The need for an effective fulfilment strategy this winter really is pressing. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness expected both in the US and UK this November, online retailers expect that the 2015 festive rush will pick up earlier than ever before. With Black Friday sales growing in popularity thanks to US-owned Asda (part of the Walmart family) bringing the event to our shores, 27th November is set to deliver a bumper spike in online orders across the board. Digital commerce agency Salmon are predicting that Black Friday 2015 will lead to the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day.
In 2014 the surge meant success for most online retailers but chaos for some thanks to the strain put on delivery services. Three-quarters of consumers say they’ll buy at least half of their Christmas presents online this year – so what can you do to ensure your fulfilment structure is robust enough to cope?
It goes without saying that the earlier you start planning the less likely things are to go wrong! With sales starting earlier than ever, consumers will want to snap up cut-price items in time for Christmas. If your fulfilment strategy hasn’t allowed for a sharp increase in demand, from online basket to customer doorstep, this could prove fatal. New research from Yodel suggests 29% of UK consumers started buying Christmas gifts as early as September this year. With a matter of weeks to go before things really pick up, now is the time to ensure plans are in place.
Know your cut-off points
You should be making your customers aware of delivery cut-off dates for each option offered as early as possible and display these dates to prominent locations on the website such as the home and checkout pages during December. Agree these dates with delivery providers in advance, but be prepared to bring these dates forward in the event of adverse weather conditions. Many retailers will also relax their delivery promise and withdraw next day options for peak order dates like Black Friday to reduce impact. End-customers will ultimately appreciate knowing what to expect from you and when.
More stock is better than ‘out-of-stock’
There is nothing worse than a popular item going out of stock at the peak of the season. While it is of course important to review last year’s sales when ordering in Christmas stock, ensure you have a contingency should this year’s demand outstrip predictions so that customers don’t go looking elsewhere.
Consider the impact of returns
The unfortunate reality of an increase in sales is an increase in returns. For online retailers who don’t have a physical high street presence, this could have particular impact on your fulfilment strategy – this is especially true if you are one of a growing number of retailers who offer free postal returns. Ensure policies are clearly communicated to customers and make sure you have provisions for the additional space and staff required to handle these returns.
Think about outsourcing your fulfilment
Increasing capacity temporarily to cope with Christmas sales – from extra warehouse space to additional staff – is a costly and often complicated task. This is especially true for small-to-medium size companies who for the rest of the year employ only a handful of staff in-house. Outsourcing order fulfilment could help relieve the strain and stress of Christmas and dramatically reduce the amount of additional manpower required for a successful season.
Many may feel that it is too late to outsource their fulfilment. But if you act now we can get you set up with a superior fufilment strategy and sending orders out in plenty of time: Click here