With August coming to a close next week, and kids back in school after the first lockdown-free summer break in years, retailers near and far are getting ready for that most wonderful e-commerce time of year – the 2022 holiday shopping season. But before we all get too carried away by the excitement of seasonal sales and revenue, let’s take a step back and remember: an increase in online consumer shopping and spending ultimately translates to more pressing e-commerce fulfillment needs.
Before crunchtime hits in a month or two, it’s important to ensure your peak season fulfillment operations are ready for the impact now. We recently published our 2022 How to Prep for Peak Season Shipping guide and checklist to offer step-by-step guidance on how to prepare for this year’s holiday rush. For a complete checklist of to-dos, be sure to download the full guide, but to get you started on the right foot, here’s a sneak peek at four steps you can take to get ahead as we move into September and beyond:
Review last year’s data and set goals for this year
The best way to prep for future success is to look back at where you’ve been. You need to understand what went well for your business as well as what you should improve in order to make the best decisions about which strategies and processes to implement this upcoming season.
While last year presented its own specific challenges that may have impacted the numbers, you will likely still identify valuable insights that you can leverage to help you get ahead of this year’s consumer and industry trends.
A few questions you can ask to better understand last year’s successes and opportunities for improvement include:
- Which months, days, and times of last year’s peak saw the biggest spikes and lulls?
- How did seasonal promotions impact sales and fulfillment?
- What were your most popular SKUs?
- Which carriers and service-levels were the most cost effective across peak season orders?
- How many WISMO (“Where Is My Order”) calls or emails did you receive?
- How quickly were you able to solve incoming order inquiries?
- What was your post-peak return volume?
Once you’ve reviewed and analyzed last year’s data, you can make more informed decisions around how to meet your 2022 goals.
Identify opportunities to improve workflow efficiencies
Another way to get ahead of peak season fulfillment is by identifying where your operations tend to get stuck, and implementing process automations to improve workflows and bridge those gaps.
One potential solution can be found in shipping automation rules that auto-apply carrier and service-level preferences as defaults or “if-then” rules, helping you print labels and get packages out the door 50% faster. Manifests also help streamline and speed up your shipping process, providing you with a one-page document and a single bar code that carriers can scan to accept several packages at once.
Understand your carrier mix’s strengths and weaknesses
Ahead of crunch time, it helps to identify which carriers are best equipped to help you meet your goals – what mix of national, regional, or even international carriers will help you meet your e-commerce business’ holiday shipping goals?
Stay informed of changes and disruptions, and maintain an agile mindset so you can reassess options when necessary. By regularly keeping tabs on carrier communications regarding rate increases, delivery timelines, and service disruptions, you’ll be well prepared to make shifts when necessary, and communicate delivery expectations to your customers more effectively.
Get ahead of holiday returns
With the increase in e-commerce adoption, hassle-free returns and exchanges are now table stakes. A complicated, restrictive, or expensive returns experience can instantly influence a consumer’s brand perception, so it’s crucial to simplify the process as much as possible – especially during the holidays.
Keep customers at ease from the get-go by providing a clear policy upfront, calling out any seasonally-specific restrictions or special instructions for gift returns and exchanges. You can also generate scan-based return labels to include with packages in case they’re needed, providing your customers a more seamless, simple experience.
The holiday season is reliably the busiest time of the year for those of us in e-commerce, which means it’s crucial to optimize your end-to-end fulfillment operations sooner than later. From building a carrier strategy to addressing the inevitable returns rush, download our How to Prep for Peak Season Shipping guide and checklist to learn everything you need to implement the right fulfillment plan this season.