Fulfillment & Shipping Setup for the Holiday Season 2020

Fulfillment & Shipping Setup for the Holiday Season 2020

Your eCommerce sales revenue won’t be in your bank account until everything is shipped and fulfilled successfully.

This final step is critical to ensuring customers are satisfied and increasing their lifetime value. This is perhaps the most important fact in eCommerce history, and it’s even more so during the 2020 holiday period.

Our global economy has been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though budgets are tightening, people spend more online. Your competition is increasing, and major retailers are increasing their digital efforts. All of us are moving at breakneck speed towards the year-end sales season. Your fulfillment must be able to meet the demands.

It’s time to get your tune-up and prepare for the twists and turns without slipping off the road. To help your online shop prepare for the coming year, we’ve identified nine key aspects of fulfillment.

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These are 9 tips from experts to help you get your fulfillment and shipping ready in time for the 2020 holiday season.

  1. Be ready earlier than you expected
  2. Learn about your inventory and what it needs
  3. Stock up in materials
  4. Check In with Partners
  5. Plan your promotions strategically
  6. Compare shipping options and other
  7. Keep customers satisfied
  8. Unboxing experience
  9. How to handle the influx

01. Be prepared earlier than you think

You need to get ready for holiday shopping now, as it will likely begin weeks earlier than anticipated in 2020. Amazon Prime Day is a day that generates approximately $7.16 billion in sales . It’s usually held in July to increase summer sales. The eCommerce giant has stated that Prime Day will be moved to Q4 in 2018. Most speculation suggests that it will take place around October 5.

Although no one is sure what this will mean for holiday sales, it appears that it will move demand and purchases earlier than expected.

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COVID-19 already caused many delays in shipping and fulfillment, as well as lost packages. This problem could get worse due to the expected increase in holiday and Prime Day sales. Customers who have experienced long delays in shopping may be more inclined than others to buy now, so everything arrives on time. You have a lower chance of receiving a Christmas gift in January if you shop early.

You should follow all of the advice that you normally follow, and what we are discussing now should happen weeks earlier than last year. You should adjust your game plan so that you have the time to adapt to customer demands and expectations.

02. Know your inventory and what it needs

You need to prepare your inventory for orders that may arrive sooner than you expected.

Begin by taking a look at the impact of COVID-19 on your warehouse space and inventory. Are certain products experiencing a decline in sales? Have you cleared shelves to make way for a new product category? Do past best-sellers, those closest to your packing station, still deserve that honor?

We’ve all seen that last year’s market data might not be as current as it was last month. Review your space and layout and consider how you can make it more functional or adaptable to current trends. You can play safe and take the holiday season’s overall sales gains and plan accordingly. However, you should not allocate space or growth based only on what is currently selling.

When it comes to inventory, there are many other problems that you should be aware of. You should consider how much product you intend to order and keep on hand, as well as when you expect these shipments to arrive. Get a clear idea of the volume if you are stocking up before others. Ask questions about these activities.

  • What space is required to transport the average freight order on a truck?
  • Are you able to store things in the space or do you need to move them around?
  • Are there enough shelves to store your items? Or will you need more space?
  • If you could change the location of goods, would your pickers be able to fulfill orders quicker?
  • Are your aisles large enough to hold people and the equipment necessary to complete orders?
  • Are you able to provide enough equipment for increased orders?

As much as possible, get a “big picture view” of the world. Each one of these questions is a falling domino. For example, you might need more equipment to buy it. It will need to be stored and charged. Training may be required for employees to learn how to use it. The list goes on.

Holiday fulfillment involves planning. You want to continue asking the next question in order to limit the risks and surprises that you may face.

03. Make sure to stock up on materials

Our article on holiday supply chains management focuses on the reasons to find multiple suppliers and partners to deliver products to your warehouse, distribution center or other facility. However, you can learn the same lessons for everything that is required to pack and get the order out the door.

eCommerce sales are expected to continue at a high level throughout the year-end shopping seasons. This means that you will likely use more packaging materials, boxes and filler than usual. You can avoid running out of essential items by stocking up now, not panic buying but increasing your refill and resupply orders slightly.

It could be more difficult to obtain these materials if you wait until the last minute. You will be competing with other online stores for supplies and may not have as many brick-and-mortar locations to purchase these materials. You might even be forced to pay more for packaging supplies.

Although you don’t want your toilet paper and hand soap to run out, it is a smart move to build up your protection by slowly stocking up.

04. Partner with you

Your company and other suppliers will be more stressed if you are able to get ready earlier than usual. Backlogs can also be caused by dramatic increases in orders. Reach out to us now to be the best possible partner.

Ask your partners in manufacturing, goods suppliers, third party logistics providers (3PLs), and other partners for any requirements regarding the year-end season. Check to see if any of their requirements have changed.

These are some things you should discuss:

  • Do your orders need to be increased or changed?
  • Do they require longer lead times?
  • Do they give preference to bulk orders?
  • Are they expecting orders to take longer?
  • What materials are they expecting to run out?
  • What can we do to help?

