Peak season order fulfillment is always difficult, but this year is different. Due to the pandemic and fears over in-person shopping, eCommerce sales this holiday season are projected to far surpass last year's numbers. On top of that, many eCommerce businesses are struggling with COVID-19 related manufacturing and fulfillment issues already.
While a significant jump in sales should be nice, problems filling the orders could land the increase on the naughty list. With the proper preparation, follow-through, and help though, you'll get through this holiday season intact–no assembly required. Here are our tips for getting through this holiday season on top.
Make sure to market yourself well (and early) to get the most sales possible. Great Black Friday & Cyber Monday deals bring in customers to start shopping. From there, you can also offer BOGOs, coupons, special sales hours, and more. Free shipping is also a huge incentive as 80% of consumers say it gets them to shop more.
Peak demand is going to require more employees working more hours. Ideally, the sooner you hire extra help, the better. You should hire seasonal workers with plenty of time to train and get up to speed on your brand's best practices, so they're ready when the orders come flying in like reindeer.
More purchases mean more customer support instances than you're used to. The seasonal employees can help pick up the slack, but a good customer relationship management (CRM) system would help a lot. It keeps all customer information and support tickets in one place so it's easy to see a customer's history and get everyone on the same page quickly. HubSpot has possibly the most raved about CRM and it's free to use.
The last thing you want is to get a huge bump in sales but miss any of them due to a lack of inventory. Accurate demand forecasting allows you to predict how much inventory you'll need to fill your orders. Use data from past years plus current market trends to estimate demand. Even though this year's volumes will likely be much higher, if there was more demand for X than Y last year, chances are this year will follow suit. There's also software and experts that can provide additional help, if needed.
If you wait until you run out of inventory to order, you still have to wait to receive a new batch. Being aware of your product lead times will allow you to order the next shipment from your supplier with enough time so that you never run out of stock and end up with order delays.
Having highly standardized steps for each task allows employees to be the most efficient they can be. They'll be able to think less about the task, get it done faster, and move on to the next, saving time and money.
Proper organization can save time and increase profits. Make note of wasted space like items stacked only halfway. The more unused shelf space you have, the more money you're losing. Be sure to move high touch inventory and tools closest to work areas to limit unnecessary travel. Staff can waste a lot of time walking from one side of the warehouse to the other. Try assigning individuals zones to work in, so they can pick all the needed items from their closest zone rather than walking back and forth all day.
Ensuring every order arrives intact must be a priority. It will save time and money on returns and aid in customer loyalty. Train employees to use the smallest possible boxes with about 2 inches of space all around to minimize risk of damage. Also, provide customers estimated arrival dates and allow them to track their packages. Just like free shipping is an incentive, so is the option to pay for express shipping. For last-minute gift givers, knowing a package will still arrive on time, even if it's a bit more expensive, is a must.
Having a flexible return policy makes people more likely to buy and more likely to come back, according to 81% of consumers. Returns also give you the opportunity to upsell. If you aren't sure you can handle the increased demands of shipping and reverse logistics in-house well-enough to make the customer happy and cost-effectively enough to make it worth it, you may want to consider outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL provider.
Rakuten Super Logistics has 15 nationwide fulfillment centers to allow for flexibility and cost-efficiency, 1-2-day shipping for increased customer satisfaction, and reverse logistics services for returns to better help you deliver holiday cheer. We stand by a 100% order accuracy guarantee so you can be confident that we won't leave your chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Contact us to learn more and let us help you sleigh the holiday season!