If the holiday season crept up on you and your operations team, it's not too late to put together a strategy so you can stay on top of surging orders and strict delivery timelines. The holiday season is one of the most demanding fulfillment seasons for any business. Deloitte released this prediction about the 2021 holiday season:
Holiday retail sales are likely to increase between 7% and 9% in 2021, according to Deloitte's annual holiday retail forecast. Overall, Deloitte's retail and distribution practice projects that holiday sales will total $1.28 to $1.3 trillion during the November to January timeframe.
If you can scale up your business with the right 3PL and support services to meet this surge head-on, you are positioned for success in 2022. See what factors you should keep in mind and how to find the right 3PL that will have your back.
Worried About Peak Season?
The holiday shopping season is a peak online shopping and shipping season. If you have your infrastructure set up to handle the sudden surge of holiday traffic, Q4 is a great opportunity to grow your business and get on the map (or entrench your position) in your niche.
However, the peak season does introduce several challenges. Businesses can see up to 10 times as many orders as they get during other portions of the year, and that's a hefty fulfillment obligation. Whether this is your first year of business or you have a few holiday seasons under your belt, it's almost always safe to assume that your existing preparations aren't enough to get you through the end of the year. Here are some of the top concerns that affect new and established businesses:
Holiday purchases ramp up across almost every niche, especially in B2C markets. However, choosing the right kind of preparation is another crucial decision. After all, if you hire full-time seasonal staff to take on increased traffic but you overhire, that could eat into your expected profits.
But if you are short-staffed, not being able to meet the increased volume of orders can make your reputation crash.
Speed matters more than ever when it's the holiday season. Some of the factors that can impact your fulfillment speed include:
- Delays from third-party manufacturers. If you're a dropshipper or retailer that relies on other manufacturers, know that they're also seeing a surge in demand. This could lead to significant delays or even shortages if you don't have robust contracts.
- Shipping delays. UPS, USPS, and FedEx are never busier than they are during the holidays. They may not have the manpower to meet the surge in demand as people both order more packages from online businesses and are sending out more mail to family and friends.
- The holidays themselves. Your staff also wants to enjoy the holiday season. Thanksgiving weekends, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other late autumn and early winter holidays will make your team's schedules less predictable. Travel plans, sick days, and vacations will all slow down your fulfillment rate unless you make preparations.
Despite all those obstacles your business has to navigate, customers are also much less forgiving about delays. Holiday shopping packages need to be delivered on time, or anxious customers will leave you poor reviews or cancel orders and demand their money back.
Speed is so important because customers want to get exactly the right order according to their schedule. This means accuracy is just as crucial as speed for meeting customers' expectations. If your team messes up a holiday order, this can affect both the paying customer's opinion of your brand and the opinion of the gift recipient (who could have become a new customer).
With all of these concerns weighing on your mind, finding the right solution is just as stressful as acknowledging the problem. Most businesses choose between two solutions: manual fulfillment and working with a third-party logistics provider.
Manual Fulfillment Can't Keep Up
Many small businesses can make do during the majority of the year with manual fulfillment. After all, customers are rarely preparing for a stressful deadline with lots of shipping, travel, and celebration challenges. But manual fulfillment has a hard cap on how many orders you can fulfill; employees can only do so much per person, even if they're trying their best.
Local, small-scale fulfillment partners also can't help deal with sudden surges in traffic. If you work with a small fulfillment partner, you probably have a contract establishing a minimum and maximum of orders they can manage for you per month.
While they may offer options for excess orders and higher maximums during the holiday season, they also will run out of manpower. Smaller partners also face the same shipping and logistics snags you do; they can't guarantee that all of your packages will be delivered in time.
When you want flexible fulfillment capabilities and more weight in the logistics and shipping pipeline, you need to trade up to a large-volume third-party logistics service.
Third-Party Logistics and Holiday Fulfillment
At Smart Warehousing, we provide large-volume order fulfillment, warehousing, and shipping capabilities. Our national network of warehousing and transportation solutions ensure that we can get all of our clients' logistics handled on time, even during the peak of the busy holiday shopping season. Here's how we handle the top concerns you'll face this peak season:
Our fulfillment processes have been carefully crafted to work with businesses that ramp up during the holidays. We can provide complete order management, and you have real-time access to data about in-progress orders so you know everything is being accounted for.
This is where our national distribution network shines. We maintain our own warehouses throughout the country. A customer can place an order in Oregon with instructions to deliver it in Florida, and our smart systems will find the product in the most expedient location to get it on the front stoop or store floor.
Look for a 3PL that offers two-day shipping for 99% of orders — as we do! — so you can make that same promise to your customers.
Just like we own and control our own warehouses, we hire and train our own staff so we know everything is done the right way the first time. You don't have to worry that an unknown subcontractor is handling your business's quality control. Our in-house staff will manage order fulfillment, box up your packages, and arrange for transportation.
Prepare for the Holiday Rush with Smart Warehousing
Managing the operations for a B2B company is rewarding, but the holiday season comes with additional stress. Our team at Smart Warehousing is made up of logistics experts, seasoned 3PL professionals, and people who care about getting your packages and products to their destination on time. Contact us today to see how our services can fit into your holiday fulfillment strategy.