It’s Time to Start Prepping for the Holidays

Mike DeFabis
Outside of the IDS Fulfillment Center

This holiday sales season is set to break records. If you want to be able to take advantage of the benefits, you need to know how to keep up with consumer demands and adapt to the changes this year has brought forth. Every year, ecommerce sales get higher during the peak holiday season, and this year is set to do the same with even more shoppers purchasing strictly online. From November 1 to December 31 of 2016, ecommerce sales grew 10.5% up to $91.7 billion from the previous year. Online sales topped $1 billion on 57 days out of that 61-day period according to Internet Retailer. Black Friday and Cyber Monday dominated the online shopping industry as the largest online shopping days ever in the United States.

Now, as we are nearing the end of August, it is time to start working on how we are going to keep up with increasing demand and compete with the hard-hitters like Amazon and eBay. First of all, merchants must ensure they are meeting shopper’s evolving needs. They need to offer a fast-loading, easily-accessible mobile shopping experience because 86% of millennials used a mobile device while shopping in stores last holiday season. Among that group, 52% were comparing prices, 40% of them were checking product availability or inventory, 37% called up digital discounts or coupons, and 33% read reviews or ratings on previous experiences (according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Post-Holiday Shopping Survey).

Pressure is also extremely high on getting orders out the door quickly, because Amazon and other large retailers have conditioned everyone to have a higher demand for a quick shipment. Prime Now allowed customers to order as late as 9:45 pm on Christmas Eve with the guarantee that the package would arrive in time for “Santa’s” miraculous gift drop by Christmas morning. We have discussed how to expedite the shipping process in a previous post if you would like to gain more information on how to accomplish that.

Another increasingly popular trend, is the ability to order online and pick the items up at the store by Christmas Eve. For example, Macy’s Inc, allowed customers to order select products online as late as noon on Christmas Eve for in-store pickup, and some even went so far as to offer same-day delivery for items ordered before 10 am via delivery service Deliv.

With the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced holiday season, it is very possible and easy to get an order mixed up here or there or have some dissatisfied customers. In the event that happens, you need to have a system in place to make the returns process as smooth and easy as possible. First, start evaluating the returns process you have in place right now. Has it proven smooth for you in the past? Have you had many negative reviews regarding the system? If so, sit down with your executive team and talk through how to best repair those issues. As part of these efforts, consider looking for alternatives to the big shipping and delivery carriers to avoid the new surcharges. For example, Newgistics does not charge surcharges, and SmartLabel products help manage the return process quickly to get back into sellable inventory, according to Newgistics CEO Todd Everett.

The holidays are also an explosive time for hiring seasonal employees and temps. In order to keep your warehouse running efficiently all season, make sure the time is taken to have these new employees properly trained. They should all be well-versed in your system a few weeks before Black Friday hits so the margin for error is as low as possible. This is a stressful time for them as well as you, and everyone working together will prove essential in keeping thins running without a hitch.

With new UPS and Fedex holiday surcharges, the mobile shopping industry booming, and a higher demand for quick and flawless delivery, this holiday season is going to push you to your limits. The time is now to make sure you and all of your employees and vendors are on the same page. Keep in mind that everyone is going through this stressful time together, and everyone wants the same thing. Working together is incredibly important and being as prepared as possible for what can happen is essential. Start planning now, and your holiday season should be spectacular.

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