Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

Planning for peak is a marathon not a sprint


Why planning for peak season 2017 needs to start now!

So you just finished peak 2016 and are breathing a sigh of relief … yes it was tough, and yes there were some challenges, but you got through it. Now it is time to take a step back and relax back into your normal routine until next Q3 when planning for 2017 peak can start afresh.

But is this really the best approach? Waiting until peak is almost upon you could spell disaster for your stress levels. So why not start now?

Planning for peak should be a marathon, not a sprint. Now is the perfect time to reflect on what did and didn’t work in 2016 and start putting plans in place to make 2017 peak the best yet. The steps below will help shape your peak planning; so instead of stumbling out of the blocks and falling at the first hurdle you’ll be able set the pace to get you through the finish line as seamlessly as possible.

Step one: what did you learn?

Why not conduct a lessons learned session for the whole team. January and February are traditionally a time for reflection, so why not evaluate what made peak 2016 such a success and of course, what didn’t. Think back to Q4 2016, how much did volume spike? Which items were most popular? Where did issues arise? Having this baseline will help to project anticipated volume in 2017 and will provide a better idea of potential problem areas in the system that should receive extra attention and testing.

Step two: create a plan

Once you have reviewed the do’s and don’ts from last year it is time to come up with an action plan for 2017. Do you need to re-evaluate staff training? Put new systems in place? Be more flexible with fulfilment? One key thing to remember about the plan is that it might change. Flexibility is a must have when it comes to conquering the unpredictability of omnichannel shopping, and poor planning will no longer be an acceptable scapegoat for inventory shortages. And remember, initiatives like ship from store can be your new best friend when it comes to keeping up with demand!

Step three – review your resource and take action

Worker In Warehouse Wearing Headset And Using LaptopSo you’ve analysed 2016 within an inch of its life and come up with a (flexible) action plan for 2017. Now you need to assemble the best team to execute it. Reviewing your current talent-pool and calling in new resource from other areas of the business could just be the shake-up you need. Just because it’s how you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done differently. Allocating additional or fresh resource to your peak planning working group has the potential to introduce new ideas and can also help to get the whole organisation on board.

Step four: don’t underestimate the store, keep it connected

Despite the year on year rise in online purchasing, brick-and-mortar stores remain the biggest revenue driver for retailers. But what will the store of the future look like? By the time peak 2017 comes around technology could be a huge driver for customers when it comes to which stores they visit, as they crave a seamless omni-channel experience. And, don’t underestimate the importance of returns! In-store returns of online purchases during peak, will always prove its worth by getting bodies into stores, which means opportunities for ‘upselling’ and impulse buying that just don’t exist online. Those who bear this in mind will thrive during peak, and those who don’t will come in a slow second.

Step five: have a test run(s)

If your distribution and order management systems includes software from various vendors, engage with those concerned and set up a test (or a series of tests) that simulates peak shopping times. If possible, plan to test the system several times throughout the year in the run up to the peak times. If you can start this testing now then you will be in a great position when it comes to Christmas preparations. In order to run your marathon at pace, you need to practice at pace!

So now you have all the steps to get a head start on the race to peak 2017, don’t get left behind. Keep ahead of the game and by doing so, you’ll have the vision to steer towards a healthy growth and sustained performance for many peak seasons to come.