The lead up to the festive season can be stressful at the best of times, so when you throw in the coronavirus and all of its logistical challenges, Christmas has the potential to be a complex beast for retailers.
Given the restrictions still in place in many corners of the world, it’s also a particularly emotionally-charged time for customers, many of whom are apart from their loved ones and want to send them thoughtful gifts in a timely manner. It also means that for retailers, there will be a huge increase in online orders.
Here are a few pointers for retailers to help them make it through the Christmas season. Good luck!
- Focus on accuracy and quality
It’s been reported that up to 70 per cent of customers are planning to do their Christmas shopping online this year and many will be starting earlier than normal to avoid delivery delays. Not only are people now more accustomed to online shopping, some may turn to e-commerce to avoid crowds and long queues at physical stores.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for retailers to focus on accuracy and quality during your customers’ journey. Failure to provide the right item at the right time will not be pretty.
- Schedule a tune-up
Right now is the perfect time to ensure that all your systems are well-oiled and functioning, so consider organising a tune-up before the Christmas rush.
“It’s important to get your system maintained especially before the festive season so your system runs to its maximum capacity and you have all your spare parts and stock up to date,” advises Knapp managing director Michael Kemeny. “That way, if there’s a failure in the system and you need a spare part, it will be more likely to be available at short notice.”
- Cycle count
Nowadays with more retailers adopting omnichannel strategies, it’s important at any time of the year to be on top of your inventory, but it’s absolutely vital during the festive season. Conduct cycle counts so you know how much stock you’ve got and fill in any gaps in inventory before the Christmas rush. It also an opportunity to evaluate how quickly received inventory is added into the system and made accessible to pickers and make adjustments if necessary.
- Cross-train and incentivise
It’s common for retail distribution centres to rely on temporary staff to help out during the holiday season, but don’t neglect your permanent employees. This particularly busy period is an excellent time to upskill them by cross-training them across different processes and departments. This way, your staff will have a more versatile skillset and will be able to shift workloads. Now is not the time to introduce complex tasks, but rather keep the training simple for maximum effectiveness. Further, offer staffers financial incentives to encourage greater productivity and accuracy.
- Enhance manual processes with automation
Especially now, with the increased demand, retailers need the right processes in place when it comes to picking and packing. Make sure your picking technology is top-notch to increase your output and increase the quality of your pick. Automatic guided vehicles are the perfect and flexible addition to your workforce and can take over repetitive tasks or additional transport tasks.
“You might not have thought about robotics and automation now, but now is the perfect time to consider it because of social distancing restrictions in warehouses and distributions. It’s a good idea to invest in robots to help with simple tasks, and they can be implemented quickly,” says Kemeny.
- Consider new in-store experiences
Now that many customers are cautious about spending too long at a physical store, some retailers have created in-store terminals where people can purchase items via a touchscreen and pick them up at a checkout, similar to the kiosks at McDonald’s.
“This takes the pressure off the staff and supports social distancing restrictions, as there are less people in the store at one time,” says Kemeny. “Even though e-commerce has grown, this may even attract some customers back into stores.”
Want to find out how you can get the most out of your warehouse and distribution? Visit: knapp.com