Shifts in holiday shopping patterns continue to influence supply chain and logistics operations

Rising Cyber Monday sales numbers continue to demonstrate the ongoing and emerging influence of e-commerce on consumer shopping habits and patterns and subsequently supply chain and logistics operations, too.

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In recent years, the ongoing shift to consumers shopping online has been gaining in traction. All one needs to do is take a look at the sales numbers for e-commerce activity to get a basic sense of the momentum behind it.

And based on data coming in for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, respectively, it appears that Cyber Monday has eclipsed Black Friday, when it comes to sales numbers and what consumers are doing for meeting their holiday shopping needs. It makes sense, too. Personally, I have never really enjoyed hitting the mall at the busiest time of the year to buy gifts, and it seems like many others are on board with that mindset, too.

While final numbers are not in just yet, here is a sampling of some of the key data available at the moment:
-$3 billion in Cyber Monday sales are expected this year for the first time ever, which would mark a 12 percent annual increase and a 50 percent increase from 2012, according to Adobe, and the same $3 billion sales figure was also reported by comScore, whose final Cyber Monday sales numbers will be issued later this week;
-Black Friday sales dropped from $11.6 billion in 2014 to $10.4 billion in 2015, according to data from ShopperTrak; and
-online sales between Thanksgiving and Sunday were up 17 percent to $8.03 billion, according to Adobe

While these are only a few data points (of which there are several), it continues to demonstrate the ongoing and emerging influence of e-commerce on consumer shopping habits and patterns and subsequently supply chain and logistics operations, too.

That should not be a surprise to anyone at this point. How can it be? Everywhere we look, we see signs, trends, and indications that what we continue to see on the e-commerce front is the new normal.

That continues to play out within supply chain and logistics operations, as 3PL’s, shippers, and carriers, among others continue to adapt with the times and change the playbook up on the fly in many cases.

Much of that includes basic blocking and tackling in the form of fulfillment, distribution, and changes in inventory management, coupled with more complicated approaches like setting up regional distribution centers to meet consumer demand in more populated areas, and mode selection and carrier preferences, which are commonly predicated on optimal ways for how shippers and providers are able to best meet consumer needs at the busiest time of the year, which is now.

In a recent e-mail exchange with a specialty retailer, I was told something that brings things back full circle in a way. While things are constantly changing in this new era of e-commerce and omni-channel supply chains a few tried and true things remain consistent: every peak demand situation requires planning and people first, with everything else seeming to fall in place behind those two things to ensure a successful holiday shopping season. In other words, he said, there is no “magic elixir” there.

Perhaps such an elixir is available online? Grin.

What is happening now in regards to the meshing of changing consumer shopping habits and different approaches to supply chain and logistics operations in some ways represents a combination of both new and old processes coming together to create, again, the new normal.

It stands to reason that e-commerce activity, especially at this time of year, will only continue to proliferate in the form in increased sales numbers and more changes in supply chain and logistics operations, too. Newsroom Notes will continue to keep a close eye on the changes that come about as consumers continue to shop from their homes rather than fight the crowds and related challenges that come with hitting the mall. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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