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7 Fulfillment Steps to Take Now for Q4 2017

It’s summertime, but brands are busy preparing for the onslaught of holiday sales that are headed their way in a few months. And based on last year’s numbers, they should get ready for more eCommerce transactions than ever before.

Reports from Adobe Digital Insights and First Data Corporation share the following:

  • eCommerce transactions in 2016 rose 12% compared to 2015
  • Between November 1 and December 31 of last year, shoppers spent $91.7 billion online
  • During that timeframe, all but 4 days garnered over $1 billion in ecommerce sales

With online holiday sales expected to rise double digits again this year, brands need to prep operationally for the holiday rush in order to meet the demands of their customers. Here are 7 steps to take now for your Q4 fulfillment.

Assess Your 2016

Take cues from your last holiday season when preparing for the next one. What went well? Make sure the efficient fulfillment processes and systems you had in place last year will be in place again this year – and expect to handle a higher sales volume that last year. Also address the challenges you faced in prior seasons. What do you need to do to avert those challenges this year and improve operations? Begin planning well in advance of when orders will start to pick up.

Systems & Processes

When orders start coming in, your fulfillment systems and processes will be put into overdrive. Have a clear response plan in place for unexpected situations related to your technologies and equipment. Avoid downtime by having a backup plan ready to go should any processes or equipment fail. And know which departments and individuals will oversee troubleshooting, should any issues occur.

Inventory Management

Fast fulfillment processing starts with knowing your product inventory and velocity. Optimize your warehousing operations to improve peak volume throughput. Position your top-selling products in efficient locations to enhance pick time, and set up temporary work stations to accommodate customization like gift wrapping. If you need to temporarily get slow-moving inventory out of the warehouse to make room for hot holiday products, do it. Modifications like these will ensure that fast order turn time happens – and that your customers stay happy.

Choose Carriers Wisely

Brands need to utilize everything at their disposal to get the fastest and most economical shipping methods possible. Take advantage of tools like zone optimization, air vs. ground prioritization and free shipping vs. transit time pressure. Make sure that you’ve shared projections with your shipping carriers. Get extended pick-up times for late day shipments, and alert carriers when additional trailers are needed due to increased parcel volume. Understand seasonal carrier surcharges. New for 2017, UPS is charging a surcharge of $0.27-$0.97 per package shipped in November and December.

Offer Personalization Services

Give customers the opportunity to add a personal touch to their orders. Customization services like gift wrapping, personalized notes and unique kitting and assembly assortments are just a few ways to make your brand stand out from a sea of competitors and sales channels.

Plan for Rush Orders and Returns

Customers now expect brands to offer fast delivery leading right up to the holiday. They also want to be able to change or add to their orders midway through the fulfillment process. Have the flexibility to meet these kinds of customer demands. And have a solid returns management program in place before the sales rush begins. Offer customers a simple seamless way to make returns – and clearly state the policy on your website. Customers want a transparent return process.

Increase Your Manpower

Consider hiring seasonal workers to keep up with holiday volume. Have a simple but thorough training program for all hires, and place them in positions where you can capitalize on their skill sets. Assign workers to replenish items like packing materials to maximize productivity. You can also prepack or stage items to streamline your process.

It’s not too late – Connect with PFC and see how we can help give your brand the smoothest, most successful holiday fulfillment season ever.