Supply chain challenges have existed long before the pandemic, but they have increased in response to COVID. Labor shortages, production delays and shipping issues all contribute to problems with the supply chain, and many small business owners often feel frustrated by how little they have control over the whole system. Fortunately, you do have some ways that you can minimize the strain of supply chain delays on your retail business operations, and using these tips to plan will help your company come out ahead.
Follow Industry News
Paying attention to what is happening with the aspects of the supply chain that impact your business helps you to take immediate action before the effects start to trickle down. For example, you might need to track prices on essential supplies so that you can adjust your budget accordingly. Finding out about a shortage of critical materials early can also help you adjust your business plans as needed.
Use Data to Drive Inventory Decisions
Inventory management becomes harder during supply chain delays. While it might seem smart to stock up on inventory while it is available or to take advantage of promotions, it can leave you with more stock than you have room to store. Alternatively, not having enough stock can lead to dissatisfied customers and a loss of sales. Using modern POS systems to collect data is an effective way to make smarter inventory plans.
Find Alternate Suppliers
Sure, you might have developed a strong relationship with a supplier over the years. But, staying overly loyal could cause you to miss out on options for overcoming humps in the supply chain. Some business owners find it helpful to cut out the middleman and go straight to the source for certain supplies. Finding multiple sources for stock and materials helps you to have somewhere to turn when your first choice experiences shortages or delays.
Plan to Revamp Product Displays
Despite your best efforts, there might be times when your prime-selling products are out of stock. Unfortunately, empty shelves can cause customers to turn away. Brick-and-mortar stores may need to ask their staff to come up with a plan to fill in empty shelves using creative displays that highlight the products that are available. If your sales take place primarily online, then revising the website can help to bring up items that are in stock first, so that customers are more likely to add them to their cart.
Create a Strong Customer Service Plan
Establishing realistic expectations is the best way to avoid disappointing your customers. If you know that it might take several months for an item to arrive, then make it known. Offering customers the option of receiving a notification when items are back in stock can also help them feel more reassured about waiting to make a purchase from your business. Keeping communication open shows that you care about their satisfaction, and many people will simply wait out a delay when they know that your business is actively working on the issue.
A strong plan for managing issues with the supply chain is critical for maintaining your company’s ability to meet customer needs. Once you have the plan in place, remember to revisit it periodically. Adjusting to new changes as they come helps your company to stay one step ahead in a competitive market.