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On-Demand Labor Guide for the Retail Supply Chain

By Steven Calhoun on Jun 25, 2021 10:58:53 AM

Topics: Industry Guides
On-demand labor is a fast and flexible way for retail businesses to address seasonal demand fluctuations

You’re likely all too familiar with the annual busy season your operation faces. The long hours. The overtime. The circus of staffing up in preparation for it.

At Veryable, our on-demand labor marketplace was designed to enable real-time response to demand, so businesses can avoid this staffing circus. Our experience helping other retail supply chain companies implement on-demand labor to tackle their busy seasons and promotions has given us some insights we want to share with you, so you can decide for yourself if on-demand labor is right for you.

In this article, you’ll learn how on-demand labor can help retail supply chain operations specifically, as well as some examples of successful implementations of this approach and a path toward trying it for yourself.


How on-demand labor helps prep for high volume

long line of customers outside store on Black Friday peak season holiday rush volume spike e-commerce fulfillment logistics

In retail operations, there are seasons that look drastically different from the rest of the year. On top of that, promotions require your operation to meet increased demand in a less predictable pattern.

That usually means ramping up your headcount a few months in advance, which is a tricky game to play. Do you aim high and potentially end up overstaffed, or aim low and risk not having enough people, forcing you to rely on overtime?

With on-demand labor, you don’t have to play this game any longer. You can flex your headcount up and down to meet demand in real time.

Imagine this: instead of starting the laborious hiring process three months before the busy season, you could wait until the day before to adjust your headcount based on the actual demand you’re seeing. By posting the work opportunities to an on-demand labor marketplace, you can quickly find additional workers to tackle the next day’s work.

With this flexible approach to your busy season, you could keep your usual level of staff and use on-demand labor on top of that to flex your headcount for real-time response to demand.

On-demand labor is a fast and flexible way to manage seasonal demand. It also enables you to build an operational asset known as your labor pool, which is like a bench of workers you've established a relationship with and can invite to work on demand.


Common tasks for on-demand labor in the retail supply chain

female retail store manager picking and packing orders in preparation for shipping and delivery e-commerce fulfillment 2023 logistics peak season

  • Order picking
  • Order packing
  • Assembly
  • Unloading materials
  • Loading shipments

To compete for shelf space and keep customers happy, you’ll need to be able to make and move your products more quickly during seasons of high demand.

In these times of high volume, on-demand workers can help you handle all the common work that scales with demand. This could include critical steps in your order fulfillment process, such as picking and packing. It could even include using on-demand workers to help with assembly and other production tasks.

Veryable’s on-demand labor marketplace is specifically for manufacturing and logistics environments, so your search will be simplified if you start here.


Example of successful on-demand labor implementation

One eCommerce company used Veryable’s on-demand labor marketplace to find workers to help with fulfillment. The company used on-demand labor to build a labor pool it could count on when its volume spiked. Before the pandemic in 2020, the eCommerce company had prepared by using flexible labor over time and adding its favorite workers to its labor pool list (abbreviated as YLP in the image below).


Texas eCommerce company realized $3,000,000 in value over two years by using on-demand labor to scale with seasonal demand fluctuations


At the onset of the pandemic, the company scaled down its flexible workforce instantly. As business picked back up again around the holidays, the company quickly scaled its flexible workforce upward by around 50% in one week.

Over a two-year period, we estimate that this company created $3 million in value by using Veryable for week-to-week agility in response to demand.


On-demand labor vs temp staffing

The ability to quickly scale up or down in response to the ever-changing demands on your retail operations can change the game. While inviting workers to your operation for short-term engagements might sound like temp staffing at first, on-demand labor is different in a few key ways.

Read more about how on-demand labor is different from temp staffing in our thorough, direct comparison.

Want to learn more? Visit our on-demand labor for the retail supply chain homepage

Steven Calhoun

Written by Steven Calhoun

Content Strategist