You will be a better customer and partner if you are proactive and try to fulfill their needs. Even if they are unable to fulfill all their orders, this makes them more likely to choose yours. You can work with people to meet their needs and may be able to get some flexibility if they have an emergency.

Set clear expectations with your most important partners. Share these with your colleagues. The ripple effect of increased requirements can affect your supply chain. Manufacturers may require larger quantities of goods. This means that you will need more space at your warehouse partner in order to store them. It is a good idea to gather all this information and to have everyone in your company review it.

05. Organize your promotions strategically

You can space out your fulfillment demands by managing your holiday promotions. This will allow you to avoid having a whole season of orders to fulfill in one week, and almost none the following.

You can find many deals and offers throughout the holiday season. Prime Day shoppers should start shopping early so you can take advantage of these discounts. Start creating your holiday eCommerce strategy now. You can offer the initial lower discounts soon. To grab the last bits of sales, reach your peak deals on Cyber Monday. Create a second peak around Dec 13th. Standard shipping will still be able to deliver packages on time.

This smart strategy will help to keep the operation running smoothly and build customer insight ahead of Cyber Monday.

Take into account the spending habits of your customers. While shoppers have increased their online spending since early 2020 there is a caveat to this data: total retail spending has fallen.

While your customers may be shopping more online than in stores, they are also likely to shop less overall. You have a better chance of getting to them by having a professional eCommerce site and optimized product pages. However, you will need to offer the best deals so that they actually buy things. This may mean offering more options and lower prices in some cases.

Begin by reviewing your 2020 sales and determining if product pricing has changed sales or if the average order value has fallen. Adjust your standard pricing and your discounts to match the budget of your core customers if it is lower.

You can also get creative. You might consider a new subscription model. To make it easy for friends and family to gift subscriptions, offer the first or second month at a substantial discount. The razor-and-blade sales model is a guide for getting your digital foot in front. This strategy is another great way to stagger your fulfillment needs over time.

06. Check out shipping alternatives and options

All types of companies experienced problems with shipping and delivery in early 2020. Although things are generally back to normal, there were unexpected increases in costs and surprise at various points of the supply chain, particularly when received goods from distant manufacturers.

Your business cannot address all inbound shipping issues, but you can address them in different ways. To minimize delays, you’ll need to begin sourcing eCommerce shipping as well as fulfillment alternatives.

Keep an eye out for complaints and concerns about standard carriers. Consider switching to a competitor if UPS, FedEx or USPS has issues in your region or difficulties delivering to customers. Non-traditional carriers may be an option for local deliveries. These include Lyft and Uber, as well as smaller companies like Roadie.

Amazon has chosen small businesses to be its local delivery partners. These small businesses also provide parcel delivery services in smaller areas. You may be able to access local, same-day freight shipping services if you live in an area near a port or large market. This can make it easier to move your goods to a warehouse, distribution center, or other location.

Add curbside pick-up to your eCommerce site for businesses that have physical storefronts. You don’t need a physical storefront to sell your products. If you can rope off an area of your garage or an entrance from your docks, your warehouse may be able support pickups. You might be able to partner with a local organization to use their space.

This is the time to start using software to manage your order management. Shippo and ShipStation allow you to connect your order management system and search for carriers based upon a range of criteria, including price, speed, delivery times and delivery time. These platforms are great because they allow you to optimize and automate the selection of carriers, pick up requests, returns processing and many other functions. Many platforms will provide customers with portals that allow them to track their orders and receive updates. This is a smart way for you to improve customer service throughout the year, as well as during holiday sales.

07. Customers should be happy.

The holiday season is a time when eCommerce businesses must compete for customers. Customers are often judged on price and deals, with customer service and reliability being close behind. You will be competing against smaller players and big marketplaces like Amazon. Your competitors may offer fast, free shipping (like Prime), while smaller shops might be more flexible in pricing and discounts to attract customers.

It’s likely that you will find yourself somewhere in between, where you can either focus on cutting shipping cost or other pricing reductions. The question you should ask and A/B Test to which method will make the most difference for your customer.

COVID-19 has made it clear that businesses must balance the needs of customers and their budgets. You may not be able to offer BOGO discounts or loss leaders if you have tighter months. You should also review the shipping rates for this year and compare them with any issues that you have had with suppliers or carriers.

What was your biggest problem in 2020? What can you do about it during peak season?

You might consider a faster shipping option if you are more concerned about logistics. This will help you make sure your goods arrive on-time, while still giving people the option to pay for 2-day or expedited shipping. You may find that a small improvement in delivery time can be enough to win the trust of your customers.

To adapt to the changing season, adjust your shipping policy, fees, and service goals. These are some shipping considerations that will help you adapt.

  • What margin can you afford to lose on orders for discounts or shipping?
  • What is the minimum order value that you can use to cover additional costs?
  • Are you able to slightly increase the product price now in order to offer free shipping
  • Do your loss leaders have the potential to attract more carts?
  • What slow-selling products can you offer as gifts?
  • What are people asking for and what can you reasonably deliver?

