How To Prepare Your eCommerce Business For Peak Holiday Periods
Depending on your business model there are always a couple of months every year where most eCommerce businesses can expect surges in product demand and large variations in order volumes. Be it holiday periods like Christmas or Easter, or seasonal swells in orders driven by summer or winter sales, order volumes are rarely steady year-round.
These surges in demand for products driven by holiday periods are very important for direct-to-consumer brands, and the ability to handle these fluctuations in order volumes is just as important, in order to maintain a good brand reputation. To keep on top of these short bursts of increased order volumes, it is very important that you have the correct fulfilment strategy in place to handle these fluctuations.
It is not only a surge in order volumes your business may see, but also an increase in returns to handle, all adding up as an extra stress on your business. Customers today have a low tolerance for a poor online shopping experience and expect quick shipping at no cost to them, free returns as well as a great un-boxing experience. eCommerce businesses who offer these aspects of delivery the process will not only increase their sales but also maintain a high repeat purchase rate.
Peak eCommerce Order Periods
The main online shopping period in considered to be the winter period from October all the way through to December when order volumes are usually at their highest, this is not only due to the Christmas and Halloween period but also due to popular online shopping ‘holidays’ such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, this is dependent on your business model.
An increase in eCommerce orders in these busy periods can lead to supply chain inefficiencies. As online businesses and brands try to keep up with higher demand, faster turnarounds of inventory and fulfilling higher volumes of orders, accompanied with couriers also having their peak postal periods to cater for.
Common Peak Shipping Season Challenges
Anytime there is major shift or change in your supply chain, whether it is foreseen or unforeseen it can change the whole structure of your operations from the inventory management to the shipping. That is why your business needs sturdy supply chain resilience to handle any fluctuations in it throughout the year to ensure your business can handle the peak seasons without any disruptions to your supply chain.
It is no surprise that COVID had and still has a number of large effects on everybody’s supply chain, as many store fronts shut down and online demand sky-rocketed, and some couriers saw an average extra delivery time rate by 3 additional days. Now, with Covid restrictions being lowered some demand has returned to the high street, but the majority of the demand remains online. Although it is hard to deal with courier issues once the item has been shipped but using a fulfilment partner like UK Fulfilment can help you resolve any issue which is in hand.
Black Friday Sales
For a growing business, one of the biggest issues is trying to manage a surge in order volumes, be it Christmas, Black Friday, or summer sales. It can be a logistical nightmare if your business self-fulfils their orders, as a rise in orders can leave your business swamped with orders and left short staffed trying to fulfil these orders. Partnering with a fulfilment centre, like UK Fulfilment, can alleviate any stress caused to your business through increased order volumes, as a specialised fulfilment centre is built to handle these fluctuations.
Suppliers on Holiday
Relying on one supplier can leave you exposed to risk from that supplier not being able to meet your order needs and demands. Partnering with a multiple suppliers can easily help mitigate a single supplier issue, like lack of inventory replenishment due to supplier shutdowns or trade restrictions.
For instance, Chinese New Year is a key period where many Chinese suppliers shut down production for around a month, which can leave many businesses with shortages or delays, which can disrupt their eCommerce supply chain.
The best way to combat this is to get ahead of the curve and order more inventory if you can. To prevent shortages and have more buffer stock during peak order volume seasons.
Ways You Can Prepare For Peak Shipping Season:
Utilise your historical order data from previous years in order to help your business project what order volumes will be in the peak periods or phases driven by promotions, in order to aid your business prepare for fluctuations in demand. Inventory forecasting for each individual SKU also will allow you have less static stock being warehoused as you will have less stock of each SKU which are slower sellers, leaving you more space for your faster selling SKU’s to be stored.
Give your Customers a Heads-Up
You will minimise customer dissatisfaction with the delivery experience, if you increase communication with your customers about any potential delays that may be incurred. If an item arrives late, a way to ease a negative customer experience with a delayed order would be offer a refund of the delivery cost to avoid a negative review.
