Uncertainty and faster shipping are two parallels in 2020. E-commerce is booming. And it comes as no surprise that Amazon is yet again changing the game in the middle of significant disruption. According to Mark Solomon of FreightWaves, "Amazon's move [of Prime Day to early October] effectively kicks off the 2020 peak season 30-45 days earlier than normal […] What's more, Amazon's ability to condition consumers to its changes, and the need for competitors to keep up with its trail, means an earlier peak will not just be a one-year event." The new 75-day peak season is here to stay. And supply chain leaders need to know what that means for peak season shipping strategy and how business intelligence, including analytics, can have a meaningful impact.
The extended, 75-day peak season results from the need to push Prime Day back following COVID-19 closures. However, that created a natural advantage for Amazon—promoting holiday sales in tandem with Prime Day. And since peak season is both a peak of outbound and inbound (returns), any strategy must rely on data to make the most of resources. That's always been true. But it's an even more significant part of the picture this year. By combining the need to source more capacity with analytics, companies can expand carrier networks, tap assets in overlooked markets, and move freight more efficiently.
Data-driven carrier selection is also critical to ensure the timely delivery of packages. Remember that e-commerce means one thing—more small packages. Of course, the bigger, bulkier items are now in demand too. With the pressure on value-added, white-glove services to handle those unique, oversized shipments, not to mention the logistics chaos of the final mile, data-driven carrier selection must focus on getting the most value. And it must focus on that without compromising on service.
For instance, FedEx and UPS have expressed concern over the likely inability to deliver due to the market's vast uncertainty. The carriers are operating above capacity, and peak season shipping rates are barely beginning. According to NBC News, the capacity "shortage could mean up to 7 million packages a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas could face delays." As a result, customers will be upset. And they may move on over to Amazon. However, that will not change the problem. And it will be up to each company to look for the best way to streamline management, hold all carriers' feet to the fire—as it were—and increase service.
Continuous application of data is the cornerstone of constant improvement in the 75-day peak season strategy for success. By creating KPIs to track carrier performance, supplier compliance with the inbound freight routing guide, tendering processes, and other best practices, companies can achieve success. However, that all depends on the ability to share and apply data in real-time. Since peak season shipping volatility remains and is exacerbated by the pandemic, any delay will be consequential and result in missed deliveries. Of course, applied analytics further offers a way to enable automated exception management. Companies can indeed manage by exception, which is essential to meeting the mounting demands of the 75-day peak season. That holds additional implications for sourcing more capacity and finding different efficiencies throughout all operations.
The 75-day shopping window does have a serious advantage, as well. Instead of compiling peak season into five weeks, shoppers have roughly one and a half months more. That may alleviate some of the concerns for the upcoming peak. Regardless, planning and timing are of the essence. And that includes comprehensive planning for LTL, truckload, forwarders and brokers, ocean, and even multimodal moves. Intelligent Audit has those capabilities by drilling into the end-to-end data stream and guaranteeing that companies improve and realize both hard and soft savings. Visit Intelligent Audit online to get started.
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