3 ways to avoid EDI pitfalls during the holiday season

By | 4 minute read | November 18, 2020

Despite the disruptions of 2020, total U.S. retail sales are projected to grow to more than $741 billion this holiday season. To help make this time of year a bright spot for customers, retailers and their suppliers need to know they can meet rising expectations and deliver the right products at the right place and time. What does this mean for IT leaders and B2B managers? Having confidence that the B2B infrastructure operating behind the scenes – connecting retailers, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers throughout the lifecycle of a customer order – can keep pace as demand spikes.

As you face a holiday season like none other and the certainty of change, here are three things to be mindful of as EDI transaction volumes increase across your B2B systems and infrastructure:

1. Keep orders flowing

As orders for products surge and are fulfilled, you need to replenish that inventory – fast. Orders must continue to flow up your supply chain to ensure distributors ship additional products to stores or warehouses, and manufacturers have the supplies they need to make more products and keep the pipeline full. But if your EDI system slows under mounting transaction volumes or worse, completely fails, you lose the ability to communicate with your trading partners and receive orders from your customers. Critical transactions, like orders and ship notices, are delayed.

Eric Doty of Greenworks Tools keeps orders flowing without hiring more staff by moving their EDI services to a cloud-enabled multi-enterprise business network that enables reliable, secure and scalable B2B exchanges. As this power equipment manufacturing company expands its global presence, the network provides a more efficient and cost-effective way to track the increasing number of orders. The solution digitizes and automates transactions and uses AI technology to deliver deeper insights into B2B processes. With visual reports and natural language queries, business users can quickly track the status of an order without help from IT to make faster and more-informed decisions to deliver better customer service. Greenworks Tools is keeping up with global B2B transaction growth and realizing a 40% IT cost savings by putting EDI insights into the hands of business users.

2. Flexibility to scale up and down

If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that peak events can happen at any time for a variety of reasons. There are black swan events like a pandemic, but weather, seasonal, regional, and industry-specific events are far more common. Sometimes you can anticipate disruptions, and other times you can’t. Either way, you can eliminate much of the worry by being prepared. A business network that’s available as a cloud or hybrid solution, makes it fast and easy to scale up or down to support growing or slowing transaction volumes and manage costs.

Cinram links some of Europe’s biggest media producers and retailers with consumers of music, TV shows and movies, helping to keep shelves stocked with popular titles. Volumes spike during holiday periods, but also when highly-anticipated media releases become available. With a cloud-based business network, Cinram has maintained close to 100% uptime and can easily scale up the system when business volumes spike. They can add EDI connections rapidly without having to worry about provisioning new hardware to deliver the consistent, fast response and reliable service their clients have come to expect.

3. Proven B2B infrastructure

To keep pace with holiday shopping spikes or demand peaks, like those some industries saw due to COVID-19, your trading partners need to have seamless connectivity to exchange necessary information without disruption. IT leaders are doing this now with B2B infrastructure built for multi-enterprise connectivity and visibility that repeatedly demonstrates the ability to process unprecedented year-over-year transaction volume growth.

Li & Fung, a global leader in supply chain solutions, puts their B2B infrastructure to the ultimate test each year. The company oversees logistics for China’s Singles’ Day – the biggest shopping event in the world. For IT leader Manuel Fernandez, infrastructure that runs smoothly and is scalable for flawless performance is vital. Li & Fung integrates with 15,000 suppliers and thousands of customers using a single platform to automate B2B exchanges and gain data visibility to catch issues, allowing them to standardize and save costs. With flexibility to scale to handle ever-increasing transaction volumes, as well as exponential spikes – peaking at 1.5 million transactions per hour on Singles’ Day, four times the volume of the previous year – Li & Fung operates worldwide with speed and accuracy to meet service level agreements consistently.

This year, transaction numbers started to climb as early as October, reflecting an elongated holiday sales cycle. With a B2B infrastructure that continuously sets new transaction processing records and is available as a cloud or hybrid cloud option, there’s no need to worry about keeping orders flowing with your customers and suppliers. And that’s making this time of year a bright spot – not just for customers, but for IT leaders and B2B managers too.