If you’re like most retailers, you’ll do close to 40 percent of your business in Q4. And that number will probably grow: e-commerce sales during the 2019 holiday season rose 18.8 percent from 2018. Analysts expect a similar jump this holiday season, and why wouldn’t they? Online, you can fill every request on your list and never have to set foot in a (gasp) shopping mall.
If you’re serious about sticking around throughout the ’20s, you’ll need an airtight supply chain, trustworthy people to protect your customers’ gifts and your brand, and a way to offset the speed-of-delivery difference between you and Amazon. These are the common challenges you should expect to face.
Customer error: You ordered this, but you really wanted that. Companies like Zappos say. “Yeah, no problem, we’ll send you a free ‘that’ tomorrow.” It’s a high bar to match.
Warehouse space (or lack thereof): Less space means more trouble meeting demand… but the words “no longer available” should never appear on your website over the holidays.
Personnel shortfalls: When you’re not equipped to handle a ramp-up, you run the risk of missing deadlines, losing business and sullying your reputation at the worst time.
Outdated software (WMS, TMS): Old software is probably the worst out-of-date asset because it’ll slow you and everyone else along the chain down, especially if it can’t seamlessly share data with other platforms or make real-time improvements. One hiccup along the way can turn a customer into a former customer.
Transparency: Customers want to know everything about their package, and they expect answers. They want you tracking everything ¾ including environmental impact ¾ and if you’re not prepared to do that, someone else is.
Branding: The way your customers react to your box should match the reaction they’d have if they came to your store. But getting it right here is more than having a great concept for the packaging ¾ it also has to be affordably shippable.
The smoother your operation, the more able you’ll be to manage the influx with timely delivery and memorable opening experiences. An easier website interface would reduce customer error, as would an extra cart-review step in the purchasing procedure. Combined, they’ll cost less than the effect of lost revenue due to shoddy service.
To maximize the effort to, from and in your warehouse, a strong pick-and-pack playbook should be a priority. Scaling into a multiple warehouse operation will necessitate a mixture of piece, batch, zone and wave pickers. To manage this short-term personnel need, we bring in seasoned seasonal staff who won't slow down operations regardless of their degree of familiarity with the warehouse.
Having integrated WMS and TMS systems is another smart solution to ensure a hiccup-free holiday season. If something’s off-schedule, you’ll know early enough to correct it without compromising delivery times. If a customer wants to know the status of their package, you’ll have up-to-date answers. And you’ll want to partner with a shipping provider that understands that, when it comes to customer experience, the packaging itself is as important as what’s in the package. If you take the time to do something special for customers over the holidays, they’ll return the favour with repeat business.
The 2020 holiday season will be here before you know it, as will 5x–10x the orders. We have the tools, approach and infrastructure to help you handle it.
This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2020 issue of PARCEL.