While planning how to reach your revenue or sales targets, create a plan for addressing the COVID-19 issues. These issues will need to be addressed if there is a new outbreak or if your partner experiences a repeat of the problem. What can you do to help customers avoid complaints and minimize returns?

08. Unboxing is a unique experience

Businesses used to view the “unboxing experience” as a way to differentiate their stores, but it is now a key aspect of branding.

To create an unforgettable experience for everyone who opens your box, you should pay extra attention to packaging. This will help you build your brand and give your customers a reason to smile even during this difficult time.

A beautifully packaged product can actually cause joy. A 2013 study showed that attractive packaging activates brain regions associated with reward. While unattractive packaging leads to negative emotions.

These tips will take your unboxing to the next level:

  • Make sure you maximize your space. Each item should be individually wrapped or folded. You can add color and extra space by packing peanuts or confetti.
  • Customize your packaging. Label boxes, tape, and tissue paper with your logo, colors, and font. Consider limiting branding to the interior of your gift box if your product is a gift.
  • Be consistent with holiday messaging Include winter imagery and themes in your packaging. It should be matched to the overall appearance and feel of holiday promotions.
  • Send a personal note to your customers. Thank them for choosing you. Wish them happy holidays. You can go above and beyond by writing a handwritten letter or signing printed letters by hand.
  • Surprise them. You can add it to your gift as an additional gift.
  • Use unusual packaging. Wrap your products in reusable or sustainable materials. This is good for the environment and customers will be ambassadors for your brand if your packaging can be reused in the future. It will also help to make your business memorable.

An unboxing experience that is truly memorable can last well beyond the moment it happens. YouTubers have been creating unboxing videos that have received millions of views and some even dedicated their entire channel to it. Google study revealed that 20% of online shoppers watched unboxing videos while searching for a product. 62%, however, reported that they had seen unboxing videos while shopping online.

Your customers will love to have an unboxing experience. This will make them partners in your brand promotion.

09. How you will handle the influx in returns

More eCommerce sales will translate into more revenue for your store. These are a reality of life. However, you must plan for the holiday spike. 25% of all annual eCommerce revenue occurred between Thanksgiving 2019 to the end of January 2020, a total value of over $100 billion.

The pandemic also created returns challenges to eCommerce companies. New policies were developed to ensure that customers are happy and retain their loyalty. There were some core trends, such as extending returns times and offering more options. Online and brick-and-mortar retailers had to adapt or cease accepting returns.

Make sure you have a clear return policy

One eCommerce trend that was highlighted during the pandemic was customers not wanting to purchase from stores with complicated or restrictive return policies. Remember that 67% online shoppers review a store’s returns policy before making a purchase decision. You want it to be clear and simple.

Start by creating a simple refund and return policy to prepare for the influx. You should include information about your business, what is covered, when returns are allowed, how long they take, costs and any other logistical information that customers may need. Clearer information is better for customers. Customers will be more likely to use the same form as you do, which will reduce the number of customer service interactions such as chat and email.

In the site footer, and in all other places that address shipping costs or fees, include a link to the return policy. This can increase your customer credibility and help you to sell more.

Get ready for your warehouse

Talk to your warehouse team about your return policies. Train them in what to look out for and how they can determine if a product returned is acceptable. To get an idea of the process, have them test it.

After the big sales days are over, you can have a team set up to clear out a warehouse space and prepare it for returns processing. It usually takes about a week for returns to begin coming in. However, if you get the space ready earlier, it can help you prepare in case things happen sooner than expected. This space should be kept aside until January if possible.

Get shelves and other materials for storing goods in your returns processing area. These can be separated so that it is easy to track which products are being stored.

  • Taken off a truck
  • Enter the required information into the system
  • Are still being checked and verified. The product status and return policies (such as a 14-day window), have been followed.
  • To process returns payments, have had the associated order data up-dated
  • Are ready to go back on the shelves
  • Counted and then discarded.

Clearer policies and procedures in your warehouse and store will make the whole operation run smoothly. Customers shouldn’t be upset or cause unnecessary delays in returning goods or processing replacements. Dry runs will allow you to understand what adjustments you may need to make to avoid delays and problems.

Fulfillment refers to a customer service strategy

There is a lot to be done to prepare for 2020. You’ll be wearing many hats, face many challenges, and have to manage your workforce, products and shipping.

Regardless of all this, never lose sight of customer service.

An eCommerce company should realize that customer service is an integral part of every aspect of their business. Easy-to-use shopping carts and clean sites improve customer service before the sale. Simple returns and reliable shipping extend this service well beyond the initial sale. Your service extends to every purchase.

Fulfillment is an important part of all these experiences. This is something that eCommerce businesses may neglect because a 3PL, carrier or other partner handles the delivery of goods to customers. These shoppers will judge your business based on how these parts perform. You take credit for the good things and you get the blame for the bad ones.

source https://www.wix.com/blog/ecommerce/2020/09/holiday-season-shipping-and-fulfillment

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