Q4 is hands-down the most profitable time of year for both big and small retailers.
With the holiday season projected to drive up to 40% of annual revenue, it’s the one time of year they must bring their A-game.
But as profitable as this period is, it is also the most chaotic:
Factors like bad weather, poor staffing choices, supplier delays seem to come together, all at once, to make this a challenging period for any eCommerce seller.
A breakdown in the supply chain can have a knock-on effect on not just profits, but the entire existence of a company.
One such breakdown in their supply chain meant they were unable to deliver some Christmas toys on time, which caused its stock to fall. In the end, the company went bust in 2001.
This period, you WILL have to juggle much more than normal. From mismanaged inventory to inaccurate shipments to late delivery times.
And it doesn’t help that customers are having greater expectations, especially regarding delivery options.
More and more online shoppers are demanding prompt, free and nominated delivery slots. And who can blame them?
The market leaders are offering next day, same day, one-hour services, so any margin for delivery error is rapidly disappearing. Small businesses simply cannot afford to be caught on the back foot with your delivery.
Don’t get so caught up with the front-end–i.e. acquiring inventory, planning holiday displays and promotions–that you forget the back-end that is delivery.
To help you avoid holiday shipping nightmares, we’ve compiled a list:
TOP WAYS TO GUARANTEE PROMPT SHIPPING AND DELIVERY
1. Get a Grip on your Inventory
The rush of the holiday season brings a host of inevitable inventory management challenges.
Even when you think you have your numbers figured out, they can change unexpectedly. A celebrity endorsement, a change in the weather. Literally anything can cause estimated sales numbers to quickly rise.
A knock-on effect of this is low stock which can lead to stock shortages and backorders, which snowballs into longer delivery times.
Are you prepared to handle that situation?
Businesses can either let customers know they are out of stock or ’embellish’ the expected delivery dates. Neither of these options is ideal, so we advise businesses to prepare for this inevitability.
By having an ample supply in stock, businesses can consistently meeting and keep up with customer demand.
2. ASK: Is Your Shipping Partner Capable?
December 2013 went down in history as one of the worst Christmases for Fedex and UPS. With deliveries running up to 10 days late, customers were irate at their lack of presents and their ‘ruined Christmas.’
The delivery giants blamed a combination of bad weather and an underestimation of package volumes for their gaffe. Retailers were also quick to point out that they had many last-minute customer orders.
To avoid this situation, ensure you know your carrier’s delivery slots, inside-out. Before guaranteeing next day delivery to your customers, be sure you know the cut-off delivery times. Avoid falling into the “it’ll get there on time” mindset.
3. KNOW HOW: Dealing with Last-Minute Orders
Speaking of rush orders, customers have been known to order goods, for Christmas delivery, up till the 23rd of December. They’ve even been known to change their minds on orders, midway through the shipping process!
As exasperating as it may be, it only goes to show just how agile and prepared your business must be. One way to do this is to have all your processes in line and ready for the inevitable seasonal spike in sales.
- double-checking procedures and rates with shipping partners
- making sure all automation is serviced to avoid downtime
- having staff rosters drawn up ahead of time
Automation can also go a long way to making sure the correct orders are picked, packed and shipped, but not every business can afford large scale automation. For those who can’t, fine-tuning their existing processes is a must.
4. CONSIDER: Alternative Delivery Options
To avoid any hiccups, having a number of backup plans can prevent unscheduled events from derailing your business.
Whether you run your eCommerce business from your basement or out of a storage unit, you should consider alternative shipping methods. One common one, proven to cut down on shipping times, is the drop shipping model.
In drop shipping, the order is sent from the manufacturer to the customer directly. By removing yourself from the supply chain, you can cut down on how long it takes for customers to receive goods from manufacturers.
The model has two downsides:
- it’s expensive, as your manufacturer is now performing both an order fulfillment service, alongside supply.
- you also have little to no control over how the fulfillment is actually carried out. For goods where a personal touch is expected by customers, drop shipping may not be the best option.
5. Take Advantage: Order Fulfillment
Shipping yourself can cause you to tear your hair out.
Using a drop shipper can cost more than you currently have, so how can you fulfill orders promptly and keep your customers satisfied?
Simple. Use Order Fulfillment.
Order fulfillment services, like Floship, handle everything about your product; from its storage, picking, packing to shipping.
Think about it, do you want to worry about self-fulfillment while looking for inventory and trying to focus on marketing your eCommerce store too?
With their insider knowledge, these firms can get shipping discounts you wouldn’t even know about:
This means they can offer delivery tracking and delivery time guarantees. Plus, their access to the latest in shipping technologies and manpower makes them agile enough to accommodate any seasonal sale spikes.
Having a firm dedicated to delivering your goods to your customers, is simply invaluable if you want to keep customers.
As a small business that wants to remain in business, it is important to get it right as many times as possible. With the potential of huge margins this quarter, it is in your best interest to find a company that will take the burden of fulfillment off you.
To guarantee success during this holiday rush, let Floship help you with storing, packing, and shipping.
Contact us today for more information.