With peak season officially upon us, it’s crucial that e-commerce businesses big, small, and everywhere in-between are ready to meet the increase in demand, as well as already-high consumer expectations around fulfillment. To help merchants ready their businesses for this year’s holiday rush, we rounded up the top advice from a few of our e-commerce platform and fulfillment partners on how to prepare and get ahead of the season’s biggest challenges.
ShipBob: Forecast demand at the SKU level and order early.
Due to ongoing supply chain obstacles, prepare for peak season by forecasting demand at the SKU level and ordering inventory earlier.
Over the last few years, there have been clear trends that have impacted peak season fulfillment and the global supply chain, along with how brands have needed to adapt. In 2020, it was Covid safety for fulfillment staff, hiring to handle the instant influx, and managing carrier performance and capacity. In 2021, it was higher in the supply chain, which impacts what you can fulfill and costs of goods sold: raw material costs, freight costs, and freight speed.
In 2022, the trends revolve around how to a) sell to more customers and b) expand beyond DTC. Ways to address these trends include opening up international fulfillment centers (according to ShipBob survey data, nearly 32% of brands will fulfill orders in a new country in 2022, while 56% plan to either ship to fulfill orders in new countries), creating retail partnerships both online and offline, and customizing every order, whether it be custom gift notes, custom packaging, or custom inserts.
ShipDaddy: Factor extra time into your planning to offset potential delays.
Your fulfillment team has invaluable experience running all sorts of campaigns. Lean on them to get their advice for how to streamline your holiday campaigns. Make sure to give them plenty of advance notice on arriving inventory, new SKUs, additional scopes of work, and your planned holiday campaigns. With this knowledge, they will be able to advise you on potential issues they foresee, as well as how to best address those issues before the holiday rush begins.
While the elongated supply chain lead times are getting better, they are still a problem. Often supply chain issues are out of your hands – which is why it’s important to factor extra time into your planning to offset potential delays. Whether it’s a parcel delivery bottleneck because a carrier is overwhelmed by holiday demand, or your manufacturer is still dealing with the effects of Covid and the resulting supply chain issues, make sure to add additional time as a buffer within your planning timeline.
Freestyle Solutions: Start early and examine bottlenecks.
By getting started before the holiday season on these efforts to examine bottlenecks, you can avoid the stressful feeling that comes with an impending increase in sales volume. You can go even further by automating your processes, which will free more time so you can allocate man hours to areas that truly require a hands-on touch.
If you have areas in your own personal supply chain where tasks require manual input, that might be an area to consider making changes. By having a fully automated system that has the capability of being customized through advanced configurations you’ll be saving yourself a large amount of time and energy. Not only will you not have to handle these processes by hand but also the number of errors that you’ll no longer have to deal with caused by human intervention will be very noticeable.
Making these kinds of changes takes time, and that’s not lost on us. This is why it’s better to start early when you know you have the available time. Getting used to new tools during your slower season that you plan to fully utilize during your peak season will allow you to have a much easier time practicing and customizing all of the functionality available to you.
Wix: Create a checklist of pre-holiday to-dos.
Prep early and often. There are so many ways to strengthen your online store, operations, and marketing strategy. To avoid rushing (or worse, leaving money on the table), create a checklist of to-dos to complete in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the holidays. Some examples of things to include on your list:
- Make sure that your product pages are up to snuff with unique, high-quality imagery and product details.
- Audit your checkout flow.
- Update your shipping and return policies.
- Test your mobile site, site speed, and external sales channels.
- Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re testing new channels or addressing inefficiencies on the fly.
This year, merchants will have to be extra prudent about where and what they invest their time and money into. Aside from the economic pressures shaking up the industry, e-commerce is still as competitive as always. To keep the momentum going after the holidays, you’ll need to be very intentional about how you shape the customer experience on your site (or wherever you sell), and how you follow up with customers afterwards. Avoid spreading yourself too thin across various initiatives. Rather, focus on the strategies, channels, and customer segments that you know best and make your brand stick.
Download our 2022 E-commerce and Shipping Benchmarks Report, co-published with Wix, for more industry insights.
ShipHero: Understand how free shipping and returns will impact your business.
This year, due to rising costs and inflation, retailers will need to be even more careful when offering free shipping or handling returns. Consider the true impact to your revenue before making a blanket policy relating to either of these.
Peak carrier surcharge rates have been announced early, and they are high. This is further evidence that retailers need to closely monitor their sales and past performance before making impactful decisions regarding free shipping or free returns. It’s true that some customers may choose to go with a different brand if free shipping isn’t available, but now is the time to truly understand if losing the sale is more costly than offering free shipping. ‘Free’ shipping adds up fast.
For more advice on how to get ahead of this year’s peak, be sure to download Shippo’s own 6-step guide to preparing your e-commerce business for the season.