Black Friday is coming! The Black Friday Supply Chain Last Minute Checklist is here too!
It marks the tipping point that separates the less busy, preparation-oriented pre-Black Friday period from the frantically busy, execution-oriented post-Black Friday period.
Record sales are expected year after year, especially in online trading.
For supply chain teams, this means that time is running out to ensure all planning, preparation, contingency, resources, systems, processes and goods are in place.
Here’s our last-minute Black Friday checklist.
1. Is your inventory in place?
You cannot complete customer orders if you do not have your inventory to hand. This typically means your inventory needs to be on the storage shelves of your distribution centers (or those of your outsourced logistics provider), on the shelves of your retail stores, or at suppliers’ locations, all ready for shipment.
If you still have goods en route to your fulfillment channels, now is the time to determine if they’ll arrive on time. If not, you’ll need to decide if you want to expedite the shipping of those goods.
When goods arrive at your distribution centers, you need to ensure that you have the capacity and resources to allow for the rapid receipt and storage of those goods so that they show up as in stock.
You may also want to do a last-minute inventory count, especially on your high-value or high-volume goods. And stock discrepancies should be caught now rather than risking a customer later placing an order that you can’t fulfill because your stock counts are wrong.
2. Do you have enough resources?
The Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, and indeed the entire holiday season, typically results in a volume of activity during that 5-week period that is dramatically higher by many orders of magnitude than at any other time of the year.
To handle this volume of customer orders, whether in your own facilities or in those of your outsourcing partners, you must increase the number of available employees exponentially.
In addition, these employees must be onboarded, trained and retained. It can be difficult to find enough employees when everyone else is hiring. Retaining these employees during this busy time can also be difficult. The reality is that you often only hire many employees for a 2-3 month period, so their loyalty and exit barriers are low.
You may need to proactively create a smart incentive plan to attract and retain employees for the holiday season. If you’re not already working 24/7, you may need to quickly add more shifts during this time.
Again, the challenge is a function of the actual need you are realizing. Many companies expect significant growth each year, and these numbers should be factored into your resource planning. But what if the actual demand is even greater than the already higher demand you expected? You must act quickly to secure even more resources for a dime, or you risk losing those contracts.
3. Are your systems robust enough?
There’s nothing like a high volume of activity to tax the very systems needed to make it all work. Your website, your order management system, your planning system, your inventory management system, your receiving and shipping systems, your marketing systems, and your product data management systems must function at all times.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday will see peak order times occurring in literally seconds. If one of your systems can’t support an exponentially higher amount of activity and either hangs or shuts down, then you have a problem. Customers will immediately go elsewhere if your website goes down.
Contingency plans, including backup databases and alternative hosting services, should be reviewed to help should you need to use these options.
4. Are your logistic partners ready?
Most companies use a third party to deliver orders to their customers. You may use FedEx, UPS, USPS, or another of many 3PLs or couriers.
Whoever you use, you need to realistically understand that they have many other customers who also expect them to deliver their goods. So when things heat up and you’re inundated with an avalanche of packages for everyone to deliver, how do you know they’ve reserved the resources you contracted to ensure your packages get delivered on time? For example, what happens if the weather prevents them from delivering goods?
YOU OWN the ENTIRE customer experience, even if you rely on someone else to handle the physical last-mile delivery function. And if the package is not delivered on time according to the commitment you made to the customer, you may find that you have fewer customers in the future.
You must have a very close relationship with your logistics service providers, including regular, frequent checkpoint communications during this holiday season. If nothing is wrong, these calls can be brief. But if either you or the logistic company have any updates, you can respond as soon as possible.
This can mean, for example, extending lead times to ensure you are not over-promising your customers. Or it can mean setting realistic cut-off times to ensure all packages arrive before Christmas. Whatever the problem, real-time communication can help mitigate damage.
5. Are you in sync with your marketing team?
In parallel with all your efforts to prepare your supply chain for the holidays, your sales and marketing team has been doing the same. They often have sales, promotions, and advertising scheduled by the hour to ensure they maximize revenue.
Also, they will react hour by hour depending on what is actually happening. For products that don’t sell, they offer distress sales and last-minute promotions. For products that sell well, they will want to sell even more.
And they rely on the supply chain to meet the demand they generate. This means that supply chain and marketing need to be fully in sync with what’s going on, minute by minute. When marketing promotes a product that the supply chain cannot execute, disaster ensues. If the supply chain doesn’t let marketing know what’s happening (e.g. supply issues, weather-related issues) then marketing will offer the wrong products.
Any misalignment between supply chain and marketing will translate into dissatisfied customers. It’s crucial to make sure you don’t over-promise and under-deliver while still capturing any growing revenue.
The last minute Black Friday checklist in conclusion
Months of planning are coming to an end. It’s now time to run it. There is still some time to ask some questions to troubleshoot any remaining issues, identify other opportunities, or take additional action to ensure your success.
It’s going to be a hectic time, but those working in the supply chain are usually used to working in stressful situations and using the adrenaline rush of the holidays to their advantage. Please use our last minute Black Friday checklist.
Remember that your competitors are going through the same situation. So get above that and lead your business through a prosperous Black Friday Cyber Monday holiday season!