It's no secret that the holiday season is a busy time for retailers. This year, however, retailers face even more pressure as inventory levels are more unpredictable than usual.
During these uncertain times and in the ever-fluctuating market, brands need to be scrappy by being smarter with their inventory management. While you're done with demand planning and purchasing for this peak season, you can shift your mindset amid potential challenges to help you survive this stressful time of year for supply chain teams.
There are a few things you can do to manage inventory better and prepare for peak season. This article quickly touches upon four ways to rethink your inventory management this peak season.
Having a plan on how you can be more efficient and strategic with your inventory is a solid first step. This means knowing what products will be in demand and stocking up as needed.
To maximize your inventory, you must first know how much you have, product lead-time data and inventory data on the often-forgotten products on order and in transit. An accurate view of your total inventory position can help you strategically position your products to fulfill demand faster.
This holistic view of inventory can only be achieved by integrating data from all partners, including shippers, co-packers, fulfillment partners, transportation partners and e-commerce marketplaces.
There now exists a family of software solutions that are collectively called supply chain control towers that can help facilitate this integration and visibility, and their use will only increase as data sources continue to proliferate.
Another way to be smarter with inventory management is to be proactive, such as anticipating customer needs and stocking up on items before they run out or setting up micro-fulfillment centers closer to your customers.
Fulfilling e-commerce orders from alternative locations, such as retail stores or micro-fulfillment centers, closer to your customers helps you fulfill more orders quickly. As a result, you can better capture customer demand and save on shipping costs.
Being smart with inventory management also means being flexible and willing to adjust your plans based on customer demand or other factors.
Embracing an increased focus on omnichannel can also help. There is a promising opportunity for brands to expand their omni-channel supply chain operations to include Buy Online, Ship from Store and the increasingly popular Buy in Store, Ship to Door.
This strategy is common in certain industries, such as large furniture items, but it’s started popping up everywhere. One of the latest trends is that apparel brands are transforming stores into experience centers, where customers can try on clothes, and their purchases get shipped to their homes.
Finally, one of the most important things to remember regarding inventory management is to think long-term. This means planning for future needs and stocking items that will still be in demand.
This peak season, you're probably not going to have the exact right amount of product, so you must maximize what you have and think of how you want to tweak your processes before next year's peak season planning begins.
Take notice of your pain points and opportunities for your supply chain to realize cost and time savings.
Amid market disruption and looming economic uncertainty, retail brands need to be scrappy and smarter with their inventory management. Keep in mind these four mindset tips to keep you searching for opportunities to improve your inventory management and order fulfillment processes next peak season.