Are Your Business Processes Holiday-Ready?
By Karen He
The holidays will be very different this year compared to prior years. Although many consumers have been impacted by the pandemic in the United States and worldwide, NRF shows that consumers are resilient and confidence is improving. As consumers may opt to avoid traditional malls and shopping centers, they will be more inclined to shop online. While digital traffic spikes and foot traffic to physical stores lessens, retailers need not only focus on building or improving a digital storefront but also focus on the back-end processes that are required to get the products and services into the customers’ hands.
Shopping at brick-and-mortar stores relied on traditional operations and supply chain; moving products from the manufacturer to a regional facility and to a department store where the customer showed up to purchase the product. Online shopping, however, requires businesses to set up and streamline adequate systems and new processes to ensure a product or service is fulfilled and delivered directly to the consumer.
As soon as the customer clicks on the ‘Check Out’ button to purchase the items in their cart, back-end systems need to be automated so that the order can be immediately processed, fulfilled, and shipped. Retailers must consider automating the following processes and reduce human interventions that are prone to errors, leading to shipping delays and lower customer satisfaction.
Some automated processes for retailers to consider when preparing for the holidays include:
One of the most critical processes in any business is order-to-cash. It is the lifeblood of a company to ensure they are paid for the products and services they offer and can manage cash inflows effectively. The order-to-cash process begins from the moment a customer places an order and the placed order triggers back-end systems to automatically bill the customer (credit management), fulfill the order at distribution centers, send a notification to shipping partners (UPS, Fedex, USPS), and collect the payment and record the data in an ERP system.
Inventory and Fulfillment Management
Once orders are placed and fulfilled, companies need to reconcile and update their inventory against what they have sold/fulfilled so they know which product items are still available in each distribution center for customers to purchase online. If inventory and fulfillment management requires manual data entry, then it is prone to data errors that cause a number of problems that ultimately affect customer experience and satisfaction. If the inventory is tracked and managed correctly, for example, then customers can see which products are ‘out-of-stock’ or better yet, the ‘out-of-stock’ products would be taken down from the website until they’ve been replenished by the retailer.
Additionally, you’d want to analyze products and services sold by comparing frequently purchased items vs. least purchased items so that you can improve your inventory by stocking more popular items in the future, and promote or bundle unpopular items.
Temporary Employee Onboarding
Retailers hire temporary or seasonal workers during the holidays. Instead of adding workers at their physical stores, businesses will ramp up workers in their distribution centers to help fulfill online orders. Your human capital management (HCM) and employee management applications need to be streamlined so that new employees get onboarded quickly and seamlessly. A fast, speedy onboarding process is critical since these are seasonal employees, typically working for 2-3 months, and it may differ from the regular, long-term employee onboarding process. Any disruption between applications can create delays and challenges that can result in a poor employee experience, which in turn, can negatively impact the customer experience.
Learn how Canadian retailer Browns Shoes adjusted and automated its business processes to meet a 300% spike in online sales during the pandemic.