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The holiday season, whilst a magical and happy time for most, can be profitable but highly stressful for an eCommerce business. During the holidays, people are in the mood to treat themselves and their loved ones, which means lots of online shopping.
To highlight the demand, research by Thrasio revealed that in 2021 48% of all Christmas goods bought in the UK were bought online. When broken down into demographics, the figures relieved the following:
- 42% of 18-24-year-olds bought online, an increase from 34% in 2020
- 51% of 35-44s, an increase from 46%
- 41% of 65 and over, up from 33%
Thrasio director of UK acquisitions Jim Mann commented:
“It shows that half the population will buy nearly half of all their goods online – a profound shift in consumer behaviour. Crucially, the growth is across all demographics and regions. As younger people have recorded the biggest growth this is likely to be a permanent change.”
As Mr Mann mentions, online sales are increasing among the younger market, showing that eCommerce businesses will continue to see demand increases all year round, particularly in the holiday season. Therefore, you must plan for the heightened demand systematically and promptly to ensure your logistics department is fully prepared for a seamless and productive holiday season.
Don’t worry; we are here to support you. Here are our key steps to preparing your business for the holiday season.
Importance of an eCommerce Business Holiday Strategy
Planning is one of the most important aspects of any business. Plans help companies develop many areas of their organisation, such as improving the customer journey, expanding their operations, training and growing their workforce, and building a positive brand image. Planning is vital for the logistics department at any time of the year, especially during the holiday period. Without a credible and organised plan that the whole workforce understands, things can go badly wrong, especially in busy periods. A dysfunctional logistics department can lead to missed orders, lack of stock, extra costs, and, importantly, unhappy customers.
Next, we will explore key areas to consider when you are developing and implementing your strategy for your logistical operations over the holiday period.
Forecast the Demand
It is crucial for you and your team to forecast expected demand over a holiday period, and it can be done with a good level of accuracy. Sitting down with your team and analysing historical data and experiences from previous holiday seasons, you can find areas of strength, potential problems, expected sales, and staff needs. From this data, you can plan suitable solutions for this year for a successful holiday operation.
Demand forecast and business intelligence software are available to help you build an effective and accurate forecast. Demand planning software provides companies with forecasting solutions that prepare them for future business demand. If you are interested in integrating this software into your business, explore GMDH’s top 10 demand planning and forecasting software for 2023.
Exceptional Inventory Management
As you have established in your planning for the holiday season, customer demand will be high. You will see a rise of people shopping online for that perfect gift for family and friends. Due to the importance of the order, customers expect a certain level of service. They expect items to be in stock and delivered promptly. Poor stock management can lead to a breakdown in supplying customer demand, damaging your organisation’s reputation.
Therefore, an eCommerce business needs to keep track of its stock levels at all times, especially during the holiday period. Inventory management allows companies, particularly warehouse managers, to identify what items are top sellers so they can be constantly replenished and any items running low on stock. This close maintenance of stock levels allows for complete transparency into your supply chain to monitor the flow of goods from your supplier, enables you to address any stock gaps, and keeps those best sellers’ stock up. Furthermore, from a security point of view, good inventory management also prevents theft and loss of products, which can increase in busy periods when stock is higher, and the workforce is stretched.
Ultimately, an effectively managed inventory will increase the chances that your business has a profitable holiday period. The demand is high, and sales during this period can be the difference between hitting or missing financial targets. In addition, keeping good stock and preventing theft and loss means more products for your customers, increasing profits, and growing your company.
In years gone by, inventory management had to be done by hand, which was time-consuming and was open to human error. In this digital age, inventory management software can help you track and manage your stock, especially as your business scales. It lets you streamline the tasks required to track inventory, reorder stock, and update accounting data. Here are examples of critical features of inventory management software:
- The software allows you to have complete visibility into your entire stock. This visibility helps you maintain optimal amounts to continue fulfilling orders without overstocking.
- It automates critical tasks such as point-of-sale solutions and accounting software, reducing the chance of human error.
- Particularly for retailers, it is vital to catalogue your inventory not just by the product type but by distinguishing features like size, colour, and style. Inventory management software allows you to break up your stock into different characteristics. For example, if you are a business which sells t-shirts, you can identify how many of a particular t-shirt you have in black and size large and if you need to order more from your supplier.
