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Monthly Archives December 2020

2021 Supply Chain Trends

2021 supply chain trends

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated that in order to succeed, businesses must build supply chain resilience, improve their agility and keep innovation at the forefront to meet customer expectations in times of disruption. As noted by eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman, “certain ecommerce behaviors…permanently catapulted three or four years into the future in just three or four months.” So what can we expect in 2021? Here are the top supply chain trends expected to emerge or accelerate in the coming year.


Greater investment in supply chain resilience

According to a survey of supply chain professionals by Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), investing in risk management and resilience will be a top company priority and the biggest supply chain management trend of 2021. Following the demand and supply shocks caused by the pandemic, companies with strong supply chain resilience were better equipped to balance their supply and demand needs than those with less resilient supply chains, who are now playing catch up.

As businesses work to fortify their supply chains, diversification of suppliers, manufacturing and transportation options is likely to continue. Between the tariffs, factory lockdowns and logistics disruptions in China, companies have learned that supply chains are fragile when they rely too heavily on a single company or geographical location. In 2021, they’ll be focused on building contingency plans and understanding their entire supply chain structures to identify and mitigate or eliminate these kinds of vulnerabilities.


Alternative fulfillment options and contactless transactions

Brick-and-mortar retailers without an online presence scrambled to create one this year when in-store shopping came to a halt. Omnichannel retailers—those with both physical and online stores—were able to keep their businesses going by offering convenient fulfillment options like curbside pickup and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS). The trend toward contactless transactions was accelerated during COVID-19 and is expected to continue in 2021. In fact, according to a CommerceHub survey, 67% of respondents said they will continue to use curbside pickup when the pandemic is over. Retailers will need to pay attention to how consumer behavior changes as the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed and have the flexibility to adapt accordingly.


More convenient returns

Consumers don’t just expect a convenient shopping experience—they also expect a convenient returns process. To make product returns as easy as possible, retailers are adding more in-person drop-off options—no box or shipping label necessary—which are expected to become more common. Physical stores are planning to make returns more convenient by accepting returns from other online retailers at their locations, giving existing and new customers a reason to come into their stores. According to RetailWire, the “ecommerce winners” will be the retailers who make both buying and returning easy.


The rise of micro-fulfillment centers

As ecommerce volumes soar, retailers will continue seeking ways to get items to customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. One solution expected to trend in 2021 is the micro-fulfillment center, a smaller facility closer to consumers that has the automation of a larger warehouse. This model, said to be the future of online grocery shopping, works best for items with high-turnover and that run out relatively quickly, or where the trend can easily change.

Although micro-fulfillment centers offer close access to customers, execution can be a challenge without a logistics partner and the technology to track and manage decentralized inventory. An alternative for retailers that we’re likely to see more of in 2021 is the conversion of stores into mini-distribution centers.


Greater focus on the final mile

After the explosion of ecommerce this year, companies’ last-mile delivery strategies will be a critical focus in 2021. In order to stay competitive amid surging online purchases and returns, companies will need last-mile control and end-to-end visibility to manage the flow of products to/from customers, deliver to customers on time and facilitate returns with ease.


Sustainability strategies

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 65% of consumers say they want to buy products from purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability. With the pandemic-driven increase in online purchases, consumers will be thinking about how sustainable their shopping habits are, forcing retailers to offer more sustainable delivery choices. Here are three sustainability trends to watch for in 2021:

  • More eco-friendly warehouses. The shift toward eco-friendly warehouses is expected to continue in 2021. These facilities are equipped with LED lighting for reduced emissions, efficient HVAC systems for lower energy consumption and energy management systems that monitor the usage of electricity, heat, water and gas
  • Shift from linear to circular supply chain systems. Circular supply chains encourage continuous reuse of materials to minimize waste, as opposed to the traditional linear supply chain that follows the path of “produce, use, discard.” According to a 2020 Gartner survey, more than half (51%) of supply chain professionals said they expect the focus on circular strategies to increase over the next two years. (Example: Transitioning from single-use pallets to reusable block or plastic pallets that have a longer useful lifespan and can be recycled into new pallets.)
  • Greater focus on post-purchase recycling processes. Retailers will likely put a greater emphasis on recycling and how to engage customers in the recycling process. Some apparel companies, for example, provide discounts to those who drop off used clothing to be recycled. Recycling processes will become a customer expectation and have an impact on new sales for retailers.


