While the general population is working on their tans and vacationing in tropical locations, July is the month that online retailers should start preparing their stores for the influx of holiday orders.

If it seems too early, it isn’t. Pre-planning will lead to loyal customers and increased revenues.

It takes time to forecast which items will be the big sellers this holiday season and work with the manufacturer’s long lead times to ensure your shelves are stocked. You’ll also need time to work out any snarls in your website/shipping policies that would be magnified by the increased traffic and orders.

Krishna Iyer, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development at ShipStation and frequent writer for PARCEL, recommends that as part of the holiday planning online retailers also assess their packaging needs, warehouse requirements, and shipping policies, sharing the following tips:

  • New Shipping Trends: Online retailers need to be aware of new delivery methods such as pick-up/drop-off locations (i.e. UPS access point and intelligent parcel lockers) and same-day shipping services that their customer base may be expecting this holiday season. Retailers need to coordinate the details, pricing, and logistics with shipping carriers before the holiday rush and make sure that all shipping options are clearly communicated to the customer.
  • Returns: The testing of returns policies on employees, friends, and family cannot be emphasized enough. Make sure your policy is clear to someone who works outside your company. The returns policy should be consistently communicated for customers across all channels, including your website or third-party marketplaces. Retailers should also consider extending their returns window beyond the standard 30-day period.
  • Packaging: Retailers need to ensure that the packaging they use accounts for dimensional weight pricing (Editor's Note: You can read more of our coverage on that topic here and here), is branded appropriately, and includes a shipping label that customers can use to return the product if necessary. It is important to note that the original packaging directly affects the returns process. If your company ships out products in polybags or small mailers that are not resealable, it might be wise to send additional packaging that can be used to for returns or provide directions for which packaging type consumers should use.
  • Cross-Team Communications: The summer is an excellent time to get cross-functional groups together to discuss the lessons learned from the previous holiday season. Discuss the main customer complaints and pain points you heard and establish new policies and procedures that everyone from marketing, sales, customer service, shipping, and purchasing can follow to make the customer experience better and your bottom line bigger.
Stay tuned for more on preparing for the 2017 peak session in our upcoming July/August issue!