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Confronting the Supply Chain Challenges of the 2020 Holiday Season

This year has presented some of the transportation and logistics industry’s greatest challenges – and successes – in recent history. With highly volatile markets throughout the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing driver shortage, many carriers and shippers spent 2020 trying to stay afloat in an extremely unique operating environment.

The good news is that markets are expected to have held strong in the third quarter due to what some experts predicted was an “early holiday season,” and heading into the last part of the year, analysts are anticipating strong consumer demand around the holidays, as well as predicting an expanded post-holiday reverse logistics peak.

As we bid adieu to 2020, here are a few trends to keep in mind as we close out this challenging year and look ahead to what is in store for 2021.

 

Keeping consumers’ stockings stocked

November and December have historically been peak shopping season, but this year, consumer holiday spending is predicted to be down slightly from 2019, with restrictions on travel and group gatherings across the country keeping more people at home for the holidays. That doesn’t mean people aren’t planning to celebrate – they are simply more likely to order online for delivery to friends and family across the country, or choose in-store pickup options from brick-and-mortar retailers rather than spending time browsing the aisles.

Pairing increased online shopping with recovering global trade and container volumes, along with already-increased consumer demand for consumables such as paper products, food, medicine and other household items (deemed by some as “holiday hoarding”), the coming months are poised to be the year’s hottest season in recent history for shipping rates.

Additionally, the surge in consumer e-commerce shopping is leading experts to predict that the typical post-holiday returns season – particularly for large, bulky items like appliances and furniture – will be especially long and arduous for reverse logistics providers, extending well into the first quarter of 2021.

 

Preparing your business for supply chain challenges

With all these demands being placed on carriers and shippers in November and December, it will be critical for transportation and logistics operations to run as efficiently and effectively as possible, while delivering the highest possible level of service to both customers and consumers.

This holiday season – along with its unique challenges – underscores the importance of supply chain visibility and transparency. Cloud-based visibility platforms make it easy for customers and partners to quickly view the status of shipments in real time and provide updates for any exceptions.

For both big-box retailers and e-commerce businesses alike, seamless final mile operations will also be crucial this year, in order to ensure that consumers receive their highly anticipated parcels on time and safely.

 

 

Carriers looking for additional loads to fill empty miles or shippers looking for capacity can also turn to Trimble and Kuebix’s Community Load Match platform, which connects Kuebix’s community of more than 25,000 shippers with a carrier community from Trimble’s network of 1.3 million commercial trucks, digital freight matching services and brokers to meet truckload needs on one platform.

For carriers, Community Load Match enables fleets to designate preferred lanes, ensuring that they are only connected with shipping customers with requirements in lanes they are looking to fill. On the shipper side, Community Load Match provides shippers with the opportunity to leverage advanced matching capabilities to more readily find available carriers for truckload shipments, as well as easily request and receive rates from the carrier community, including their contracted carriers.

 

Tackling supply chain challenges with technology

With all the unpredictability we faced in 2020, the good news is that experts see a more stable outlook for 2021, with some carriers seeing elevated demand carrying through at least the first quarter of 2021 due to consumers prioritizing spending on improving their “stay at home lifestyles.”

Regardless of when things return to “normal”, 2020 has likely accelerated a demand for a more connected and collaborative supply chain, empowering all stakeholders with increasing transparency to improve resource utilization and provide freight coverage at the best possible value.

At Trimble, we are dedicated to creating opportunities for transportation companies to do business together more effectively in an increasingly virtual world. And, while we still have a few weeks left in 2020, it is never too soon to begin thinking about making your resolutions for the new year. 

Sign up to join the Community Load Match platform to begin taking part in a more connected supply chain. Set your business up for success by finding new customer or vendor opportunities, streamlining onboarding and settlement, and turning spot work into contract work in repeat lanes by working more closely with customers that fit your specific needs - both for the rest of 2020 and in the months and years ahead.