How to Prep Your eCommerce Business for Holiday Fulfillment

Read the original article here on Arka’s blog.

This video is brought to you by Fulfillrite.

Every year, many eCommerce businesses see a huge surge of orders in the final quarter of the year. It’s a lot to take in, and prepping for that surge of orders is no joke.

It’s easy to fall behind, ship out the wrong orders, and generally lose track of what’s going on with your business.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Thankfully, when it comes to prepping for holiday fulfillment, no individual task is particularly difficult. There are just a lot of small tasks that need to be completed in rapid succession.

In this video, we talk about how you can prep your eCommerce business for holiday fulfillment.

But before we get to that, a quick note. If the idea of shipping a bunch of holiday orders intimidates you, we can help. We ship orders for eCommerce, and that can really help when order volume is high. Go to fulfillrite.com/open to request a quote today. Link in the description.

Alright, back to the show!

How to Prep Your eCommerce Business for Holiday Fulfillment

1. Learn the holiday shipping deadlines in advance.

If you want to get orders out on time, you have to know the shipping deadlines! If you miss them, your items might arrive too late for Christmas morning.

Every year, major carriers such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS post lists of holiday shipping deadlines. This tells you when packages have to be in the mail in order to be delivered by a certain time. 

Pause now and you can see all the major shipping deadlines for 2021 on the screen. Link in the description if you want to see where we got this from. 

2. Estimate demand for your products and plan accordingly.

Demand is everything. If you want to ship out orders for the holidays, you need to know how many items to keep in stock in the first place.

So how do you do that? How do you arrive at something like a solid estimate of demand without having a literal crystal ball?

We wrote about demand estimation at length on our blog, link in the description, and you can read that if you like. But to save you a click, some of the best sources of information you can use include past sales data, the conversion rate and budget for any pay-per-click ads, publicly available market data, and market studies.

If you look closely at this information, you can often come up with a reasonably good estimate of how much inventory to keep in stock. 

3. Check your IT systems to ensure uptime.

If your systems go down during the holidays, you will start losing sales. So it makes sense to try to prevent that from happening!

Write down a list of all the hardware and software that you use on a regular basis. Identify the things that, if they went down, would slow your business to a crawl. Before the holidays make your business really busy, invest in everything you can to increase these systems’ uptime.

4. Polish your web presence.

If you want to sell a lot of items, you need to make sure your website is a well-oiled machine as soon as possible! That means selling trendy items and making sure you have a good conversion rate. This will make sure that you a) get traffic and b) turn that traffic into money. 

5. Optimize product descriptions and SEO.

If your store doesn’t show up on Google, you’ll miss out on a lot of sales. So you want your store to show up more frequently. That means you will need to do some search engine optimization.

This is a whole can of worms itself, and we can’t do it justice in this video. If you want some good reading material, check out the article by Search Engine Journal linked in the description.

If you don’t have time to go through a whole technical guide, though, take away one lesson: improve your product descriptions. Detailed product descriptions bring in more organic traffic and reduce the amount of returns because people know exactly what they’re buying.

6. Figure out manufacturing in advance.

Supply chain management right now is really tricky. A lot of raw materials are in shortage, in particular, and that messes everything up!

If your products require manufacturing or collecting raw materials, you need to know who will be doing the manufacturing and who will be providing the raw materials. Figure this out in advance so you can reduce the chance of running out of inventory or the supplies needed to make inventory.

7. Update your inventory policies so you won’t stock out.

If you stock out, you’ll lose potential sales and irritate your repeat customers. All around bad experience.

You need to make sure you have enough inventory to handle an increased volume of orders. It may be a good idea to start stocking extra inventory a month or two in advance of the holidays for this reason.

8. Book bulk shipments so they arrive on time.

It’s not uncommon for bulk shipments of items to be delayed. This is especially true if shipping by sea, and even more true because of the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Book the shipments you need well in advance of when you need them. You can use Freightos to arrange freight shipping that suits your needs.

9. Coordinate fulfillment and warehousing in advance.

Outsourcing order fulfillment makes sense in many cases, but if you do it too close to the holidays, you could be asking for trouble.

If you plan on switching from shipping your own orders to having a third-party do it for you, get started before the holidays. That way, you can establish a relationship and get into a normal rhythm before holiday shipping begins in earnest.

10. Map your returns process.

Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 20 to 30% of eCommerce orders eventually end up being returned. More so during the holidays.

