Managing fulfillment and shipping during peak periods
Every retailer has peak sales periods. For many, it's the end-of-the-year holiday shopping season, while others experience multiple peaks throughout the year. For example, a retailer in a tourist center may experience a peak during the summer when people tend to travel, or an office supply merchant may see a surge of activity during back-to-school season. Whether merchants only experience a single peak at the end of the year or have multiple peaks throughout, they must plan to nail down fulfillment and shipping processes during these high-volume periods to maximize customer satisfaction.
For many merchants, peak periods represent significant opportunities to drive revenue, and poor planning can result in lost sales.
The more time and energy that is invested into planning, the more effective merchants will be at satisfying customers’ needs and encouraging future purchases. Here are a few items that retailers need to cover:
1. Inventory management
Inventory management is important to daily retail operations, but during peak seasons, it's even more crucial. Not having enough stock of popular items can be a critical misstep that can cost retailers thousands of dollars. Using past and current data to project inventory levels and establishing a streamlined purchasing and receiving process are ways retailers can protect themselves from ordering too much or too little stock.
Retailers should also plan on strategizing how to merchandise products during peak periods. For example, retailers should be incentivizing customers to purchase slow-moving inventory with discounts or bundling these items with popular items to help clear space and increase shopping cart size.
As Multichannel Merchant suggested, retailers must keep a close eye on inventory during peak periods and fine-tune their strategies based on trends that pop up.
2. Set solid shipping deadlines
For some peak seasons, shipping deadlines will range, while during the holiday season, many Americans need to receive their orders no later than December 25th. Retailers must fine-tune their order management systems and also work with third-party delivery services to ensure all orders reach customers by a particular deadline.
3. Supplement warehouse activities with new staff and technology
With large volumes of orders expected during peak seasons, retailers need to prepare by hiring more staff that will support fulfillment activities and returns and exchanges. One report from Monster Worldwide found in the lead-up to the holiday season, the number of job offerings for warehouse positions increases by 62 percent, illustrating the widespread demand for more help.
Retailers can also implement order management software that will help automate order processing and consolidate orders so merchants can expedite the picking, packing and shipping steps for brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, and marketplaces.
A consolidated order management system will help anyone from warehouse employees to the customer service team access real-time data, reducing errors and miscommunication at a time when events are happening very quickly.
Peak periods can really test how effectively a retailer’s order management and warehouse management system helps employees meet demand. It's absolutely pivotal that merchants implement and test and retest their operational software in preparation for peak periods.