The holiday season is right around the corner, and despite the Christmas cheer that is inherently present in the air during this time of the year, many businesses are left dreading what’s coming for them. This is because for most businesses, the holiday season means a surge in orders, which means hundreds of challenges that need to be tackled especially in the area of fulfilment.
In between receiving thousands of orders everyday and managing optimal inventory levels, it is easy to become overwhelmed and overburdened during peak season – which often leaves businesses to wonder whether they are even doing the right thing or not.
If that sounds like you then congratulations; your present from Santa has arrived early this year. Yes, we are talking about this blog post! If you struggle with keeping up with orders during the festive season, this festive order fulfilment guide is all you need to help you overcome all the challenges associated with holiday fulfilment.
Before we provide you with the solutions to help you navigate the challenges associated with holiday fulfilment, it would be wise to discuss what the challenges actually are.
God knows how Santa’s workshop manages to stay in full-swing during peak season, because for the rest of us, obtaining raw materials and initiating the very process of creating goods is quite a big challenge. Because the demand for goods is likely to rise as soon as the holidays roll around, there is usually a shortage of certain raw materials.
Needless to say, this proves to be a hitch for both manufacturers as well as retailers, because a lack of raw materials leads to an under stocking problem, and that is definitely something no one wants – especially during the peak season.
The holiday season is hailed as the best time for sales, and that is generally true. However, in order to keep up with the load of orders while simultaneously maintaining customer satisfaction, you have to make sure that order processing and fulfilment, followed by the actual shipping, is all done at the speed of lightning. Which, of course, is easier said than done.
There are several factors that are characteristic of the holiday season which cause major delays in the shipment of your goods. Unfavourable weather conditions, for example. For most countries around the world, the holiday season is generally a cold and wet time of the year. This may have an impact on the efficiency of transportation, and hence cause delays. In addition, many businesses have insufficient staff during and right before the holiday season, as most people save their annual leaves to be used up in these months. This also causes delays, as your workforce strength is a necessary element in terms of ensuring quick and easy deliveries.
The holiday season, and Christmas in particular, is all about giving! Many people turn to online shopping to purchase presents and treats for their loved ones. As an online retailer, this is quite a big responsibility because obviously, if someone is purchasing your products right before Christmas, they want it to arrive on time. Hence, there is an added pressure on business owners to ensure that deliveries are sent out on time.
Again, this can be quite hard to achieve, especially given the sheer volume of orders during this time of the year. It is challenging to prioritise every order and ensure seamless fulfilment but then again, this is precisely what your customers expect from you and in order to retain them, you have to maintain this standard.
Reverse logistics are a challenging element of the supply chain in general; and when you add Christmas to the mix, it can be very difficult to ensure that returns and exchanges are processed seamlessly. Given the influx of holiday shoppers, it is likely that there are going to be many people who wish to return products, and it becomes your job to make sure that they are not disappointed.
Not only are reverse logistics time-consuming to perfect, but they are also quite heavy on the pocket and can lead to many other problems for the retailer, such as stock shortages and inventory mismanagement. In general, around Christmas time, reverse logistics are a catalyst for chaos – especially if not taken care of properly.
Inaccurate forecasting is perhaps the start of ALL problems that occur in the holiday season. This is because if a business has inaccurate forecasting mechanisms in place, it is likely that they will underestimate or even overestimate the stock they need during the peak duration’s. Both come with their own set of problems, and will cause problems in the overall fulfilment provided by a business.
If you base your inventory and sales activity on inaccurate forecasting, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to be prepared in accordance with accurate customer demand analytics, so that you can meet customer needs during the holiday season without any major problems.
12 days of Christmas; so 12 tips for you to incorporate into your fulfilment procedure for maximum efficiency for the holiday season!
Ready for the game-changing pointers on slaying (or sleighing, as Santa would say 😉) during Christmas?
Let’s get right into it.
The first step is to prepare your inventory. You can do this by sorting through your holiday inventory. This will involve checking whether the products are correctly labelled and stored in proper areas. You need to make sure that your stock is organised in a way that makes it easier for it to be aligned with the pick and pack processes, and hence make the process considerably more efficient.
A fulfilment schedule is key in your success as a business, especially as far as the peak season is concerned. Because in general, you can prioritise your orders and work on the order processing of one order at a time. But during peak season, you have to handle multiple orders hand in hand which means it is not that easy to just wing it. Ideally, you should be working on as many orders as you sufficiently can, without neglecting the quality of order processing itself. This can easily be done if you are working in accordance with a comprehensive fulfilment schedule.