Grow your Workforce
If you know that demand will increase through the holiday season, meaning your force will be stretched, it may be in your interest to hire extra staff to meet. Forming a partnership with a reputable temporary recruitment agency is vital. The agency will be able to provide you with temporary staff to get you through the holiday season. In addition, a reputable agency will ensure that staff have been vetted before joining you so you know they are qualified and have the skills and values to benefit your business.
One important aspect to remember when hiring temporary staff is that they will need training and an introduction to the company and its process. If, for example, you are hiring temps for Christmas, it is an idea to bring them in during October or November so that you have time to train and integrate them into the team, ready for the rush.
Effectively Manage your Current Workforce
As well as potentially bringing in new staff to help you cope with the extra demand, you must ensure your current workforce is well-managed to deal with the pressures of holiday periods.
Make sure sufficient training is provided in all aspects of the logistic process. Training is particularly important for new starters, or as mentioned above, temps, but even high-performing or long-term staff still need training refreshers now and again. Getting your workforce up to scratch before the rush begins will ensure they are prepared, quell any anxiety, and reduce the chances of issues occurring due to staff error.
It is also essential to communicate well in advance when they will be working over the holiday period. If you operate a rota system, make sure these are organised and done well in advance. From a business point of view, this will help you ensure that you are well-staffed with the right people during busy periods. From a workforce point of view, it will allow you to communicate clearly and in advance when they will be working during the holidays, e.g. Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day etc. As well as helping your team stay organised will help with morale as they can adequately plan their holidays from a non-work point of view - seeing their families, taking breaks etc.
Using a Third Party Order Fulfilment Service
Order fulfilment is the process of receiving, processing, and delivering products. For many companies, both large and small, order fulfilment can be a time-consuming and arduous task. The main risk of not having a seamless order fulfilment process is not meeting customer expectations which can harm a company’s reputation.
Due to the size and importance of meeting order demands, many businesses seek a third-party order fulfilment service to help them meet demand, especially during busy holidays. Outsourcing this process can help your business grow and be a money-saver in the long run. Here are the key benefits of order fulfilment:
Reduced Shipping Costs
Businesses often avoid outsourcing their order fulfilment as they think it will add to their expenses list. However, letting third parties carry out this service can save you money in the long run, especially around shipping.
Order fulfilment partners often have warehouses spread out across the country and abroad. By spreading your inventory across a network of warehouses, you ensure that your goods are closer to your customers. It is reported that managing your inventory can help reduce costs by up to 25%.
Furthermore, for companies that send out high volumes of goods or in increased periods of demand, such as holidays, third-party companies often can negotiate reduced rates from carriers, helping you to save money.
Focus on Selling and Customer Experience
As previously mentioned, the holiday season is a time for companies to increase sales and profits and provide fantastic customer service. So naturally, with increased sales comes increased order fulfilment. However, carrying this out yourself may take you away from important things during these busy periods.
By offloading to a third-party order fulfilment provider, they will deal with the order processes, and you can spend more time on your business, selling, marketing, and leading your workforce.
Faster Shipping Speeds
The holiday season can be a tricky one for deliveries. There is a significant upturn in the number of customer orders you process, and you must keep the same high customer service standards as you have in the quieter periods.
Using an order fulfilment service provider, they have the systems, workforce, and expertise to ensure orders are sent out and delivered within the given timeframes. Furthermore, as many providers have multiple warehouses across the country and even abroad, the goods are closer to the customers, speeding up the process.
Happy Customers and Positive Brand Reputation
It sounds like an obvious point, but customers are at the heart of everything a business does. During the holiday season, customer expectations are even higher. For example, around Christmas, customers expect their presents for friends and family to be delivered in time for the big day. If this is not fulfilled, then this will lead to disappointment and complaints.
Outsourcing order fulfilment leads to fast, cheaper shipping which the customer and your business can accurately track. Also, with you and your workforce spending less time on order fulfilment, you have more time to focus on building a positive customer experience.
Need Support with your Order Fulfilment Process?
Since our formation in 2013, Core Fulfilment has built a proud reputation for building meaningful partnerships with many incredible brands. We work with companies of all different sizes and provide the highest level of service to all our clients, whether the order is large or small. Explore our dedicated order fulfilment page to discover more about our services.
If you are thinking about outsourcing or transferring your order fulfilment process, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to discuss this further, please get in touch with the team, or you are more than welcome to visit our HQ in Crewe for a drink and a chat to see how we operate. We look forward to starting our order fulfilment journey together.