Warehouse robotics and AI

The supply chain disruptions brought by COVID-19 have created a renewed sense of urgency behind warehouse robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Per Gartner, AI is divided into two categories for supply chain application: augmentation and machine learning automation. Automation is replacing human decision making and action using a combination of hardware and software, whereas augmentation is the use of technology to support and improve human behavior, both in decision making and task execution.

As warehouse labor gets tougher to find and the pandemic continues, warehouses are shifting to technology and automation to do more of the work. For example, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs), including floor cleaners, forklifts and pallet movers, are expected to be more widely accepted for driving efficiencies in warehouse management and operations. Statista reports that the global warehouse automation market is estimated to surpass $30 billion by 2026 from $15 billion in 2019.


Surging parcel volumes and carrier price hikes

Parcel volumes are expected to remain historically high in 2021. Traditional in-store shoppers who turned to online shopping during the pandemic may not return to the stores, or return to stores less frequently than before the pandemic. Shippers should be aware that due to these volumes, FedEx and UPS rates are increasing an average of 4.9 percent. Depending on the service you use and your package characteristics, you could see increases above or below the average. FedEx recently announced it would continue with the new trend of “off-season” surcharges in 2021, and they changed the description of its surcharges from “temporary” to “peak,” indicating that these fees may be around a while.


Contact Visible Today

Visible Supply Chain Management has thousands of satisfied customers and clients that rely on our company for their various shipping and logistics needs. Contact us today to start the conversation about how we can help your company navigate the new year and prosper in 2021.



Cyber 5 Recap: Shopping Starts Early, Cyber Monday Breaks Records

cyber 5 featured

This year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend didn’t bring major surprises, but it did break with tradition and set new records. We’ve put together a recap of the biggest sales weekend in ecommerce and what’s on the horizon as we head into 2021.


The holiday weekend saw record sales, but less growth than anticipated due to early shopping

Cyber 5, the five-day shopping period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, was a huge weekend for ecommerce. According to data from Adobe Analytics, consumers spent a record $34.36 billion on retail websites, up from $28.49 billion for the same period last year, and online sales rose 20.6% year over year. While this percentage is up from 17.7% last year, it is lower than projected estimates, as shoppers took advantage of retailers’ pre-Thanksgiving discounts and shopped earlier to avoid out-of-stock items and shipping delays. More than half of all shoppers (52%) said they took advantage of early seasonal sales, according to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The overall number of consumers who shopped in stores and online during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend came in at 186.4 million, a slight drop from last year, according to the NRF survey.

Cyber 5 eCommerce Sales by Day


SOURCE: Adobe Analytics, December 2020

  • Thanksgiving hit a new record for online sales, with 21.5% year-over-year growth to $5.1 billion.
  • The number of online shoppers on Black Friday exceeded 100 million for the first time—up 8% over last year—and online spending reached a record $9 billion.
  • Small Business Saturday logged 68.2 million online shoppers, up 17% from 2019 with a gain of nearly 10 million consumers.
  • Americans spent a record $10.8 billion online on Cyber Monday, making it the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, according to Adobe Analytics.


In-store traffic drops (unsurprisingly)

As expected, in-store shopping was down due largely to the pandemic and store closures on Thanksgiving. In fact, traffic to stores on Thanksgiving fell 55% from last year, and traffic on Black Friday dropped 37%. “Shipageddon” is expected to push last-minute shoppers who missed holiday shipping deadlines to the store, especially the week before Christmas.


Support for small business increases

77% of holiday shoppers said they were more interested in supporting small, local businesses struggling during the pandemic this year, according to the NRF survey. On Small Business Saturday, the number of online shoppers was up 17% compared with last year. Small businesses saw a 501% increase in online sales on Cyber Monday.


Retailers manage consumer expectations

As carriers continue to contend with capacity challenges, retailers have worked to manage consumer expectations around product availability and shipping delays for the holidays, displaying disclaimers on their websites and urging shoppers to buy early.

This messaging around shipping delays appears to have been effective, as shoppers said they will shop earlier this year knowing delivery times may be longer. Retailers also helped incentivize early shopping by offering pre-Thanksgiving discounts—some of which even kicked off in October.


Shoppers take advantage of alternative fulfillment options

Curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options have become increasingly popular this year due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition to providing convenience, these offerings increase retailers’ capacity to fulfill online orders and help shoppers avoid delivery delays. On Black Friday, in-store and curbside pickup increased 52% over last year, according to Adobe. Curbside pickup sales grew 30% year over year on Cyber Monday. Salesforce reports that retailers who offered these options during the first days of Cyber Week increased digital sales at a 26% higher rate than retailers that did not.


