Your success as a retailer today is determined by how fast you can get products delivered to your customer’s doorstep right after they click ‘Buy Now.” The faster you are, the more likely it is that you can get competitive advantage and establish yourself as a trustworthy, reliable, and authentic brand.
However, achieving speed in terms of your delivery process is definitely easier said than done. Retail is no walk in the park, and especially when it comes to order fulfilment, businesses can struggle to a great extent.
This is true all year round, but even more so during the peak season. With the shopping frenzy that comes around during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and Boxing Day, businesses will often find themselves groveling to meet customer expectations and provide a smooth and seamless order fulfilment experience.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way! By making just a few tweaks and adjustments to your order fulfilment processes, you can make sure that they are optimised enough to support the peak season chaos.
So, if you are looking to learn how to make the peak season a little easier for you and your fulfilment team, keep reading.
Peak season, as the terms suggests, is the time of the year where your products are in the highest demand. For most retailers, this happens when customers order online much more than usual, which is during the onset of different festivals like Christmas, and New Year. However, it also includes sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day.
During these times, eCommerce businesses in particular are likely to be bustling with orders, and it is during this season that they are expected to level up their game and meet customers’ expectations more efficiently.
Because you will experience a surge in orders, order fulfilment becomes challenging during peak seasons. Due to the increase in orders, there is also an increase in the amount of warehouse space you need, as well as the workforce and fulfilment infrastructure requirements. Not only that, but the peak season also urges you to expand your capability in every possible area, so that you can handle all the orders you are getting without it impacting the overall speed, costs, and accuracy of your processes.
Before we dive into the tips and tricks you should be incorporating into your strategy for a smooth peak season journey, let’s try and understand the challenges that you are likely to face during peak season.
Now that you know what different challenges for eCommerce businesses are during peak season, here’s our top 5 tips that can help you complete a smooth fulfilment process no matter how chaotic things get:
Due to receiving orders constantly and everything being carried out in a frenzy, it can be very hard to keep in touch with your inventory activity during peak season. If you are selling on multiple channels then you have data coming in from different sources, which makes it even harder to get real-time updates.
However, if a business fails to base its fulfilment processes on real-time inventory updates, it can be hard to keep up with the sales. For example, if you are not updated on your inventory, you can make a sale for a product that you don’t even have in stock, which would only lead to an awkward conversation with the customer and may even lead to the reputation of your business having to deal with an adverse impact.
Most businesses only realise that they have limited workforce and warehouse space once they are already knee-deep into the peak season. This is dangerous because once the order volume increases, it goes without saying that you will need more warehouse space to accommodate your stock, and more people on board to help you streamline your orders.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even out of the peak season, storage and warehouse space as well as warehouse labour is hard to get hands on. Countries like the US and the UK are already facing a space and labour shortage in the fulfilment field, and this problem is only more enhanced and detrimental during peak season days.
Accurate forecasting is the key to conquering peak season; and we say this with 0 exaggeration. If you have an accurate idea of just how much inventory you can sell, you can stock up in accordance with that and don’t have to worry about overstocking or under stocking. You don’t want too much inventory as it will raise up your costs, but you also don’t want too less as it will make you miss out on sales.
It is a difficult balance to strike, and most businesses are unable to do it during peak season which leads to less than satisfactory performance. It can also be accorded to most businesses’ reliance on manual methods of warehouse and inventory management, which only lead to inaccurate forecasting and hence, more problems.
Your ultimate goal during peak season is to impress your customers, which in the 21st century is not an easy task. The demands and expectations of customers in today’s day and age are quite hard to meet, and one such expectation is fast delivery. eCommerce giants like Amazon offer same-day, one-day, and two-day delivery, which provides customers with the comfort and convenience they need.
Your customers expect to receive their orders at the speed of lightning, and if this is not provided then you should prepare to lose your market share to competitors who can actually deliver their orders. The pressure is unreal, and this is what makes order fulfilment such a challenging affair at times.
Peak season means lots of selling, but it also means lots of returns! Return logistics can be hard to manage and if anything, the stakes are higher when processing returns and refunds than processing normal orders. However, with everything else going on, it can be considerably hard to manage return logistics as well.
Yet, businesses who actually manage to do this enable themselves to considerably improve brand loyalty and can successfully communicate to their clients that they are a brand that cares about the customer’s satisfaction more than anything.
Let’s get one thing straight; you can’t conquer the peak season and give way to a smooth and seamless eCommerce journey until or unless you integrate your processes with end-to-end automation. Without automation, you are deliberately setting up your customer experience to fall to the ground, which will surely impact your customers’ perception of you.
