Instead of good cheer, last holiday season was filled with headaches for supply chain professionals. With the peak shipping season approaching again, many of these same issues— labor shortages, a global pandemic and geopolitical crises—plus some new ones will challenge supply chain professionals once again. To prevent consumer disappointment this year, businesses are seeking solutions that can minimize disruptions in their supply chains and ensure inventory is on shelves, deliveries are made on time, and more.
Location intelligence is a valuable tool for supply chain professionals as it provides insight into consumer movement patterns that can help companies better predict demand, manage inventory, identify potential bottlenecks and allocate staff. Below we’ll share some examples of how location intelligence can be used to minimize disruptions and keep supply chains running smoothly this holiday season.
Predicting consumer demand
It seems that the holiday shopping season starts earlier each year, as consumers look to capitalize on early deals or spread out their shopping. The 2022 season has already begun, as research shows that more than half of consumers have already started their holiday shopping. By combining historical datasets with recent foot traffic data, retailers can determine any upticks in consumer demand in near real-time and adjust their strategies accordingly. For example, if a big box retailer starts to see a significant increase in traffic at the end of October, they can send more big-ticket items to their stores to keep up with demand and ensure popular items are well-stocked.
Having the right amount of inventory in the right places is key for winning the holiday shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, “overall holiday sales in November and December have averaged about 19% of annual retail sales over the last five years.” To maximize revenue in the all-important holiday season, it’s important that businesses are properly stocked on popular items and are not at risk of product shortages. Utilizing location intelligence can provide greater visibility into the supply chain as it helps companies identify where demand is on the rise and where more product inventory might be needed. A company can then determine whether they need to reallocate a specific product shipment or cancel an order altogether, so they don’t have excess inventory. This will free up space in warehouses and ensure a company is not wasting money by storing goods no one intends to purchase.
Similarly, location intelligence can determine which stores in a network are seeing increases in traffic. Say a retailer’s stores in the Northeast are seeing a weekly uptick in people visiting their stores, then that retailer can choose to send more inventory to stores in the Northeast for the short-term and adjust product supply at their warehouses in that area so they can maintain a steady stream of stock on shelves.
When facing pressure to deliver packages on time during the holiday season, supply chain professionals need to be able to identify potential bottlenecks that could cause severe delays. Location intelligence can provide added visibility into every tier of a company’s supply chain as it can pinpoint anomalies in foot traffic at warehouses, manufacturing plants, suppliers and other key locations. By measuring against a baseline level of foot traffic, a retailer can detect irregularities in foot traffic, which would alert them that they need to act quickly to mitigate the issue. For example, a major winter storm closes the roads near a rural warehouse, meaning employees can’t get to work to take in new shipments. Seeing this change in foot traffic, a retailer can divert any new deliveries to another nearby warehouse while the roads get cleared. By utilizing location intelligence, companies can get ahead of potential bottlenecks and lessen the impact felt by delays.
Getting staffing right
For many companies, seasonal hiring is essential to their success during the holiday shopping season. Location intelligence can help companies determine where they need to allocate more employees or adjust hours. For example, if a retailer is seeing a significant increase in foot traffic at some of its stores, it can hire more staff or shift locations for existing employees to ensure that those stores are properly staffed. Once traffic decreases, staff can adjust hours or return to their original store locations. Location intelligence can help companies determine how to properly manage staffing levels, saving time and money.
The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, but this time can also present the ultimate sales and customer experience opportunity for retailers and other businesses. This year, put the right strategies and technologies in place to gain more control within your supply chain. Location intelligence will certainly play a key role in minimizing outside headaches and help you better forecast consumer demand, manage inventory, identify potential bottlenecks and allocate staff effectively. By incorporating this data into supply chains, businesses can help create happy customers, staff and bottom lines.