The holiday season is finally upon us and e-commerce businesses are already struggling to meet customers’ demands and expectations. According to an estimate, 20% of annual sales occur during the Black Friday and Christmas holiday season. So, learning how to effectively manage your stock and keep your e-commerce customers satisfied and happy during this peak shipping season is paramount.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to maximising e-commerce sales over the holiday period and we have outlined many of them here, but smooth shipping and fulfilment processes over the holidays are crucial. Regardless of your industry, here are some things that you need to consider while planning your order shipment in order to maximise your e-commerce sales over the festive season.
1. Keep Your Inventory Well-stocked
During the holiday season, make sure your inventory is well-stocked. Keep in contact with your suppliers to ensure you know the exact dates for the delivery of your products and what your cut-offs are going to be. Wherever possible, all stock should be ready to go before you start your seasonal promotions.
Use your previous year’s seasonal sales and the number of orders, so that you can estimate stock requirements accordingly. Use inventory management software to analyse your historical sales and stock data, and make sure to focus on popular products so they’re ready to go.
If you have stores at multiple locations, track and monitor your stocks at each location and adjust inventory levels for each accordingly. Fast order fulfilment is an absolute necessity for seasonal sales and is only possible if you have adequate inventory management.
2. Come Up with Better Shipping Offers
Applying extra costs at the checkout is very likely to make shoppers abandon their cart and discard their orders. While ordering online, customers care about three things when it comes to shipping:
- That it’s fast,
- That it’s free, or at least very low
- And that there are flexible shipping options.
According to most surveys, free shipping is the one of the biggest factors for converting people while shopping online.
With the standard set by giant retailers like Amazon, it is difficult for small businesses to offer the same shipping facilities like free shipping and next day delivery. And it’s difficult to bear your customers going somewhere else just because you can’t provide the same facilities and services to them. But if you distribute inventory at different locations, you can save time and money by shipping orders from the nearest centre to your customer.
Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deals from your couriers and if you’re struggling or if multiple locations isn’t an option for your business, speak to our team about outsourcing your order fulfilment.
3. Deliver Quality Packages, Safely
Customers expect that their package will arrive on time and without any damage when they shop online. This is the minimum service level demanded by online shoppers. Carriers do their best to deliver packages without any damage, but oftentimes damage can be the result of improper packaging that’s not fit for purpose.
Picking the right packaging is the key. Using packing peanuts, and bubble cushions reduce the risk of damage and increase customer satisfaction with safe delivery.
To go a step further, deliver better customer experience, improve brand awareness and make it more likely that each customer will come back in future, use custom branded packaging and kit each parcel out with something a little special for the customer like a thank you note or a discount on a future purchase.
4. Create a Solid Return Policy
While e-commerce retailers are busy making better holiday shipments and fulfilment processes, they can often neglect to review their returns policy. Returns over the holiday period can be high, so make sure you plan and prepare for this.
There can be a lot of reasons for this. For example, items might not fit, products were damaged, or a variety of other reasons. You have more chance of returns if you sell clothing, electronics, or beauty products. According to an estimate, more than 5 million packages are returned to retailers after the holiday season.
It is better to implement a sensible return policy and communicate it with your customers before the holiday season. Make sure it’s straightforward and clearly available on your website.
Also, brief your fulfilment team to expect the increase after the holiday period. Use past data and prepare to make it a smooth and streamlined process or you’ll risk losing your customers’ future purchases.
5. Communicate with Your Customers
Customer service is key when it comes to handling the holiday shipping rush. Make sure you have a robust online FAQ section, install a chatbot on your website, or have live customer service representatives to handle every kind of query.
Make sure your transactional communications have been reviewed and are accurate and firing correctly – send emails and/or text messages to customers with their order confirmation, order tracking, delivery status, and other updates.
Also, make sure you have accurate information on your website, up to date product descriptions and availability details, and write a blog article or two about your services, opening times, delivery times etc.
6. Stay Ahead of Marketing Campaigns
Generally speaking, holiday promotions are essential for increasing revenue and maximising online sales as online shoppers have an expectation for deals following Cyber Week.
Start marketing your products and services way before the holiday season. Early promotions are necessary as the competition is very high, so make your target audience aware of your products through social media platforms, email newsletters, blog posts, and your website.
7. COVID-19 Contingency Planning
It has been a strange year worldwide across every walk of life and online retailers need to ensure they have comprehensive logistics plans for both at the supply chain and fulfilment processes to avoid suffering from staff shortages due to Covid-19.
Try to build flexibility into your fulfilment processes, focus on supply chain visibility, develop a strategy for emergency shipments, create multiple contingency plans, and flexibility in your multi-channel distribution strategy. Make sure your staff are cross-trained for additional responsibilities in case some are unavailable and try to have fall back options available just in case.
Check with your suppliers and couriers to make sure they have contingency plans in place as well as you might need to have alternatives ready to go to in case you require options on short notice.
The holiday season brings excitement and joy and a time to relax and celebrate for everyone but online retailers. By following these tips it can help to ensure smooth and efficient fulfilment and shipping processes, so the holiday season can be just as cheerful for you.
If you’re struggling with your fulfilment over the holiday season this year, speak to our team about how you can improve on this next year, while lowering costs and freeing up resources to grow your e-commerce business.