What impact are bargain days having on peak planning and supply chain?

By Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing, Descartes Systems UK
Bargain days are growing increasingly popular since the rise of BlackFridayand CyberMonday. Amazon Prime Day is another that has recently joined the ran...

Bargain days are growing increasingly popular since the rise of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Amazon Prime Day is another that has recently joined the ranks, and its huge success in 2017 has encouraged other retailers, such as PC World, to follow suit with flash sales of free delivery and cheaper prices.

But what effect is this additional strain, previously contained to the Christmas period, having on the supply chain, and can the traditional approach to peak planning withstand the added pressure?

It is expected that bargain days will become increasingly popular over the coming years, with more and more retailers feeling compelled to lower their prices as a result, in a bid to retain customer loyalty while bringing in new business. But this places a huge strain on the supply chain due to the sheer number of deliveries, the amount of preparation and the extent of stock management needed for these days to run smoothly. 

For retailers to succeed in these changing times and comply with their customers’ evolving needs, they must ensure they have the supply chain infrastructure in place to plan effectively for peak demand generated by sales and marketing campaigns, and to meet the expectations set by them. In doing so, there’s an intrinsic need to become ever more innovative, flexible and data-driven with the management of expectations for faster delivery and instant stock replenishment.

Bargain days can, after all, cause more harm than good if, on the day, stock is not available or can’t be delivered within the allotted delivery time. 

Leveraging real time information and real time demand, advanced route optimisation can transform supply chain performance, but this must be as part of joined up, end-to-end operations, taking into account both in-store and online demand.

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As peak planning becomes more of a day-to-day consideration than an annual one, warehouse management systems are key to unlocking the flexibility and agility to react swiftly to surges in demand, while reducing error margins and saving costs – ensuring the delivery process meets customer expectations while also proving profitable.

With a clear view across the supply chain, alongside real time visibility of new orders and existing commitments, retailers can lead the way with next level customer convenience. For example, with the introduction of unique profitable choices specific to them through a dynamic booking strategy – based on factors such as address, products purchased, delivery network capacity, value added services such as installation and orders already in the booking system.

Automation is now the only effective route to achieving the level of flexibility and scalability needed to achieve this. From strong interfaces for data exchange, through to stock receipts, cross docking, over refilling, pick-pack-ship, local carrier integrations, reverse logistics handling and order-status updates along the whole order lifecycle, automated processes via a warehouse management system specifically geared to eCommerce fulfilment are key to this joined up approach.

The result is not only a solution to effectively manage peak times and alleviate the pressure applied by bargain days, but to also instill optimum performance throughout the supply chain day-to-day. Only with the right level of automation in place can retailers run bargain days with the confidence in their operational ability to better manage stock availability, meet customer demand and ensure profitable order fulfilment.

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