So, if as a business you are still relying on manual and paper-based systems, now is the time to get out of that zone and switch to automated warehouse, inventory, and order management solutions, as these will truly enable your business to deal with the peak season surge and streamline all the processes without any hitches.
A warehouse management system, in particular, will turn out to be important as it can help you deal with many of the aforementioned peak season challenges. For example, it can help you optimise existing warehouse space so that it can be used adequately during the peak season. Not only that, but the right warehouse management system will also be scalable and helpful in the sense that it will help you deal with your workforce much more efficiently, which will allow you to push them to be more productive.
The best part is that you don’t have to waste your energy setting up automated solutions at all – they are far easier to use and give you a much more enhanced experience.
Pick and pack as well as ship workflows are the backbone of your fulfilment processes. If these are not executed perfectly, then your order fulfilment success will take a dark turn. Usually, with paper-based systems, pick and pack workflows as well as actual shipment is not as efficient. Not only that, it is more likely to be subject to delays and defects which can cost you time, effort, and money.
Yet, your goal for smooth order fulfilment should push you to speeding up pick, pack, and ship workflows. You can do this by turning to technology; barcode scanning and RFID tracking will optimise the pick, pack, and shipping processes a lot more easily. In addition, it can also help you gain a holistic overview of your activity, and any gaps for inefficiency and delays can be dealt with even before they turn into bigger problems.
The right software system will also connect you with your preferred platforms for eCommerce, shipping portals, and ERP systems with the help of integrations. These integrations can help you move forward with just the advanced stride you require to dominate your industry.
If you are looking to win over this peak season, you need to become best friends with the concept of online marketplaces. Every single day, online marketplaces and eCommerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy become a more significant part of our lives. If you deal with them appropriately, you can actually get most of your sales out of them. However, dealing with them “appropriately” is where the real challenge lies.
Essentially, what you want is to create a fulfilment process that aligns with the requirements of the marketplace. This can only be done once there is a certain level of connectivity between the front end of your business activity i.e. the marketplace and the back end of your business i.e. your logistics including your warehouse and inventory.
Again, if you invest in the right fulfilment solutions, you can integrate your marketplaces with your logistics, which will allow you to navigate the fulfilment process for the marketplace a lot more smoothly and with utmost convenience.
With the help you are likely to get from a scalable, advanced warehouse management software system, you can expand your business without any restrictions and utilise online marketplaces to the best of their capacity.
Adequate levels of inventory are important to maintain if you want a smooth sales experience for peak season. However, this can only be achieved with the help of accurate forecasting, which you can’t always get – especially if you are relying on manual or paper-based processes. This is because in order to get accurate forecasting, you need lots and lots of data.
Now, the problem comes on how to get this data. If you don’t have reliable technology to help you in the first place, getting your hands on this data will be next to impossible. In contrast, if you already have the right solutions in place to help you with navigating the eCommerce fulfilment journey during peak season, you will automatically be generating helpful data.
With this data, you can make predictions and in effect, equip your peak season strategy with forecasting that will actually help you make the decisions needed to deal with a surge in your order value. It will also help you maintain the right amount of inventory, which can lead towards a more successful selling period during peak season.
We’ll be real with you; no matter how many good things we say about automation, the truth is that it is only one side of the picture. The other side is your workforce, and in order for the fulfilment process you offer to be wholly successful, you will require both of these sides to align with each other. So, here’s the advice; try your best to hire more workers.
The extra support can allow you to make sure that the customer experience you offer your customers remains unparalleled throughout. It will also allow you to make your processes a lot faster, which can lead to a more functional customer experience.
Yet, we understand that hiring more staff can be daunting, and the prospect of this may leave you wondering if you are ready to take on the responsibility for more people or not. This is where automation can help you again. For example, by getting a labour management system that can allow you to take care of your staff and make sure that they are working in a way that is compatible with your goals, you can make your job a lot easier.
Truth be told, establishing a smooth fulfilment process for peak season is not rocket science, contrary to how it is often painted out to be. As you have probably figured out by now, all you have to do is make a few tweaks here and there and you can have the fulfilment experience of your dreams – even during peak season.
We have already relayed the fact that a holistic, advanced automated software solution to manage everything is necessary and luckily, Canary is just that. It can help you deal with many peak season challenges, and that too in a way that doesn’t require too much energy from you. Sounds like your cup of tea?
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