Looking ahead

  • Although carriers have hired thousands of seasonal workers, it is predicted that up to seven million packages per day could be delayed between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even more delays are likely to occur if the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for distribution during this time.
  • As we head into the new year, shippers preparing their budgets should take into account the general rate increases (GRIs) and increased handling surcharges that will soon take effect.
  • CBRE predicts that as much as $70.5 billion worth of holiday purchases this year are expected to be returned, putting additional stress on supply chains and creating heightened demand for warehouse space.
  • All signs point to a bright future for ecommerce, which means volumes will continue to surge and volume-capping by carriers is likely to continue. To deliver a positive customer experience in 2021, shippers should begin strategizing and building solutions with their supply chain partners as soon as possible.


Contact Visible Today

Visible Supply Chain Management has thousands of satisfied customers and clients that rely on our company for their various shipping and logistics needs.  We’re here to help you today.  Contact us at 877.728.5328 to start the conversation about how we can help your company.



Case Study: Visible, USPS Deliver Thousands of COVID-19 Tests Amid “Shipageddon”


After Carrier Caps Shipper’s Volume, Visible and USPS are Prepared to Deliver in 48 Hours

Visible has more than willingness to make the impossible possible for our customers. We have the expertise, partnerships, technology and agility to do it effectively.


In this video, Visible President Casey Adams shares how our team averted a “Shipageddon” crisis and helped a logistics provider deliver thousands of COVID-19 test kits after having their volume capped by another carrier a week before Black Friday. Click here to read the Utah Business press release.



Ecommerce package volumes have surged since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, straining carrier capacity. Because of the significant increase in demand, some of the major national carriers have put caps on customer volumes. In fact, just this week, Nike, Gap, and many other large retailers have had their volume capped with little or no notice (additional information is available here).

In this case, a large logistics provider was informed by their carrier just one week before Black Friday that their volume would be capped at 17,000 COVID-19 test kits per day. With 35,000 daily test kits to ship, this left the company with 18,000 remaining test kits to deliver. The shipper needed a solution quickly and at the worst possible time: “Shipageddon,” a term being used to describe the overwhelming demand for carrier capacity and the resulting delays this holiday season.



The logistics provider contacted its technology partner, SHIPSTORE, a multi-carrier shipping software, and the SHIPSTORE team asked Visible for a solution. Visible contacted its partners at USPS and confirmed that they had the capacity to take on this business as well as the resources to ramp up and deliver the tests quickly. Because of Visibles long partnership with USPS and status as an authorized USPS reseller, Visible was also able to secure favorable Priority Mail rates.

Within 48 hours of engaging Visible, the customers account was set up, including implementation, integration, credit checks and credit application. During this timeframe, SHIPSTORE was also set up to write to Visibles public API in order to access labels and allow Visible to provide payment terms to the shipper, which was vital to their ability to continue shipping.

In addition to ensuring the 18,000 COVID-19 test kits were delivered on time, Visible provided support as a consultative resource, helping its customer build a multi-carrier strategy that would mitigate the risk of similar challenges in the future.



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Contact Visible Today

Visible Supply Chain Management has thousands of satisfied customers and clients that rely on our company for their various shipping and logistics needs.  We’re here to help you today.  Contact us at 877.728.5328 to start the conversation about how we can help your company.



2020 Holiday Shipping Deadlines

holiday shipping deadlines 2020

Season’s Greetings

Preparation is key for a successful holiday season—especially this year. Our team has compiled this year’s holiday shipping deadlines to help you stay organized and get your gifts delivered on time. Please review the PDF below to learn more.



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Additional Information

DHL’s cut-off date for most commonly shipped countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Tahiti) is December 18, 2020. Please reach out if you need information regarding additional countries. Transit time is based on fastest time into each particular country. Transit times could vary based on the Destination Area.


View the holiday operating hours at:


Landmark Global
Landmark service cut-off dates for most commonly shipped countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Tahiti) is December 2, 2020 –December 12, 2020. Additional destination country cut-off times are available. Please reach out for additional information.


UPS Holiday operating hours:


UPS Mail Innovations
Packages that are for national distribution (outside the UPS-MI originating facility service area), and destined to one of the 48 contiguous United States, UPS-MI recommends a cut-off date of Tuesday, December 8, 2020. This will afford the highest possibility to ensure delivery is completed by December 25.


Holiday operating hours:


Check out these links for tips on getting your gifts delivered in time for the holiday:


If you have any questions about the seasonal schedule, please feel free to contact us. We wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.