This year has been one of the most challenging for online retailers. As businesses looked ahead to prepare for Brexit, the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and online sales soared as much of the world went into lockdown. Retailers found themselves having to balance peak level sales with reduced staff numbers and social distancing in warehouses. Piled on top of these are delays in the supply chain and overloaded carriers, and businesses were left with a backlog of deliveries. All this exposed the lack of contingency measures in many e-commerce delivery strategies. With Christmas around the corner, and the Brexit transition period ending just a week after, businesses need to ensure they have the right contingency measures in place to avoid delays.

Boosting the efficiency of your warehouse operation
Keeping operations smooth and customers happy is reliant on the efficiency of your warehouse. Businesses that have a robust labeling and dispatch process are better placed to keep on top of deliveries. Printing and labeling shipments manually is not only time consuming but leaves more room for error. This is even more critical when it comes to cross-border shipping, where retailers may end up with fines if their labeling or documentation isn’t right. As Brexit is finalized at the end of this year, having a platform that generates the proper documents automatically ensures you can keep things running smoothly with no delays.

Another logistical nightmare for warehouses is the returns process. Returns is important for customers, with as many as one of five abandoning a purchase if they dislike the returns policy. They are a fact of peak selling, so businesses need to ensure that they are prepared for post-Christmas returns, which will be happening just as Brexit comes into force. A robust returns system that enables your customers to fully track their returns and ensures you have visibility will ensure no delays. This means not only happy customers but will help you reduce the amount of stock sitting in the warehouse and capitalize on new year sales by getting sellable items back to market as soon as possible.

The pitfalls of relying on one carrier for all your shipping needs
During the COVID-19 crisis, many retailers found themselves at the mercy of carrier capacity. With peak on peak demand looming, it’s likely that carriers will still struggle, and many expect that they may have to stop taking collections or refuse orders. This means that retailers who rely on just one carrier for all their shipping are taking a huge risk that, should that carrier struggle to deliver, parcels will have nowhere to go. To ensure there are no unhappy customers over Christmas, retailers should look to spread their shipping needs across a range of carriers. This ensures they have the contingency in place should a carrier run into problems. Working with multiple carriers also ensures you can select ones based on what suits the needs of that customer and offer a wide range of options. Research has shown that having a choice of delivery options at the checkout is important for customers who want to pick an option that’s most convenient for them. Not only does a multi-carrier strategy give you cover whatever happens, but it can also ensure you make the sale.

A multi-carrier partnership to weather the storm
2020 has been a year like no other, and it’s not over yet. With COVID restrictions still in place and Brexit coming up shortly, this peak season is set to be tough. In order to have a contingency in place, retailers must plan and plan early. That means improving warehouse efficiencies and work with multiple carriers to ensure they have back-up no matter what. It also means ensuring you are Brexit ready. Working with multiple carriers does come with more management and resources needed within the business. That’s where partnering with a single independent multi-carrier expert could help. Not only will they maintain relationships with all your carriers on your behalf, but they can also help you implement state of the art technology to automate labeling and dispatch processes at an affordable price.

The next few months will certainly be a big challenge for retailers - but take the right steps to streamline your delivery processes, and you’ll be on the way to a watertight contingency plan fit to weather ‘the perfect storm.’

Bobbie Ttooulis is executive director of Global Freight Solutions, a UK-based multi-carrier shipping and e-commerce delivery company.