Thought Leadership

Ideas that design the supply chain of the future

Holiday Season of Online Shopping boom amidst Logistics challenges

This year four of the most important Holiday Season sale days like Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have hit new records by making a whopping $29.64 Billion, in total online sales across the US (as per the real-time analytics from Adobe, which captures the sales figures of 80 of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. in real-time).

So, if anyone had any doubts on the holiday season sales for 2020, the figures above have already given them the answer. With all the four days going for a y-o-y increase in sales of more than 20%, it shows that consumers have not backed down from the festive shopping and are finding some solace in continuing this tradition to keep the positive vibes in this bleak year going. Though these are just the online sales figures and the data from the brick and mortar stores are still to be released, but even if we see a decline there compared to online, the numbers might still remain inspiring.

But, undoubtedly this has been the year of online shopping boom. With majority of the consumers considering online shopping to be the safer and more seamless option in this pandemic times and most of them finding some extra time at home due to remote work schedules, have contributed a lot towards these booming sales figures of the online model of shopping. Even the industry leaders have recognized this trend, as Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights in a media interview said “We are seeing strong growth as consumers continue to move shopping from offline to online this year. New consoles, phones, smart devices and TVs that are traditional Black Friday purchases are sharing online shopping cart space this year with unorthodox Black Friday purchases such as groceries, clothes and alcohol, that would previously have been purchased in-store,”. If we go by the recent trend reports from Adobe as well, the image remains same, as they predicted this year e-commerce businesses in holiday season will see two years’ worth of growth, there by reaching $189B in sales, +33% YoY growth.

Lurking fear of high capacity crunch as online sales increase

But amidst all these encouraging figures, there were some bleak clouds of uncertainty when it comes to the logistics side of this year’s holiday season. With a lot of businesses still coping up with the imposed norms of social distancing at workplaces, which forced them to work at half strength at many warehouses, which in turn put a lot of pressure on the shipment delivery segments as “everyone wanted their deliveries in almost the same time frame”. Transportation giants like FedEx and UPS in early November itself declared they have reached their capacity for the holiday season shipment delivery bookings. And as per earlier reports, companies were bracing for the potential of a massive capacity shortfall which could impact up to 7 million packages per day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The latest figures for this are yet to be released, but many retailers and businesses opted for an increased sales promotion period and started pre-booking of holiday orders in advance. But even amidst these regulations, to cope up with these capacity crunches, the hiring of seasonal workers were on full fledge as the likes of Amazon, UPS, FedEx reported hiring almost 375,000 seasonal workers amongst them in total, in this holiday season.

Communication and Customer Experience to be the key

Even amidst these challenges, the major key of success lies in communication and focus on customer experience. Many retailers and ecommerce platforms in this holiday season quite honestly accepted the Covid-19 challenges and disruptions and made transparent communications with their consumers. Amazon made clear statements to their customers that their goods were not going to be delivered within one or two days. Thereby keeping the expectations of the customers at check and given the situation customers also understood the gravity of the situation. And if transparent communication were one of the keys that struck a chord with the customers, so did retailers’ taking note of the consumer needs and focusing on making their online shopping experience the best. Many retailers upgraded their online shopping platforms and ensured real-time connectivity with inventory levels to not only ensure great customer experience but also to avoid order cancellations due to out of stock issues later on.

All in all, data remains at the center of it all

With a variety of stakeholders involved in this holiday season order fulfillment, and not all at the same stage of tackling these challenges, sometimes even after all preparation from one’s side, things do go wrong. There comes the biggest game changer of all, i.e. – data. Having the most accurate information possible, will allows businesses to ensure that they have better contingency plans in place. And here having the stakeholders or supply chain partners’ data available at the fingertips and at a single possible repository, helps businesses take smarter decisions to tackle the crisis and avoid delays multi-fold.

And well, data, amidst these tough times acts as the main support system not only by helping businesses tackle these challenges in a smarter and faster way, but also aids in boosting the customer experience aspect as well. Most consumers this year have faced substantial amount of delivery delays and related woes, which in turn has boosted their online queries for “shipment tracking” as a search term. It has also shown a substantial increase of 34% in just November, comparing it with previous year’s data (source Google Trends). Customers want tracking data and milestone updates at every stage and they are searching for it online. If businesses today can leverage a system that provides them the timely milestone updates, they can very well tackle these customer requests and be a customer experience rockstar for them, in these times of need.

Experiencing this increase in need for real-time data and that too with the ease of accessibility, Highway 905 launched the Shipment Tracking App on Google Play and App Store for organizational leaders or users to easily group their shipments, track them in real-time and get notifications on critical shipments. So that they don’t miss any shipment milestone updates any time and can access it from any place, from just a smartphone and a network connection. Our 100+ established carrier integration helps us onboard a business in just about a week, as the readily available data streams with the carriers helps us make this process seamless. Don’t forget to check it out here on Google Play and App store .

So given the boom in online sales this holiday season, how many of you feel that this is a trend that will stay even in post pandemic era? How will that impact our global supply chains over the years? Share your thoughts below.

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About the author :

Srini Vaidy

President and CEO, Highway 905

Srini Vaidy is the President and CEO of the award-winning, cloud-based logistics technology provider Highway 905. He is an established innovator in the Supply Chain & Logistics space, with an ever-dying passion for coding and technology. For more than 30 years he has been ideating customer-centric and efficiency-driven supply chain execution solutions for the Fortune 500 to help them optimize their logistics costs and strengthen their competitive market position. With one eye on technological trends and the other on the happenings in the logistics space, he likes providing readers with an interesting perspective on the future of logistics industry.