service will best match their needs will go a long way to preventing disappointment.

Other Christmas considerations

It’s not just customers that need consideration during the holidays; the entire supply chain is important. Letting the warehouses and the carriers know about a potential surge in orders well in advance means they can plan their own operations accordingly and help prevent potential stock management issues.

A growing trend to help address these capacity issues is the uptake of convenient collection options, such as click and collect and 24/7 lockers. According to the latest report from IMRG, click and collect now accounts for 23% of all online orders, with a further 14% of shoppers opting to use third-party secure collections. Not only do these options reduce the pressure on the warehouses and carriers, but they also mean that customers can pick up their parcels at their own convenience.

To ensure success during the festive period, all parties will need to make sure they are planning months in advance so that their operations run smoothly. Effective communication between retailers, logistics firms and consumers will help to ensure that the whole festive season goes to plan.

Bio:

Stuart Godman is chief strategy officer at DX Group, a leading independent mail, parcels and logistics network operator. With over 25 years’ experience in the logistics sector, Stuart has held senior board positions with companies such as Target Express, City Link and Nightfreight. He joined DX in 2011 to support the acquisition of Nightfreight, where he took the position of COO, rebranding this business to DX Freight in 2013. In July 2014, after a successful IPO, he became chief strategy officer at DX

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