9 Ways to Prepare for Peak Season Fulfillment

It’s July, so why are we already discussing ways to prepare for peak season fulfillment? Because now is the time to start planning. The e-commerce peak retail season begins in October and runs through early January. Summer is the time to review your fulfillment process, inventory management, forecasts, and data to make informed decisions. E-commerce sales dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and haven’t slowed much. To prepare for peak season fulfillment in 2024, we need to start now. Planning Christmas in July will set your e-commerce apart when the tidal wave of purchases starts. Here are nine ways to prepare for peak season fulfillment.

#1 Create Data-driven Demand Forecasts

It is crucial to review the most recent data you have regarding projected peak inventory demand. Delve into the data from the most recent peak season and quarter-over-quarter sales fluctuations. Dissecting the data is the best way to forecast accurately. Data points to focus on:

preparing for peak season fulfillment

Digging into the data is the most tedious and critical task when preparing for peak. E-commerce businesses typically have multiple systems collating their data. If you partner with a 3PL like Falcon Fulfillment, they can provide a baseline report for fulfillment-focused data. Start now so that you won’t be scrambling to capitalize on consumer spending by the time peak season begins.

#2 Prepare Inventory

Based on your forecasting, begin to work with suppliers and manufacturers on projected sales during peak season. This helps to mitigate stockouts, backorders, and losing customers. The more information you can provide to your partners, the more likely you will have a triumphant peak. Pre-order stock where possible and negotiate with warehousing suppliers. This will help circumvent supply chain issues. Ensure you have accurate reporting for inventory levels. Several benefits of using an inventory management system include; accurate tracking, limiting human error, and full inventory transparency. Now is the time to implement new inventory management software and test for accuracy.

#3 Utilize Distributed Inventory

To prepare for peak season, start leveraging multisite distribution. If you are fulfilling in-house, partner with a 3PL that can add multiple fulfillment centers. Leveraging distributed inventory enables you to offer lower shipping costs and increase conversions. E-commerce businesses can take advantage of 2-day, expedited, and free shipping with a minimum spend threshold. This can increase your average order value and reduce cart abandonment.

#4 Streamline Internal Communications

Successful fulfillment relies heavily on clear, transparent, and consistent communication. This is never more true than during peak when it can be exponentially difficult to get help or responses from fulfillment teams. Start now by reaching out to suppliers, manufacturers, 3PL partners, and other distributors that can make or break your peak season sales. Determine what worked well in past years and highlight problem areas. Set protocols in place now for who will be handling what aspects of the fulfillment process. Inform in-house teams of these plans as well as vendors and suppliers. Ensure that your e-commerce staff knows who to contact when situations arise. Have discussions with marketing and sales teams to review inventory levels regularly. This will improve efforts to push “in-stock” products and reduce “out-of-stock” disappointments.

#5 Automate Customer Communications

Communication is vital in establishing expectations for your consumers. Automate every aspect of customer correspondence that you can. When you have more orders than you know what to do with is not the time you want to have to send out 5000 individual delivery delay emails. Invest in email automation that can inform customers when key trigger events occur. Some examples are; processing delays, shipping and tracking information, back orders, etc. Wherever you can, automate customer communications to save valuable human resources. Save your customer service teams for complicated returns, customer satisfaction issues, and the inevitable “Karen’s” that peak season brings. Do your very best to under-promise and over-deliver.

#6 Implement and Test IT Infrastructure

Nothing is more stressful than when your entire IT infrastructure crashes, especially during the greatest profit-making season of the year. Start today by researching, selecting, and implementing new IT infrastructure. From inventory management systems to email marketing efforts, ensure all the systems are tested and implemented early. These early tests will help iron out the kinks to ensure a smooth and seamless peak season.

#7 Prepare for Returns

Simple Refund ProcedureReturns are annoying any time of the year, but they can cripple your peak season fulfillment. Returns eat up resources like no other aspect of your e-commerce business. Most e-commerce owners would like to avoid returns altogether, and there are ways to reduce returns.  However, avoiding returns 100% of the time is unrealistic. First and foremost, now is the time to prepare a procedure to manage and minimize returns. To begin with, how will a customer start the return process? Moreover, what can they expect to happen next? Undoubtedly, it should be easy, straightforward, and exchange-driven. Generally speaking, the work of processing returned products and updating inventory is often handled by your 3PL partner. In conclusion, ensure every aspect of the return process is clear to both customers and fulfillment partners that will be receiving returned products.

#8 Plan to Launch Big Sales Early

When the Pumpkin Spice Lattes start rolling out, it is an excellent time to release your biggest sales for the peak season. It may seem too early for some, but this is the best way to encourage early purchases. Launching early promotions will help spread out the crush of orders in mid-December. Retail giants like Walmart and Target extend Black Friday deals throughout November and December. If they do it, why shouldn’t you? Encourage early shopping with loyal customers by offering early sales release dates that are exclusive to them. If you want to train your consumers for next year, limit it to October only! Train your customers to purchase early. Even if they miss it this year, they will not want to miss out next year.

#9 Select a Reliable 3PL Partner

A good 3PL partner can make or break your peak season. 3PLs are fulfillment experts that help with a myriad of crucial aspects to prepare for peak season fulfillment. A 3PL like Falcon Fulfillment can help balance your inventory, leverage their multi-site distribution channels, help with return management procedures, prep goods, and staging spaces, as well as offer reliable and accurate inventory management.

Beginner’s Guide to Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

The world of e-commerce is always changing, therefore understanding the roll of Third-Party Logistics is integral to keeping up. In light of this our beginner’s guide to third-party logistics (3PL) will delve into the essential aspects, offering insights into fulfillment services, warehousing, and much more.

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The services of a top-notch fulfillment partner don’t end there. However, don’t wait until you NEED a 3PL to begin the partnership.

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