Also, you will need to track you inventory volumes to ensure your business is never selling stock, which is does not have to hand, which can cause a logistical nightmare for your business. Making sure your business has out-of-stock messages once it has sold out of certain products is essential to avoid these pitfalls or have a buffer stock just in case you oversell a certain SKU.
Partner with an Experienced Fulfilment Provider
Partnering with an experienced fulfilment centre or 3PL provider, like UK Fulfilment who has over 35 years’ experience in order fulfilment, can allow you to operate smoothly over any peak order fluctuations your business may see in these periods. Self-fulfilling your own eCommerce orders during peak holiday periods can be very challenging and renting your own storage space can be very time-costly and expensive. If your business’s needs a 3PL provider or a fulfilment partner before the winter holiday period begins, you can be onboarded quickly and seamlessly with UK Fulfilment.
Have Multiple Courier Options
Using multiple courier and shipment options, will give your business a much greater shipment flexibility for you and your customers. However, managing multiple carriers can be time costly and could mean you don’t reap the rewards of sending larger volumes with one provider which may result in discounted shipping rates. But using a fulfilment partner like UK Fulfilment, who partner with multiple major global couriers like Royal Mail, TNT, DPD, DHL, UK Mail and FedEx, you will be able to offer an array of shipping options if needed at no extra stress for your business.
Increase Your Customer Service
With increased order volumes in the holiday periods comes with a higher number of queries from customers about their items and even increased issues with delays of carriers. The more support you offer your customers, the better and smoother your customer’s order experience will be. Which will minimise negative customer reviews and keep customer return rate high, meaning increased sales for your business.
Communicate with Your Suppliers
Keeping a close relationship and communicating with your supplier can be great for having order transparency, understanding production lead times, and avoiding potential stock outs during the peak seasons. Also, a tip would be to expect and plan for longer order lead times than stated, just in case of supplier or courier delays. If you wanted to maintain a secure supply chain, you may even want to split your supplier line to have multiple suppliers to avoid relying on a single supplier and leaving yourself exposed to any potential hiccups or issues with a single lane of supply.
Stock-Up with Extra Inventory
It is not only extra product stock you may need for the holiday period to cover and buffer potential out-of-stock gaps. You will want to maintain a high level of packaging supplies for your goods if you self-fulfil your orders, as there can become shortages in high postal periods. Using a fulfilment partner like UK Fulfilment to fulfil your orders and provide packaging supplies for your products at a low-cost whilst keeping a steady supply, will alleviate a lot of unneeded logistical stress. If you have bespoke packaging for your business or need bubble-wrap and other additional notes, or even want source your own packaging and have it assembled, UK Fulfilment can assist you.
Establish a Returns Management Process
Having an established returns management process along with an easy-to-understand returns and exchange policy with several options is essential to any eCommerce business today. A smooth returns process will help in keeping customer loyalty high and maintain sales, and a great experience can also drive a customer to make an exchange rather than a return.
A Fulfilment Partner Can Help Your Business with Order Fulfilment in Peak Holiday Periods
In today’s world it is essential for eCommerce business to remain ahead of the expected increase in holiday demand to maintain both accurate and quick fulfilment. In order to keep up with today’s customer delivery expectations, an eCommerce business must have a sturdy supply chain. It can be costly for an eCommerce business to rent and manage a warehouse space, along with the added cost of fulfilling your own orders yourself but using a fulfilment provider like UK Fulfilment you will not only see a reduction in costs in the long-run, but also have a lot more time to concentrate on your business.
If you want to use UK Fulfilment as a fulfilment partner for your business, you can be onboarded quickly and effortlessly, and all your sales channels can be integrated with a best-in-class order and inventory management software allowing you to view all your orders, sales and stock all in one place, requiring little to no effort from your side.
If fulfilment is of any interest to your business, you can obtain a free quote here