Sometimes the unthinkable happens, and this week we saw a container ship the size of a skyscraper turn sideways and block all traffic in Egypt’s Suez Canal, demonstrating a clear need for transportation backup plans. For more than 24 hours, the MV Ever Given blocked the Canal — which sees about 10% of global trade move through it each year and is a vital oil corridor.
While the cause is currently being discussed — from potential power outages during transit to large dust storms in the area — blocking traffic in both directions has already caused significant concern in global markets. The Suez Canal is the shortest maritime trade route from Europe to Asia and has thousands of ships move through it each year.
Vessels looking to avoid the traffic jam and deliver their goods on time face a significant problem: most don’t have a good second option. They can sail around South Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, but this journey takes 10 more days. Customers like oil refiners can source alternative products and get replacements in time, but it’ll cost them. Carriers and ships that offer guarantees for delivery speeds will need to make their customers whole. Even if the Ever Given is refloated and moved to the canal bank soon, problems can quickly compound.
The traffic jam caused by the Ever Given is apparent in this tracking data from VesselFinder.
The lesson for everyone, including purely domestic eCommerce companies, is there’s security in having a second option in place. Always have a backup plan.
What backups do eCommerce companies need?
Every business needs a continuity plan to ensure operations keep running as smoothly as possible when there is a disruption. Hopefully, you won’t ever have your own Ever Given moment, but planning never hurts. It’s why we at Red Stag Fulfillment promote eCommerce business continuity plans and why we work hard to be a reliable part of that plan for our customers.
There are moments like today where a major shipping lane disruption compounds the issues of an ongoing pandemic. Business continuity helps you plan for similar events and gives you a framework to use when the unexpected becomes your reality.
You’ll want it in place before the tugboats need to be launched. Here are some of the critical functions and plans your eCommerce business should consider:
- Sales channels: Most eCommerce businesses are best served by having multiple sales channels and tools. This enables you to keep generating orders even if a platform or channel is down. Thankfully, downtime is less of an issue with today’s digital tools, but there are still threats like hacking and cyberattacks that can take your website down quickly.
- Inventory: You’ve got to be able to take and fill orders if you want to keep generating revenue. So, your warehouses and partners need emergency stock if there’s a disruption to your resupply efforts. At the same time, you need to protect this inventory. Ensure your facilities or partners can handle the extra products and keep them in a proper location free of pests, inclement weather, thieves, and exposure.
- Order fulfillment: You only keep your revenue when a customer keeps their order. On-time, accurate fulfillment is a top way to reduce returns and refunds. That means threats to fulfillment speed and accuracy are threats to your business. Protect yourself by regularly auditing your fulfillment partners and ensuring they have multiple ways to get orders to customers. Look for services with multiple warehouses and large teams that can scale as demand increases. Also, consider providers or locations with access to multiple modes of transportation, enabling an interstate to replace air shipping when a disruption occurs.
- Suppliers: Protect operations by ensuring you can keep restocking even if your manufacturer or supply chain has an issue. Having backup suppliers helps you avoid stockouts due to a manufacturer having to shut down a plant or suspend operations. You may also find it helpful to avoid regional disruptions, such as a manufacturer being able to make your product but not ship it to you because air travel in their country halts or a container ship plugs up a canal.
- Customer support: When you experience the other disruptions on this list, it’ll impact your customers. That ripple can become a significant problem if your customer service and support channels are impacted. It’s common when your website goes down. ECommerce companies should provide multiple support channels to help customers and create some separation to ensure that at least one is available. This is also why it’s a good reason to include multiple contact methods, like email and phone numbers, in the order confirmation emails you send out to customers.
What is Red Stag Fulfillment’s backup plan?
Your eCommerce company can remove the risk and worry around business continuity whether you’re down the road or a world away by partnering with Red Stag Fulfillment. We designed our operations to provide multiple backups and business continuity plans to support you no matter what. You’re covered across sales channels, support lines, inventory, fulfillment, and more.
Here are just a few of the ways we help keep your operations secure and moving forward:
- Multiple fulfillment locations to keep inventory secure and close to all your customers
- Quick access to multiple carrier partners and fulfillment options
- Multiple checks on order pick and pack to ensure accuracy
- Warehouse backup generators for facility power
- Automated updates of inventory levels and support for restocking levels, demand forecasts, and SKU-level analytics
- State-of-the-art, 24-hour security system to monitor our facility and inventory
- Website and service hosting from a provider with a 100% uptime track record
- Secure server room with multiple backup power sources and independent climate controls
- Off-site data servers with access via multiple backup service providers
- Multiple, separate Internet connections to optimize uptime
- Permission-based logins for business account information
The Red Stag system is engineered to address both common and not-so-common logistics interruptions. By planning for the unforeseen, we’ll help you keep meeting customer demands even if a second Ever Given turns sideways in the Canal next week. Get your orders out on-time and correct, the first time, guaranteed.