Part 2: ‘Tis the season for fulfillment: 3 retail holiday hurdles and how to overcome them

By | 3 minute read | August 24, 2021

This is a 3-part blog series to prepare you for the upcoming holiday season.

Looking to have a big holiday season? Let fulfillment lead the way.

As retailers prepare for the upcoming holidays, it’s critical they consider all the influences that can make or break their holiday success. At the core of their preparation should be a single inventory tracking system that gives a 360-degree perspective on inventory management, customer engagement and fulfillment risk and opportunities. With each of these factors ultimately positioning businesses for competitive advantage, fulfillment will take a starring role in the success or failure of sales.

Let’s explore three ways in which fulfillment can be challenged during the holidays and how to overcome these hurdles with preparation ahead of known events.

1. Holiday peaks present challenges to supply chains and order management

Demand peaks are an unavoidable reality that occurs most holiday seasons. And COVID has certainly heightened the uncertainty of supply and demand all year round. In fact, 32% of consumers are concerned that global supply chain issues causing lack of inventory could impact their ability to purchase holiday gifts this season. Due to this, gaining a stronger, more proactive approach to fulfillment is an essential part of optimizing your supply chain. The best way to manage this is to proactively prepare for important moments and enable the ability to track and perform fulfillment based on order volumes and workloads – particularly during peak seasons such as the holidays. This requires real-time inventory visibility and optimized order orchestration, helping to deliver stronger customer care through more polished fulfillment experiences. When retailers implement technology to overcome these hurdles, they are empowered to improve digital conversions and in-store sales while increasing omnichannel profitability. As a result, this also helps retailers protect their margins, meet delivery expectations and increase profits during peak periods.

2. Unexpected inventory disruptions are bound to happen. It’s how they are handled that can make or break a retatiler’s success

Let’s face it – the holidays will test your supply chain more than any other time of year. As retail business decision makers, welcoming a technology infrastructure that helps manage inventory fulfillment ahead of events is a key factor in your overall success. Being proactive, as it turns out, leads to profit. And the only way to do this is to have a strong order management system in place. As you look ahead to the holidays, consider how the IBM Sterling™ Event Readiness program can help you meet your fulfillment goals. In particular, you want to be prepared for escalated consumer traffic and expectations alike during the holidays with the ability to deliver orders seamlessly no matter where a customer’s journey leads thanks to intelligent fulfillment platforms.

3. Inventory visibility is not clear for customers and retailers alike

Lack of data – plain and simple – can quickly turn what could have been a successful holiday season into a very average or even bad season overall. Without data, retailers are literally blind to the opportunities that can better support their customers, strengthen their inventory management and optimize fulfillment. Gaining real-time, accurate data, however, leads to order opportunities across all selling avenues. Leveraging embedded AI technology into your inventory management further enhances this, positioning your brand to make smarter sourcing and fulfillment decisions at the lowest cost-to-serve. AI technology can benefit sales as well; nearly half of consumers respond that they would be more likely to purchase from retailers using AI tools in their supply chain management. The best part? This is the kind of holiday gift that keeps on giving!

The benefits of leveraging sophisticated inventory management solutions helps retailers to create next-generation omnichannel experiences – all year long. The benefits include optimized omnichannel fulfillment at the lowest cost-to-serve and real-time sourcing flexibility that makes better use of “at risk” and returned inventory. With clarity into the never-ending, always changing, big picture of commerce, retailers can optimize omnichannel decisions across commerce, merchandising, logistics, store operations and supply chain, as well as scale existing fulfillment capacity to accommodate more customer demands.