With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting another wet spring and summer across the east coast of Australia, retailers must prepare to combat adverse weather conditions and the logistical issues it creates. It’s no surprise that the rain has made an impact on the speed of deliveries in major cities.

In fact, Shippit data reveals that deliveries take up to 9% longer to complete when rain intensifies. That means for approximately 80,000 courier drivers on the road in Australia, 7,200 drivers worth of work is created every time it storms. During the devastating floods earlier this year, delays across many of Australia’s busiest routes were blown out to in excess of 10 days. 

The potential for more of the same is a daunting one for retailers, whose customers today have high expectations for speed, convenience and certainty and low tolerance when those expectations aren’t met. However, while there’s no way to entirely protect against the impact of such volatile external factors, there are ways retailers can take action and build more certainty and contingency into their operations. 

So how can retailers best prepare for unpredictable and adverse weather conditions, especially as we head into an essential peak shopping season? 

Exceeding customers’ expectations for reliability

In the competitive world of ecommerce, consumers’ have high expectations. However, adverse weather, the boom in ecommerce and consumer demand for transparency and convenience can severely test these expectations, making it imperative for retailers to plan ahead. A recent report revealed that 46% of consumers ranked reliability as one of the top attributes they look for when choosing a brand or retailer. Reliability will be tested by poor weather, but is by no means impossible – especially for those who plan and invest in the right technology

Retailers must create a strategy and evaluate their current processes to be reliable and overcome unexpected events especially leading up to peak shopping periods like Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day. Retailers that plan ahead and focus on exceeding expectations are more likely to come out ahead. 

Invest in the right solutions 

Retailers need to invest in the right technologies to mitigate the impact of extreme weather conditions. By prioritising technologies grounded in automation and AI, retailers can automate many manual tasks, from picking and packing to shipping and tracking orders. Eliminating these manual tasks helps increase efficiency, reduce labour costs, and can often help to ensure a customer receives an order quicker and with greater transparency throughout the journey. 

It’s also important for retailers to use data to forecast and plan ahead. Demand is going to be high around Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday and the festive shopping rush; all of which can create issues for businesses that fail to prepare. Furthermore, those with route optimisation and diversified carriers are more resilient than those who rely solely on one, or a small number of, carriers. For example, Premonition – a Shippit company – enables retailers to optimise their delivery network and re-route and work more efficiently across a range of couriers with adequate capacity and diverse freight specialities. 

Be agile, build contingency 

After two-and-a-half years in which uncertainty has been a constant factor, retailers have been forced to embrace the unknown. Agility has been the key to survival. As a wetter-than-average spring and summer arrives, retailers – especially those with multiple physical locations – must consider their ability to operate across different logistics providers to ensure they’re prepared for any type of disruption. 

Retailers that rely on only one carrier will struggle if that carrier is affected by the weather. Those best-placed to overcome disruption will be retailers with an agnostic approach – one that relies on multiple carriers. By having a range of options, including same-day delivery, and carriers with different specialities – like regional delivery or heavy packages – businesses can tap multiple capabilities that help them minimise delay and risk, and meet and exceed consumer demand, whatever the weather. 

As extreme weather conditions become more common retailers and carriers must prepare. By taking steps to build agility and contingency into the supply chain, retailers can optimise their digital solutions to improve the customer experience. To combat our changing climate, retailers must be flexible and dynamic to weather the storm.

Rob Hango-Zada is co-CEO of Shippit