Not all businesses will need this, but some may benefit from an extra hand. Think third party logistics as well as other fulfilment services that can help you with receiving orders, collecting payments, picking and packing your products. The more professional help you can get during the peak season, the better. It will allow you to catch a breather and focus on strategising your processes, instead of simply exhausting yourself without a proper vision that guides you into making the right choices and ensuring that you are making a tangible contribution to your success during the fulfilment season.
No, this doesn’t involve magic or Santa’s help: it’s simply a trick you can employ to buy yourself a little more time to manage everything. You can “expand” the holiday shopping season by starting your sales earlier. Incentivise early Christmas shopping, and get a considerable jump on holiday fulfilment. For example, if you have early-bird discounts running for a set amount of time, the major chunk of your Christmas shoppers are likely to be attracted by that and by within that time-frame. This will help you ease up on the influx of last-minute shoppers during the actual peak times, which will enable you to accommodate any orders you do get during that time a lot easier to process.
Pick and pack processes are the foundation of any successful fulfilment experience; which means that in order to perfect holiday fulfilment, you will need to grab your logistics by the pick and pack processes. A seamless pick and pack process will make sure that order processing and fulfilment is not slumped by any unnecessary delays. It will also enable you to employ better quality control tactics and make sure that every order that does get shipped out is of the highest standards.
Mastering the peak season is all about striking the right balance between the front end of your business i.e. your sales channel and the back end of it i.e. your logistics and warehousing. This will allow you to be completely in control of your inventory activity during peak season, and hence make sure that you are more actively involved in making the decisions for your fulfilment processes. This way, you can see potential bottlenecks from miles away and avoid them preemptively, before they have the chance to taint your processes and cause problems for you.
Focusing on customer service is another way that you can manage holiday fulfilment. And we get it; focusing on interactions with customers seems very far removed from the actual fulfilment processes that take place. But trust on this one; you want to have a regular stream of communication with the customer. Not only will this help you relieve some of their consumer anxiety, but it also helps you improve your brand image by making sure that all the needs of the customer are well-accommodated. As such, providing optimal customer service during the holiday season is pivotal and will help you make peak season customer service a lot more manageable.
Your fulfilment will only be as good as your shipping is, which is why you need to make the right decisions when it comes to shipping. Keep in mind the transportation costs you will have to bear, but also keep in mind that customers don’t want to spend way too much on shipping. Pick and collection services are also an option you can provide, which will make it easier for you to achieve more straightforward fulfilment processes, as you will not have to spend a lot on the shipping of the product in question.
If you leave your reverse logistics to be sorted by the gods, prepare yourself for unparalleled chaos during the holiday season. Because here’s the thing; returns and exchanges are simply inevitable, especially when you are looking forward to building a long-term relationship with the customer. So, you might as well have the right mechanisms in place to deal with them. For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate from investing in advanced reverse logistics that are good enough to streamline returns and exchange processing for you. Not only is this important for customer retention, but it is also the best way to make holiday fulfilment easier for yourself.
You can save yourself all the headache during Christmas time if you just accurately forecast demand before peak season. In this regard, investing in the right technology is crucial, because that is the only way you can meet peak season demands. Accurate forecasting will help you make sure that you aren’t under stocking or overstocking, and that the inventory levels you have onboard are fully aligned with the demands of holiday shoppers. This way, you won’t miss out on orders but you also won’t have so much inventory that it simply becomes impossible to manage properly.
Did you know that the physical layout of your warehouse can also have an impact on your warehousing experience during the holidays? You need to ensure that your warehouse is fully optimised to support efficient, fast-paced order fulfilment for all the orders that need to be sent out. A few things that you must consider in this regard are the size and space requirements, the lease costs, location and other features of the warehouse, demographics, and anything else that impacts the way your warehouse and inventory functions in the long run. Your warehouse, ultimately, should be optimised that doesn’t only support holiday fulfilment but enables future growth as well.
The best way to make sure that you are incorporating all the aforementioned pointers in your fulfilment strategy for the holidays is to get your hands on the best fulfilment software; i.e. Canary7.
Canary7 helps you craft the perfect plan for peak season fulfilment. Whether it is warehouse management, inventory management, or order management, Canary7 provides holistic solutions that will help you tackle challenges effectively, with unparalleled efficiency.
It is a necessity during the holiday season because our features are designed to help you achieve picture perfect fulfilment processes, and that too in a way that resonates with your customers.
Christmas is truly the best time of the year – and everyone, including you, deserves to enjoy it. Make this Christmas a lot easier for yourself by incorporating the 12 tips we have shared with you, and see how the peak season becomes a breeze for you.
Merry Christmas from Canary7!
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