🎵🎵 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas // Orders peak and shipping slows // For e-commerce gifts can mean Q4 profits are rising // Wrapped in a fulfillment headache bow 🎵
E-commerce brands can expect a huge rise in orders in advance of the holidays, but customers’ already high shipping expectations rise even further as holiday pressures mount. Fulfillment centers struggle with the order peaks, and customers blame brands for fulfillment and shipping problems. Fortunately, there are a few steps brands can take to make sure they’re prepared for the busy season.
1. Order Extra Inventory
This is an easy one: plan for more orders by having more stock on hand to fill them! That includes safety stock levels and reorder points. Communicate with your merchandisers early and often to make sure everything is moving smoothly. If you use multiple warehouses to increase national or international coverage, make sure you have enough inventory in each warehouse to help increase shipping speed. You can use data analysis from previous orders to follow how specific items trend in different locations and distribute accordingly.
2. Know Your Shipping Deadlines
Shipping carriers set deadlines to ensure packages can be delivered by Christmas. Deadlines are a lot sooner than usual, because shipping carriers struggle to handle the huge uptick in packages around the holidays. See below for a handy chart, made by ShipBob, that compiles all the ship-by-Christmas deadlines for the three most popular carriers.
3. Build In Deadline Padding
OK, so now you know the shipping deadlines. But keep in mind that these are NOT order-by dates. The deadlines assume the carriers will receive packages for shipping on those dates. You need to create new deadlines for internal and external use that take into account the extra days it takes to process orders. Doing this is key to avoiding holiday disasters.
4. Use Marketing To Reinforce Deadlines
Communicate clearly with your customers to avoid bad reviews from consumers who feel they’ve been swindled because their packages didn’t arrive in time to be placed under the tree. Once you’ve created order-by deadlines, put them on your website, in your email blasts, and any other marketing content you produce. This can even be a tactic to increase urgency in marketing materials by counting down towards the last day customers can order for guaranteed delivery by Christmas.
5. Talk To Your Fulfillment Partner
Traditional fulfillment centers prepare for order peaks by using temporary workers, but no matter what they do, they certainly have a game plan for the holidays. Getting on the phone with your fulfillment representative will help you get a full-picture idea of what your inventory is going through, and help you plan. Touch base more often than usual, to track the extra inventory you’ve stocked up on, and stay up to date on their internal processing timelines during the busy season.
6. Boost Your Customer Service Team
Your customer service team is going to be overwhelmed during the holidays when questions about returns, shipping, and more flood in. Have a plan of attack ready. That might mean hiring temporary help to lend a hand or cover the holiday itself. Remember that customer service inquiries will continue to peak in the week following the holiday, so plan for extra help to stay on beyond Christmas.
7. Analyze Your Data
After the holiday has come and gone and things start quieting down, gather all your order data and analyze the experience. You can use data to pinpoint weak links in your process and plan for next year. Were unexpected products popular gifts? Did your marketing efforts actually drive conversions? Was customer service slow to answer incoming requests? Did your orders make it to the shipping carrier by deadline? Did certain sales channels peak more than others? Project Verte’s full circle operations management system helps you pull analysis like this at the touch of a finger, so you can make smarter decisions for your brand.
If your operations could use some help running smoothly during the holiday rush, drop a line to see what Project Verte can do for you. Our automated and AI powered fulfillment services are built to handle sales peaks without the snags of traditional warehouses, helping your orders get to customers sooner. Plus, our seller’s portal gives you real-time inventory visibility, allows you to manage all your sales channels in one place, and generates crucial data insights to help grow your business.