All I want for Christmas is delivery I can trust

An avalanche of orders, complex delivery challenges, harsh weather conditions, and of course, customers with very high expectations – this is what supply chain managers are up against during the busiest time of the year.

One of the biggest issues for the supply chain over the Christmas period is achieving a streamlined process from point of sale to final fulfilment.  If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get social media forums buzzing with angry consumers, it’s broken promises round stock availability and delivery times.

Here are five tips that should help make Christmas as merry as possible for the supply chain:

1.Collaborate to succeed – Using collaborative tools among the extended business network provides the ability to make collective and fast decisions. Business intelligence and analytics tools can help companies to understand, monitor and detect changes, from the highest priority events to the smallest transactions influencing customer service. From adjustments in forecasts due to real-time point of sale orders, to production schedule changes from a supplier, and to in-transit shipment status from a carrier, companies need to be aware and react quickly.

2.Optimise your logistics – While marketing and merchandising is often carefully planned, it’s a fact that integrated coordination across the supply chain is needed to truly fulfil the original promise to the consumer and deliver their order. Organisations that really want to be customer-focused need to focus on logistics optimisation. Ensure that all aspects of your supply chain will be working across the Christmas period and that you will be able to receive, display and deliver all those items in high demand.

3.Provide your customer with accurate product information – The supply chain should provide the right information to retailers, so that they can keep customers aware of all aspects of a transaction. This information ranges from details about the returns process to stock levels and specifications about the product. Customers should know where they stand before making a purchase. Allow them also to know precisely the status of a delivery – in real-time and online via track & trace facilities. There’s no point in retailers advertising a product if you’re out of stock or you can’t deliver it within the right timeframe. Set your customers’ expectations by being upfront with them.

4.Be flexible – Increasingly, customers want to determine where an order is delivered – at home, to the neighbour’s, at a service point, or at another location – and more importantly, when it will be delivered. Vague morning/afternoon/evening slots are no longer good enough – offer your retailers the ability to communicate narrower time windows to customers through improved insight into inventories, stock levels, shipments and other data in order to make the supply chain as efficient as possible.

5.Embrace all your channels – From the customers’ perspective, whether they are shopping in-store, online or via a mobile device, they are dealing with the same company or brand. Retailers who regard their channels as separate and discrete operations are making a serious error. The supply chain is at the core of a successful multi-channel experience, and therefore it is imperative that businesses create continuity between systems from in-store, online and mobile order to stock management and synchronisation. Mobile in particular has rapidly become an important channel, so make sure you optimise your operations for this platform if you haven’t already.