Surges in demand can happen for multiple reasons: social media pushes, recent innovation and lately, a worldwide pandemic. These brief high demand periods cause strains on systems making it virtually impossible to predict which products will need to be available in high quantities, and as we saw, unfortunately, can result in significant revenue loss for some retailers.
With the most important season for retailers just around the corner and the uncertainty of just how much consumers will be spending, we’ve put together four tips to help navigate surges and shortages this peak season.
Here's what you can do to plan for the uncertainty:
Set Maximum Order Quantities
When it comes to inventory supply and shortages, online stores should consider setting maximum order quantities for products with limited stock. Not only will this help satisfy as many customers as possible, it also helps prevent one buyer from taking the entire supply. Just be sure to set expectations properly and include verbiage on extended order processing and shipping times. Shoppers should be advised to expect delays as logistics systems are strained while doing their best to estimate arrival dates. They should also be aware of the final day for items to be shipped by a certain time to avoid any unpleasant surprises or gifts arriving after the holidays.
Plan Ahead with Internet-of-Things (IoT) Devices
The IoT devices, or the billions of physical devices connected to the internet all collecting and sharing data, can play a crucial role in providing feedback on usage and maintenance requirements for certain products. Since the data is shared and connected, they can help sellers plan inventory more effectively while helping owners of the products prepare for maintenance and replenishment. You can even set notifications for running low or automatic purchases.
Increase Your Customer Service Touchpoints
The unknown creates anxiety. Consider deploying chatbots or virtual customer assistants to help provide information in real-time about order status, delivery times, etc. to provide peace of mind to your customers. You can also adjust the knowledge bases tied to existing customer service systems to answer other common questions such as returns, and refunds. Customer service will be a big factor in creating loyal shoppers. If you haven’t revisited current scripts, now is the time to do so.
Override Artificial Intelligence (AI)
While artificial intelligence can play a critical role in inventory planning, it's important for retailers to have a plan for overriding the AI when necessary. Since it can take days or weeks to train an AI engine to accurately respond to unprecedented surges, retailers will be better off manually adjusting to quickly pivot to the changing landscape. Those with an order management system will have an easier time of reconfiguring algorithms than those without.
Overall, retailers who start planning now can prepare for any outcome this peak season and be ahead of the game for the next surge. For more pointers on preparing for peak, check out our How to Prepare for Peak 2020 + Bonus Checklist post.