Changing consumer buying behaviors are likely to strain supply chain operations this peak holiday season as more, and varied, purchasing moves online, according to a survey by voice software vendor Voxware, released today.
Consumers plan to shop earlier, send more packages directly to recipients, and buy more online—including last-minute stocking stuffers traditionally purchased in stores, the survey showed. The changes mean many distribution centers (DC) will have to rethink their strategies for dealing with inventory, picking, fulfillment, technology, automation, and other processes.
“Those who oversee distribution operations are going to have to think differently this year to meet consumer expectations,” Keith Phillips, president and CEO of Voxware, said in a statement announcing the results of the annual consumer survey. “Automation will be critical and companies that have not taken the initiative to optimize their distribution centers will struggle to deliver a flawless customer experience.”
Voxware’s survey of more than 500 consumers, conducted June 4-9, highlights the growing role of e-commerce in 2020 as buyers continue to avoid physical stores and purchase more products online. The research showed that DCs accustomed to sending one shipment per order will increasingly be expected to ship items within a single order to multiple addresses. They must also figure out the most efficient way to pick and pack small items at the apex of the holiday season. Covid-driven behaviors require rethinking how to optimize item selection, order sorting, label printing, packing order confirmation forms, and boxing—not to mention how to handle gift wrapping services, the researchers said.
Specific findings include:
51% of respondents said they expect to begin holiday shopping earlier than normal this year.
57% plan to have more gifts shipped directly to recipients than last year.
76% intend to purchase more than half of their gifts online.
62% plan to purchase more stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts online.
The changes come at a time when the online shopping experience and delivery expectations continue to rise as well.
“While the holiday season is always an important time of year for every retailer, this year the magnitude is more critical than ever. For many retailers, survival will rely on a successful 2020 holiday season due to the tremendous slowdown retailers faced during the pandemic,” Phillips also said. “In Voxware’s previous holiday survey, 31% of respondents said they would avoid shopping with a retailer ever again if any aspect of their holiday order was botched. No retailer can afford that type of mistake this year.”
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