How Retailers Can Drive Sales into 2023

Strategically managing inventory, paying special attention to delivery timing performance and utilizing reverse logistics are critical during the final weeks of holiday shopping.

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Retailers have been in the thick of managing holiday demand and third-party logistics for several months. However, there are still several strategies that companies can use to get the most out of their last mile delivery for the holiday season. Just as important, these strategies can help retailers create a blueprint for logistics success in 2023.

Position inventory with logistics in mind

For a last-minute holiday logistics tune-up, retailers should focus on the items that have been especially popular this holiday season and the trends they’re seeing in local markets. They should also consider historical demand, and then make any needed adjustments to position inventory for fast, efficient last mile delivery.

Ensuring ready availability of the right inventory in the right place at the right time means retailers can be prepared to meet customer demand quickly — and keep their customers happy. Without adequate inventory levels in the right locations, a delivery can be delayed and risk spoiling the customer’s holiday plans.

By analyzing data, retailers can prepare for an influx of customers buying larger, higher-value gifts, such as a grand piano, large-screen TV or new living room furniture during the final weeks of holiday shopping. They can adequately prepare to deliver these items that might need extra care by hiring trained delivery professionals that offer white-glove service.

When it comes to preparing for holiday inventory, investing in a permanent or seasonal third-party storage location can improve efficiency. Armed with the knowledge of what merchandise will be popular, retailers can position it through back-of-store inventory or regional distribution centers to save travel time for delivery professionals and ensure customers receive their deliveries on time. On-time deliveries can be more important than ever during the holidays, and improved inventory management can ensure a high level of customer satisfaction.

Track on-time delivery performance

Year-round, but especially during the holiday season, retailers know that it’s critical to live up to their brand promise on delivery timing, whether it’s same day delivery or a longer lead time. Offering and communicating with customers about delivery timing options allows retailers to keep their customers informed.

Consumers are often traveling and busy during the holiday season — so retailers must do the leg work by reaching them and providing delivery visibility. A retailer’s customer support team can proactively communicate with customers where their packages are on the road. This will help customers know if they can expect deliveries in the window of time they may have requested, whether it’s communicating through delivery technology, such as the retailer’s app, over the phone or through email.

This goes for communicating delays with customers, as well. Delays can be challenging during the holidays given the surge in deliveries, and it can especially be a problem given ongoing supply chain bottlenecks. Transparency will allow customers to understand the status of their delivery at every step of the way, helping retailers build loyalty and trust.

Third-party delivery providers can make or break a retailer’s brand perception, during the holiday and year-round. It’s critical to ensure delivery providers meet a retailer’s delivery promises. Tracking on-time deliveries during the holidays will help evaluate their providers’ track record and determine whether changes are needed for 2023.

Utilize reverse logistics for peak returns season        

There’s no rest for retailers after holiday shopping is done; January is peak returns season, so companies must brace themselves for another logistical surge. Retailers experience the highest amount of returns during January, and savvy retailers can take advantage of reverse logistics to extend the life cycle and renew the value of returned items. It is important to keep in mind though that this strategy tends to be more difficult for big and bulky items, such as a mattress. Regardless, through this, retailers are able to quickly manage returns for items that may go to waste instead of being resold due to their seasonality. As a result, retailers can also utilize reverse logistics to curtail profit losses related to returns.

To make the most out of reverse logistics, retailers should position their returns to be sent back to a location where items can be resold or refurbished, or work with a third-party delivery provider that can facilitate this. This allows companies to discard items that are no longer reusable and free up storage space for other new products. 

Reverse logistics is a cost-effective solution to minimize holiday product waste, extend the life cycle of items and provide a streamlined opportunity for cost-saving returns. By incorporating reverse logistics into the peak returns season, retailers can reap the benefits year-round.

Learn from the holidays

Strategically managing inventory, paying special attention to delivery timing performance and utilizing reverse logistics are critical during the final weeks of holiday shopping. They are also important for retaining customer loyalty and ensuring a more successful 2023. Retailers can evaluate what worked — and what didn’t — during the holidays to inform their plans for last mile delivery and third-party providers moving forward.

2023 may be a challenging year for retailers, given the pressures of a possible recession, inflation and interest rate hikes that may make it harder for consumers to buy big-ticket or luxury items. Retailers must be at the top of their game next year, and ensuring that deliveries are on time, undamaged and handled by professionals can help make the most of every delivery opportunity.