It seems like the holiday shopping season ended just yesterday, but with less than 100 days remaining until Black Friday kicks off the season of good will and frenzied online shopping, now is the time to prepare. It’s not easy to start thinking about Christmas operations while the sun is still shining and the barbecues are sizzling, but for retailers this is the perfect time to be looking ahead and planning your fulfilment.
The popular saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ exists for a reason, and eCommerce is no exception. From delivery cut offs to packaging, there are so many variables to consider – but the ultimate goal is creating happy customers who receive the right items at the right time. We thought we’d share our top five tips to help you on your way to fulfilment success.
Review your 2015 operations
How busy were you? What went well? What didn’t go so well? If you’ve yet to go back over last year’s performance during peak periods then now is the time. Pulling off detailed reports and analysing the data could help you highlight areas to focus on going into this season, put together forecasts, and produce more informed 2016 plans.
Build in contingency
We’ve said it before, but more stock is better than ‘out-of-stock’. If your Black Friday and Christmas marketing campaigns are successful, a flood of orders could easily see popular items disappearing faster than expected. While a forecast can give you a good idea of how things should go, demand could outstrip these indicators if you run popular promotional offers or discounts. Don’t let your customers be disappointed.
Set customer expectations
In recent years as Black Friday in particular has become a huge worldwide phenomenon, many carriers, couriers and postal services have found it difficult to keep up with their usual service level agreements. And with so many eCommerce sites offering next and nominated delivery to their customers year round it’s no wonder. Last year many retailers (and carriers for that matter) announced that they would be relaxing their delivery policy slightly over this peak order period. Customers will no doubt appreciate reassurance on when then can expect their order, whereas unexpected delays and broken promises could cause upset.
Don’t forget returns
Whether something doesn’t fit or it’s not quite what the customer had in mind, November to January is a period that sees a much higher rate of returns than usual. Make sure your returns policy is clear and that your operations are able to handle increased volume. Collecting data on returns could also be a useful task, helping you understand why the return happened and how it could have been avoided.
If having to execute all the above between now and November seems a somewhat difficult task, it could be time to consider outsourcing your fulfilment to a third party. From finding extra warehouse space to recruiting extra staff and estimating your additional packaging requirements, seasonal peaks are not easy to plan for. A third party provider will have unparalleled experience, more than enough space to accommodate even large operations, and a trained team and innovative technology to help deliver exceptional service for your customers over even the busiest of sales periods.
If you’re interested in outsourcing your eCommerce fulfilment in plenty of time for Christmas, why not get in touch with one of James and James’s expert fulfilment consultants?