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With the holiday season coming, it's important to plan ahead. You need to know that your supply chain is going to be able to withstand additional stress. Even businesses that aren’t in the retail space will experience various challenges in the last few months of the year. If you've had supply chain management issues in the past, it's even more critical. But there are many ways you can fine-tune and improve upon your supply chain fulfillment, even with the holiday season beginning.

The Challenge of Holiday Fulfillment

During the holidays, most companies hope to bring in new customers. You may create a holiday marketing campaign that you think will appeal to your audience. Make sure you're prepared for the potential demand and make a plan for keeping up. It's important to deliver on your promises and impress your clients, especially if they're brand new.

You must consider inventory management, demand forecasting, logistics, and customer expectations managing fulfillment, especially during the busy holiday season. These core elements will determine your success. It's not as hard to attract new customers with online marketing today, but you have to be able to satisfy them.

Plan in Advance and Leverage Your Technology

Don't let the holidays sneak up on you. Since many business owners are otherwise occupied with putting out fires during their day-to-day operations, it's easy for the busy season to come as a surprise. Plan in advance for the holidays by projecting out your costs.

One of the ways you can do this without having to take a lot of time on it is to simply invest in the right logistics system. An AI-driven logistics system will be able to look at your past numbers and current numbers and create a very accurate projection for what you will need. This can even take into account things like seasonality and current trends.

Check With Multiple Carriers

Don't just go with a single carrier simply because it's the one you always use. Check with multiple companies to figure out which ones will be the fastest and most affordable. If a single carrier falls through, you'll be able to work with one of the others you identified. In general, when the busy season is about to come up, you want to have as many options as possible.

Many businesses, especially smaller businesses, focus on a single carrier because they've had a relationship with that carrier. Keep in mind, though, that during the holidays these carriers also get busy. Plan for the unexpected by keeping your options open.

Communicate With Your Suppliers

Make sure you talk to your suppliers early on to ensure they have the products you need. If there's going to be a shortage or lack of availability, you need to take action immediately. Solutions could include finding other suppliers to procure your items or making an early special order with your existing suppliers.

By letting your suppliers know what you need in advance, you're helping them stay ahead of the rush, too, which they'll appreciate. If you're ordering directly from manufacturers, you may need even more lead time.

Anticipate the Unexpected

Add a buffer for your orders just in case something unexpected happens. Assume that something bad will happen and add a buffer of time, and that will ensure that the products that you're going to need won't be late. 

It's always best to assume that at least one thing will go wrong: it's Murphy's Law.

Provide Visibility to Your Customers

Now let's talk about customer service. Your customers are going to want to know about their products.

If you provide visibility to your customers, in terms of a visible inventory list, you'll be able to provide better customer service to them while also reducing the amount of support that you need to offer. Customers enjoy finding answers to their own questions, and an inventory list gives them the opportunity to be able to check your product list immediately for the information they need.

If your logistics system can easily provide them with product tracking, that's even better. That improves accountability and reduces the number of calls that need to be managed.

Start Planning Now

During the holidays, you're likely to shift through a lot of your inventory. Many companies make a great deal of money during the holidays. But if your supply chain fulfillment isn't up to the season, you may find yourself running out of products that you should be able to sell, or overburdened with products that you can't sell. 

Better forecasting and better processes can avoid this. The better your forecasting and processes are, the easier it will be to get your products in hand.

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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