Helping Retailers Navigate the Unique Challenges of the Current Market
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the retail market. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders drove customers to online shopping. Many retailers and forecasting experts believed that in-person shopping would bounce back, but recent data shows that customers continue to prefer the online shopping experience. In fact, in November 2022, the percentage of core retail sales that were non-store based rose to 29.8%. Yet the demand for goods continues to rise.
Retailers face some unique transportation-related challenges in the post-pandemic world. While many of these issues arose during COVID-19, they are likely to linger for some time. Difficulties you are likely to encounter include:
Port congestion and supply chain delays
Who can forget the images we all saw during the early days of the pandemic of trucks lined up at hopelessly congested ports? Most people believed that the ports would clear within a few weeks or months. And there is no doubt that things are getting better, with daily port reports showing vast improvements. But as recently as September 2022, only 45.5% of container ships reached their destinations on time. It will likely take a bit longer for the lingering effects up and down the chain to finish clearing. Combined with issues arising from the ongoing war in Ukraine, these challenges could set the stage for further disruptions in the coming months.
Delivery time speed and accuracy
Your customers may be aware of lingering supply chain issues, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to overlook long delivery times or inaccurate delivery date estimates. In fact, 69.7% of shoppers report that if a package is delayed without their being properly informed, they are less likely to do business with that retailer ever again. And a stunning 32% of shoppers worldwide, rising to 35% in North America, have abandoned an online shopping cart due to a long shipping time. Cutting down delivery times is key to retaining customers. It’s also essential to provide every customer with a realistic delivery date and to let them know about any possible delays as quickly as possible.
General logistics concerns
If yours is a traditional retail model, in-person transactions likely formed the bulk of your sales before the pandemic. Some of the biggest players, such as Walmart, have taken over many of their own logistics. But smaller retailers typically don’t have the money or manpower to run their own truck fleets and warehouses. This means that you are competing for limited resources with all the other retailers that are in the same boat. Anything else that arises, such as winter storms, can have a cascading effect on your ability to receive inventory, as well as to deliver it to your customers promptly.
Difficulty predicting customer demand
If customer demand was stable, it would be easier to work around many of these issues. You would be able to determine how much inventory to keep on hand, and plan the logistics of how to get your goods into buyers’ hands. But customer demand has been anything but predictable since the pandemic. Competing market factors, from inflation to pent-up demand for specific items, have made it quite challenging to create accurate forecasts.
How ShipperGuide can help
At Loadsmart, we understand how all of these challenges can make it difficult for retailers to maintain the proper inventory levels and get their products out to customers in a timely way. That’s why we’re proud to share ShipperGuide, our freight management platform for shippers. A full-service solution designed to meet your needs through all three phases of your logistics cycle: planning, procurement, and execution.
ShipperGuide gives you access to historical data to help you spot patterns and seasonal cycles. You’ll be able to better understand both customer demand and possible supply chain issues when you see them as part of a larger data set. This helps you decide how much inventory to keep on hand, when to increase your inventory levels, and how to set more accurate delivery estimates for your customers.
Procuring goods can be a real sticking point for many retailers. You may have specific vendors that you like, but you might run into supply chain difficulties when trying to actually get those goods into your store. ShipperGuide helps you streamline your procurements by giving you access to high-quality shippers, fair contract pricing, and industry benchmarks, all within our platform.
Getting your goods to your customers quickly, and keeping them updated when delays occur, is the lifeblood of any retail operation. When it’s time to execute, you need a shipping partner you can trust. In ShipperGuide, you have two options. You can bring your existing carrier network into the platform, allowing you to track their bid history, compliance, and other important details over time. Or you can rely on our internal network of fully vetted and trustworthy carriers.
Through all stages of your logistics cycle, our focus is on providing you with as much insight as possible to help you make the best decisions for your retail business. Historical insights, spot and contract rates, and real-time benchmarking help to improve both your forecasting and your in-the-moment responses to market challenges. In addition, ShipperGuide provides a streamlined platform for you to keep up with the various aspects of your logistic in a single spot. You can even provide real-time updates to your team members and customers from within the platform.
And you won’t be on your own. The Loadsmart team is here for you. We offer a detailed orientation to the platform, along with ongoing support throughout your day-to-day operations. The platform was built for shippers, by shippers, so we understand your challenges and work hard to help you overcome them.
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