Every year, bells start ringing earlier and earlier for the retail industry. Their ringing serves as an emergency alert to those in the mobility business to ensure supply chains are already prepared to handle the holiday demand.
For mobility, the holiday supply chain includes so much more than phones. Technological innovations and a hyper-connected world have significantly influenced shoppers’ behaviors and expectations. Mobility is leading this cultural shift with a portfolio of new consumer must-haves that are especially hot during the holiday season. Today’s most desired mobility products still include smartphones and tablets, but a greater number of new or growing categories are now an important part of the product mix, such as wearables, smart home technologies, speakers, headphones, and a wide variety of cases and power sources.
This mobility cultural shift and the growing number of product categories and technologies mean that a well-oiled holiday supply chain is increasingly important.
Here’s what you can do to get ready:
Prepare and Incorporate a New Supply Chain Plan
The best way to prepare for the holiday season is to have a definitive fourth quarter plan established. Some companies get caught waiting until late September before investing the needed time and resources and that’s far too late. Preparations for peak season should be thought through far in advance of the third quarter and well into implementation by the end of September. This time frame might even take longer, as products with special packaging may require more preparation.
A company’s operations strategy at peak season should also be tailored to accommodate escalated spikes in demand. While the typical supply chain strategy takes high demand into consideration, the holiday supply chain should account for spikes well outside the norm. Therefore, it’s especially important for back-end and front-end operations to run seamlessly during the holiday season. Spend extra time forecasting and planning for supply shortages and expedited shipments, and work with logistics service providers to help execute the peak season plan. This is especially pertinent for companies that rely on overseas delivery.
Plug into Real-Time Inventory Visibility
Without real-time visibility, a company can carry too much inventory, which leads to decreased cash flow and increased warehousing costs. Worse yet, products could go out of stock at the peak of the holiday season, leading to sales loss and unhappy consumers. Having the ability to see inside the supply chain, including work-in-progress inventories, increases lead time and allows companies to respond to unexpected demand shifts. This can mean pulling surplus stock from a distribution center to quickly feed hungry store shelves.
Utilize a Reverse Logistics Strategy
During the holidays, many consumers cast aside their mobile devices in favor of the latest must-haves. Therefore, developing a reverse logistics program to reclaim these out-of-use products is a simple way for companies to capture and reinvest product value that would otherwise be lost. In the mobility industry, it’s best to find a partner that can handle recycling, triaging, repairing and re-selling such products in one place since products have an extremely quick turnover rate.
The holiday season should be the mobility industry’s most wonderful time of the year, too. Implementing these strategies well before the holidays will help ensure that December is no longer something to fear and 2015 can start off on an exceptional note.
Bashar Nejdawi is executive vice president and president, North America Mobility at Ingram Micro. He currently sits on the 2014 CTIA board of directors and the 2014 CTIA Executive Committee.