Items break. Other items are unwanted entirely. You need to have a clear plan in place to handle items that are being returned to your company.

11. Test your company as a customer and make sure the experience is a good one.

You can never really know how it feels to buy from your company until you actually do it.

Buy a product from your own company and see how it goes. You learn a lot by being your own customer, and you can address some of the frustrations that your customers might run into once you experience them.

12. Identify your customers’ pain points and fix as many as you can.

Small irritations for your customers  can become huge problems when order volume goes up. Every company has negative quirks, and some of them can become serious liabilities during the holidays.

Using the knowledge you pick up by acting as your own customer, write down everything that was bad about your current process. Then come up with ways to fix as many of those pain points as you can before the holidays start.

13. Identify business’s pain points and fix as many as you can.

In the process of spelling out your customers’ pain points, you’ll probably find weaknesses in the business, too. These are the specific problems that you and not your customer will have to deal with. Maybe your computer takes ten minutes to boot up. Maybe you have status calls that don’t benefit anyone.

No matter what the situation is, figure out what you need to improve about the business to ultimately address the customers’ problems. Fix as many of those problems as you can too. That way, you’ll be left with more energy to deal with holiday shipping.

14. Increase marketing spending.

In general, when the holidays arrive, you need to spend more on marketing. You can do this by spending more on search engine or social media advertising. Alternatively, you can work on creating content for people who are looking up what to buy. Either way, September & October are the right months to increase your spending!

15. Plan for gift shipping.

Want to know an easy value-added service that can make you some money? Add gift wrapping service. Lots of people can’t wrap gifts well, so you save them time and embarrassment while making money.

16. Create custom holiday packaging.

Fancy custom holiday packaging can do wonders for both your branding and your conversion rate. Items with custom packaging just feel better quality, and people have fun unboxing them too. Consider rolling out some custom packaging for the holidays.

17. Stock up on critical supplies.

The last thing you want to do is run out of bubble wrap, and then have to drive to Office Depot in the middle of the day and lose an hour of perfectly good work time.

If you’re shipping your own orders, make sure you have enough boxes, padded mailers, bubble wrap, and tape. Otherwise, make sure you are stocked up on things you usually run out of, even if that means coffee for the break room.

18. Hire seasonal workers.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory!

19. Automate and outsource before you need to.

Of course, hiring temps shouldn’t be your first instinct. Try to free up time without adding labor if you can. This could range from outsourcing fulfillment to a third-party to buying software to make your business more efficient.

20. Double check your timetables.

When arranging large freight shipments, it can be tough to keep track of what items will be in which warehouses and when. Because of this, double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check all your freight shipment timetables. The last thing you want on December 25 is a cargo vessel sitting in a port off the coast of Florida when you expected it to come ashore two weeks ago.

Additionally, make sure your warehouses will receive goods in time to get packages out in the mail before the holiday shipping cutoff dates. Otherwise, you’ll risk unhappy buyers who expected their items to arrive before Christmas.

If everything doesn’t line up, it’s better to catch that now! It gives you a chance to set expectations that can do wonders for your business’s reputation in the long-run.

21. Reach out to social media influencers.

People are turning to social media more and more to make purchasing decisions. Sending a few samples of your product to people with a few thousand followers or more can go a long way toward spreading the word of your product. A PR box strategy – that is, making a special box for publicly talkative VIPs – can be a simple and inexpensive way to increase brand awareness and supercharge your sales.

22. Share special packaging on social media.

Speaking of social media, if you created custom packaging, take pictures of it and share it on social media! Custom packaging tends to perform well on social media, ranging from unboxing videos on YouTube to glam shots on Instagram.

23. Review processes after the holidays.

In January, when all the dust has settled, it’s a great time to take a breath and think about how the holidays went. Ask yourself if there’s anything you would have done differently. That way, you can do even better next year!

If you’ve watched this video and you feel like it’s time to hire a fulfillment company, you still might not know where to start. We’d like to help.

Fulfillrite is the most trusted name in order fulfillment. Boost customer satisfaction and scale your business faster with a logistics partner that feels like an extension of your team. Services include same-day shipping, real-time order and inventory tracking, dedicated customer service, and volume-based discounts.

Go to fulfillrite.com/open to request a quote today. Link in the description.

Thank you very much for watching this video. If you liked it, take a moment to like and subscribe to our channel. Don’t forget to ring the bell, too, so you can see videos as soon as they drop.

And now, a parting question – does your company have any holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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