3 Ways to Prep for Holiday Supply Chain Shortages

Is your small business prepared to meet the demands of holiday shoppers this year? Best practices from years past may be irrelevant this season, as supply chain shortages continue to impact available stock, product prices and more. In fact, businesses could be dealing with the ripple effect of early pandemic shutdowns well into 2022.

With no definitive end in sight, your customers may have mixed expectations for their favorite go-to businesses, so it’s best to over-prepare—and that means more than just overstocking. 

Stay in communication with your customers

If a customer orders a product from your business, whether it’s in-store or online, they’re likely depending on its arrival by a set date. If for any reason the order is delayed or canceled, contact them right away and be upfront about the situation. 

Already know which products could be delayed? Put disclaimers in your store or during the checkout process online to let customers know ahead of time. Clear communication will help prevent unnecessary returns or cancelations. Plus, customers who are well informed about their order status are less likely to file a chargeback against your business.

As a reminder, chargebacks occur when a customer contacts their bank to file a dispute instead of contacting you directly for their money back. A high rate of chargebacks within a short period of time is not only costly to your business but it also raises red flags to your card processor.

Keep your documents organized

The holiday season includes some of the busiest shopping days of the year, especially for small businesses. An uptick in traffic means more orders to fill, more packages to track, and the list goes on and on (and on). From transaction receipts to tracking numbers, any information you can keep on hand will help ease stress and help you maintain customer communication. 

Scenario 1

A customer purchased an item in the store and took it home, but you received a chargeback stating the customer didn’t actually buy this item and shouldn’t be charged. In this case, you’ll need their receipt on record to verify the purchase information.  

Scenario 2

A customer ordered an item from your store online, and you shipped the product through a third-party service. However, the item hasn’t arrived on time and the customer wants to know the status of their order, in case they need to cancel it. In this scenario, you’ll need to provide the shipping information and tracking number. 

Scenario 3

A customer purchased an item but decided to return it after the holidays. Despite extending your holiday return window, the customer tries to return the item 10 days too late. In a situation like this, the customer may try to file a chargeback stating they didn’t know this information, so it’s best to keep store policies on file, up to date and clearly posted in-store or online. 

Have solutions ready

At the end of the day, you can only prepare for as much as you know. With the state of the supply chain ever-changing, some things will simply be out of your control. (And that’s ok!) Creating a variety of solutions for your customers will keep them happy, even if things go sideways. 

Need a few ideas? Consider…

  • Encouraging customers to buy gift cards that can be used after the holiday hustle and bustle

  • Giving discounts or coupons on future purchases if orders are delayed or canceled

  • Sending a thank-you email or posting on social media to let customers know you appreciate their loyalty and patience

  • Staying in frequent contact with suppliers and having personal updates available for customers who ask

  • Reevaluating your offerings or advertising less product than you have if you know resources could be stretched thin later in the month

No matter how you prepare for this holiday season, remember that your customers will appreciate any effort toward making their shopping experience easier, especially in a time of uncertainty.

Carlie Ortiz