Incorporating lessons from COVID to stay competitive moving forward
With vaccines rolling out across the country, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter every day. For many retailers and other businesses, the hope for a return to “normal” promises more stable ground and a more efficient supply chain.
Still, a post-COVID world will be different from the one we left at the beginning of 2020. With lessons learned from the last year, companies will need to continue to adapt to thrive in a vaccinated 2021.
A Move to More Automation
As COVID disrupted supply chains globally, many warehouses were operating in a pre-COVID setup that caused delays in inventory management. Coupled with labor shortages and increased safety measures, the need for increased automation became clear. As All Things Supply Chain writer Cory Levins argues, an automated warehouse is a necessity moving forward.
Utilizing AI and machine learning to improve operations, warehouse managers can recover more space and keep workers safer through enhanced inventory management. By receiving orders, fulfilling them and packaging them through automated systems, you eliminate the need for human workers to waste valuable time assembling orders across large spaces and streamline operations for more productivity and efficiency.
Keep Up BOPIS
As in-store shopping dropped off during COVID, curbside pickup became the favorable way to shop “in person.” In 2020, 85% of shoppers in one study reported that they had significantly increased their curbside pickup compared to pre-pandemic consumption.
BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) became a vital component of 2020 shopping. While we expect shoppers to return to in-store shopping in some capacity once herd immunity takes effect, it would be wise to continue to improve omnichannel ‘click and collect’ efforts. Curbside pickup is convenient for shoppers – don’t make it a hassle for your company.
Data Matters More Than Ever
Clearly, automation and omnichannel efforts require powerful, clean data to power them. That requires not just an effort to incorporate machine learning and AI into operations but also an across-the-board ability to analyze information. For companies, the task of data analysis is no longer the siloed endeavor of one team or person but something that every employee should be able to execute.
Sharing that data with consumers can also be beneficial. With improved information sharing, customers can more easily track purchases throughout the supply chain, providing better peace of mind and transparency.
That extra connection with customers is critical because purchasing habits have changed – see BOPIS above – and are likely to continue shifting even after things return to “normal.”
Consumer Behavior is Forever Changed
As COVID shut down cities across the country, many Americans turned to the tried and true bicycle as a way to get out of the house. In Houston, a notoriously car-dependent city, cycling trips were up 138% in May ‘20 over May ‘19.
Research suggests that while the primary motivation for this uptick in cycling was exercise, Strava Metro, a division of the exercise-tracking app Strava, reported that app users also used bikes to commute, run errands, and other essential activities.
On the heels of this two-wheeled renaissance, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has signaled that the Biden administration plans to focus on revitalizing American infrastructure, prioritizing public transit, high-speed rail while moving away from car dependence.
For retailers, this could be a sea change in how customers reach your brick and mortar as well as purchasing habits. Prioritizing bike racks over parking and bike-friendly packaging (smaller, more flexible designs) could signal to consumers that your store is keeping up with the times.
It also means that shipping might need to tackle new logistical challenges, including smaller or closed-off last-mile delivery routes.
Victory Packaging Solutions
If you’re ready to integrate BOPIS, automation and supply chain solutions into your offerings, Victory Packaging is ready to help. To learn more about our solutions, contact us today.