Cyber Monday looms on the horizon. Savvy retailers brace themselves to make the most of the anticipated surge in sales, at least based on the record-breaking trends of previous years.
But alongside this high level of demand, retailers are also grappling with higher customer expectations too, in terms of product quality, availability, and speed of delivery.
However, amid the increasing demand these past few years, there have been mounting challenges. These include supply chain issues, shortages of key parts and products, inclement weather affecting delivery times, unpredictable customer demand, and a lack of workers in the delivery and warehouse field.
As a result, retailers have created compliance mechanisms to try to ensure that vendors do their part to make the retail process as smooth as possible. To stay compliant, vendors are expected to meet standards related to product quality, labeling, packaging, and shipping. Non-compliance can lead to chargebacks, delayed payments, and strained relationships.
The cost of compliance
For smaller vendors, the stringent compliance requirements, coupled with the extensive payment terms characteristic of large retailers, can create a bit of a maelstrom. The demands of everyday operations, combined with a high-traffic event like Cyber Monday, can spiral into a chaotic and stressful situation. Novice vendors, unfamiliar with the stringent norms, may underestimate the challenges of compliance.
Vendors tend to speculate that the heightened demand during Cyber Monday might cause retailers to have more leniency in compliance norms. But this is wishful thinking. It’s precisely during these high-traffic events that retailers enforce the most stringent compliance measures.
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For example, large retailers may impose stricter penalties and shorter grace periods for late deliveries or non-compliance with product specifications during the Cyber Monday season. The surge in demand and the fast-paced environment mean that there is little room for error, and retailers are less forgiving of mistakes, as they aim to maintain high service levels and customer satisfaction.
Striking a balance
How can vendors juggle compliance demands and a sudden surge in orders, especially amid these new challenges like labor issues and unpredictable weather patterns? Here are some strategies for busy vendors struggling to keep up with demanding retailers:
Bring on the tech
There’s much to gain by incorporating technology and automation into warehousing and supply-chain workflows. There is unlikely to be a future in which vendors replace humans entirely, but using technology to minimise human intervention can reduce the risk of errors.
Vendors should explore compliance management software to monitor adherence to requirements in real time. These tools can assist in managing shipping and labeling compliance for each order, ensuring alignment with retailer specifications and mitigating the risk of chargebacks. Real-time alerts for discrepancies allow your staff to rectify problems immediately.
If you’re not sure which software will suit your business best, don’t be shy about consulting with your retail partners. They can provide valuable insights since they’ve likely collaborated with a multitude of other vendors. Remember, retailers aren’t deliberately trying to create hurdles, but rather to guarantee customer satisfaction, which in the long run helps everyone.
Create a contingency plan
Disruptions are going to happen, no matter how well you plan. Given this inevitability, vendors should devise comprehensive contingency plans to address potential problems. We will continue to see weather-related delays and shortages of raw materials this Cyber Monday. Contingency plans should enable you to get alternative suppliers and backup logistics providers to maintain a consistent supply chain
By establishing agreements with multiple component suppliers and backup logistics providers, you give yourself a better chance of ensuring uninterrupted production and adherence to delivery schedules during high-demand periods like Cyber Monday. Again, ask retail partners what typically causes vendors to fail to comply, and if they have any tips or recommendations on how to avoid these issues.
Rely on your retail partners
Maintaining open lines of communication with retail partners has been a theme for the other two strategies, but it’s important enough to highlight it as its own strategy. Transparent and regular communication with retail partners can demystify changes in requirements and resolve uncertainties more efficiently than making assumptions about their expectations.
For example, weekly meetings with retail partners leading up to Cyber Monday can ensure alignment between parties and facilitate the timely implementation of changes to accommodate increased demand.
Compliance can often seem daunting and cumbersome for vendors, especially during busy periods. It’s tempting to wonder whether it’s worth going to the effort to stick to these strict regulations.
However, these procedures are more than mere formalities. Compliance is a strategic tool that retailers use that can solidify relationships, raise customer satisfaction, and lay the foundation for enduring success in business.
About the authors: Carl Wasinger and Jessica Busby work at storage and warehouse solutions provider Smart Warehousing.