For most retail and eCommerce enterprises 2021 will come with a wave of reflection and analysis on the previous year's fourth quarter. After all, even considering how tumultuous 2020 was, the holiday shipping and eCommerce fulfillment that occurred during those last few festive months accounted for a big percentage of the totality of the year's returns. During the holiday season's peak, the weekly order processing is between 10 to 15 times the average.
Therefore, it is imperative now that the holiday season has passed to analyze the measure of success of your eCommerce operations. This way, weaknesses, and strengths are highlighted, providing a blueprint to follow to create a sound strategy. In this regard, there are a few things you can look into to boost your eCommerce operations' performance in the new year and the next holiday season. They include:
Work on Your Distribution Network
We have already seen that holiday demand is a couple of factors greater than what is normal. The effectiveness of your order fulfillment won't solely lie in the products you have to ship but in the delivery of these goods. These products need to be shipped promptly, through proper channels, to the right customer, wherever they may be.
The post-holiday/pre-holiday revenue slump provides a good opportunity to assess and optimize your distribution network. Your supply chain associates really need to step up here. They will need to adapt to the rising sales volumes by syncing their processes with yours, creating a free-flowing stream of customer orders.
Evaluating Human Capital
As we don't yet have robots that will negate the human presence in the eCommerce and retail business, any business owner will need to have a workforce focused on their business' objectives. You will need to look at the entire employee lifecycle, from recruitment and hiring to training, remuneration, and laying off. Some of the questions you will need to ask yourself in this regard include:
- Which seasonal associates do you want to have in your team full-time?
- Is it plausible to have a 'refer a friend' bonus, especially if the new help stayed the entire festive season?
- How efficient is your recruitment and hiring process?
- How much management time did this process cost the business?
- Are there improvements to be made to lower ramp-up costs?
- In the case of temp agencies, what was the impact of their services on your budget and overall goals?
- How were the second shift transitions?
- Do you have an idea of the cost of employee turnover to your business?
Assess Your Stock
Regardless of how efficient your order fulfillment system is, once a product has run out of stock, everything else remains moot. You should ensure enough quantities of the merchandise you're looking to sell in your eCommerce fulfillment centers. In addition to reviewing the current stock levels, data should also be unearthed on the previous holiday season's sales.
If funds are tight and not all goods can be fully stocked, then focus your efforts on item popularity. Ensure the most popular products are available. Furthermore, you can also anticipate customer interest thanks to a worthwhile investment in data analytics software for your business.
Plans and strategies have a way of diverging from what was expected when it comes to real-world applications. You, therefore, have to follow the order fulfillment procedure step-by-step, in real-time. As the eCommerce fulfillment process is specialized, a team of trusted and competent employees is necessary. Your people have the responsibility to ensure seamless operation in their particular process checkpoint. They should also be able to develop and carry out a contingency plan when challenges occur.
Breaking the fulfillment process into small workable modules prevents potential bottlenecks in the process from developing. Continuously identifying delayed deliveries, monitoring the shipping and fulfillment process, and implementing measures to fix problems, are actions that should be done on a daily or hourly basis. The returns process should also not be forgotten. Rejected orders ought to be addressed as they arrive.
Other Preparations for Increased Demand
Increased demand for online shopping means an increase in traffic on your web platform. An assessment of your server capacity should be done to check whether your data infrastructure will keep up with the rising demand. Your site's functionality and response speed should be rigorously tested. Nothing is quite as frustrating as a slow-loading webpage. It hurts your business on two ends; it frustrates your customers, leading them away, and it also reduces your search engine ranking.
Ensure to make clear your delivery terms and conditions. Your clients should review available options, pick their preference(s), and choose/edit their delivery times. All this should be done without burdening your business and employees with unrealistic promises and exaggerated claims. Ensure you practice all honesty in your dealings, as online shoppers prefer being told if orders will be delayed rather than being surprised when a package does not arrive on time.
Customers have high expectations when shopping online. Orders must be be delivered in a timely fashion if you want customers to keep coming back. Achieving this even amid increased order volume requires an optimized shipping and eCommerce fulfillment strategy, process, and partner. Learn how Rakuten Super Logistics can provide a scalable solution to keep up with your growing business by requesting a quote today.