Supply chain secrets: 5 tips to master Black Friday disruption

5 Minutes Read

Arguably the biggest (pre-planned) disruptive event in the retail calendar, Black Friday is only a few months away. Each year, those brands who have invested in creating resilient supply chains come out as the winners, whereas those that are still operating reactively are forced to pivot quickly when things inevitably go wrong. 

This week we hosted our latest webinar ‘Supply Chain secrets: Mastering Black Friday disruption’. Myself, CEO Philip Ashton and Solutions Engineer Cory Haley delved into what the challenges retailers face when Black Friday planning and how they can overcome them. There was so much useful information in that webinar, but I identified 5 key takeaways that can help you master any supply chain disruption that comes your way this Black Friday.

Learn more: Register to watch the webinar on-demand here


Reflecting on recent Black Fridays… 

The last two Black Fridays are remembered by many in the industry as decidedly chaotic, leaving brands this year not knowing what to expect. Whilst planning is usually kicked off in January and February and most brands will have their stock in the right locations, many are now faced with the impossible leg of the journey to predict: the last mile. Will we be faced with strikes again? Will stock get stuck in transit to local warehouses? 


#1 - Last mile delivery and carrier service levels 

This takes us to our first key takeaway: the biggest challenge this year is going to be getting that last mile right; having the right set of providers in place (ideally adopting a multi-carrier model) to deliver the goods you are selling. 

This comes down to understanding your business goals and being able to plan to deliver on them. Those with redundancy plans will fare far better than those relying on a single carrier who historically have performed well for them. We saw the repercussions of this in 2022 when strikes happened and many retailers were not able to change service providers quickly enough to deliver goods on time to their customers. 

This means it is critical that retailers create an infrastructure where their supply chain managers can make decisions in the moment. This is vital to the success of the world’s biggest sale season. You can read more about what it looks like to implement this here


#2 - Visibility is key… all year round

We also spoke about a high-growth retailer who suffered a pretty major revenue reporting blackhole last Black Friday. Like many retailers, they aren’t able to recognise revenue until the goods reach the customer, and during 2022’s sale weekend they saw delivery windows extend to four weeks due to bottlenecks in carrier operations, with some taking upwards of 10 weeks to arrive.  

This ultimately meant that for a huge portion of their Golden Quarter deliveries, the revenue was not able to be accounted for until the following fiscal year. When they kicked off 2023 planning, it was clear that this could not happen again. 

This issue exposed the need for total visibility across their distributed network. They were missing the tools to understand how their carrier choices play out in real world scenarios and the ability to monitor shipments in flight (at scale) and then react to deviations to on-time-in-full (OTIF) delivery windows. 

With 7bridges, they can not only map their network in detail, but also give them the ability to monitor and track OTIF in real time and make changes in an instant when required.  


#3 - Get ahead of WISMO (where is my order?) calls with proactive supply chain management 

WISMO (where is my order) calls always increase around major sale events. But with each costing a business around £5, they can quickly become a cost problem. It’s a well-known fact that happy customers don’t call you. They only call you when things go wrong. And this is going to have a negative effect on customer experience.  

So how can retailers overcome this? By looking at the underlying causes of WISMO we often find that they are caused by bigger issues across the supply chain. It comes down to data and analytics to address these. Ask yourself, do you have enough information to understand whether you have designed your supply chain in a way that is going to perform how you want it to - from both a delivery timeframe and also a cost perspective? Once you have that information, you can forecast what you can do as a business to get to where you need to be to deliver the level of customer service you need to. 

Focusing on WISMO and customer communication, there are tools that can support you easily. You can set up API feeds from carriers and integrate them into your customer service platform. That way, your customer can see the status of an order in real time and know when it will arrive. You can also go one step further and use this data to create automatic decision making models. By proactively letting customers know what is going on with their order, the amount of WISMO calls drops dramatically. Again it comes down to visibility. 


#4 - Customer retention strategy 🤝 Supply chain strategy 

We conducted consumer research earlier this year, looking into the effects of supply chain disruption on customer loyalty and overall brand sentiments and the results whilst not surprising, did shed light on the issues faced by retailers today. 

We found that 39% of consumers would be less likely to shop with a brand that regularly uses supply chain disruptions as an excuse for shortages/delays. So we’re seeing consumers that are less forgiving than ever before. Plus, it’s a well known stat that upwards of 80% of consumers say that poor delivery experiences would stop them from shopping with a brand again. 

So, a resilient supply chain strategy that is aligned to your customer retention strategy is vital. Supply chain teams need to be talking to marketing and e-commerce teams. Whether it be adapting delivery promise windows at checkout to pre-empt potential delays, or proactive email communication when something gets stuck, setting up these open lines of communication will mean your customer is in the know and having a good experience, even when things go wrong. 


#5 - 2023 is bringing a new set of challenges 

2023 is a very different climate to 2022. There are some big macroeconomic factors which will really complicate things as we go into this year’s Golden Quarter. The cost of living crisis is causing consumers to empty their savings at the moment and this will ultimately affect demand as spare cash becomes limited. They are going to be more considered in their purchasing, so again customer retention and loyalty is even more important than ever before so you aren’t losing revenue to your competitors. 

As well as this, we’re likely to see heat related disruption in European supply chains that we haven’t seen before. For items such as groceries or cosmetics, the energy (and cost) required to keep goods cool will significantly increase, whether in transit or in warehouses, as well as the need for goods to arrive within certain time windows. In extreme cases, factories will close if HVAC units fail due to extreme heat. Ask yourself, is your supply chain set up to react quickly if these disruptions happen? 

In addition, in the UK we have seen a shift to more industrial action across all industries. As more customers return to shopping in store, action such as tube strikes can hugely disrupt London shopping if they occur over a key sales period. Carrier strikes are another example here. In 2022, we saw the Royal Mail strike in November cause huge issues for other carriers as they struggled to keep up with demand or parcels were stuck in Royal Mail sorting offices.


So what now? What can retailers do before 2023’s Black Friday? 

Brands still have time to implement a resilient supply chain strategy ahead of Black Friday this year. Start by figuring out what kind of data exists inside your network today, then start making decisions based on it. Look at last year’s data and see what you can learn from it. What changes need to be made to mitigate the same mistakes happening again? 

In order to do this, you need to be able to pull all this data into one place and also compare it to how your peers and competitors performed. This will give you a baseline of where you are at the moment and then allow you to ask meaningful questions that will allow you to start scenario planning. 


How 7bridges can support you

Our baseline & benchmarking layer allows you to do just this. We’ll ingest your data and allow you to draw insights so you are able to create a baseline understanding of where your supply chain is right now. After that, you can use your baseline data and our global logistics data to benchmark your performance against the wider industry. 

When you’re ready to take it to the next level and start scenario planning, you can use the 7bridges simulations layer to look at what might happen, how that will impact your supply chain and exactly what you can do to mitigate the impact or even avoid it altogether.

While disruptive events may be inevitable, your supply chain getting disrupted doesn’t have to be. With a data-driven approach and the right strategy, you can absolutely master disruption this Black Friday and keep your supply chain running smooth.

Want to see what 7bridges can do to help your supply chain navigate Black Friday disruption? Get in touch and talk to one of our experts.

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