As your online business grows, year after year, you will begin to realize just how crucial the success of the holiday season (4th quarter) is. Due to consumer behavior, even if you don’t lift a finger, your sales will increase. This quarter is notorious not only for people shopping for gifts for the holiday season but also for good deals in general. This sudden influx in sales caused by this consumer frenzy will no doubt result in order fulfillment and customer experience challenges.
Many of the customers who will make purchases online around this time are new customers. No need to outline just how expensive customer acquisition is, and just how important it is to serve them properly. There are also challenges for your customer support staff. Typically customers want to know exactly when they will receive their products. You will hear over and over how they need your product to arrive before an event, specific day, or holiday. This is a perfect storm, because this period often puts a lot of stress on shipping carriers as well, and is a timeframe in which delays are typical. Delays from carriers are not only out of your control but also out of the control of your 3PL order fulfillment partner. Even if you have a perfectly reliable order fulfillment service picking, packing, and shipping your orders the very same day they are placed, this will not address delays from carriers.
At the end of the day, customers will be even more eager to spend and to receive what they ordered in a timely fashion than they are typical. This may sound like an uphill battle, and it is tough, but taking the right steps to prepare your sales channels, staff and logistics can make everything go off without a hitch and result in a quarter of unbeatable profits and growth. Let’s go over what you can do proactively to make your next holiday season as smooth and profitable as possible!
Ensure Your Inventory is Replenished
We will address inventory levels first. This should not ever be overlooked for multiple reasons. Primarily is because if you run out of inventory of a popular SKU you will no doubt lose revenue. Delays to replenish during the holiday season will more often than not result in order cancelations. Yikes, we do not want that happening. There are ways you can prevent this. In early October, run a thorough inventory and sales report. Analyze these numbers and make sure you have enough on-hand and at your logistics channels to fulfill orders throughout the 4th quarter. This is important to note, order fulfillment companies like InterFulfillment have their receiving docks as busy as ever throughout the holiday season. Waiting until the last minute to replenish a key SKU is not a viable solution. Even when paying for priority receiving, there can be delays. Also, most eCommerce order fulfillment companies will increase storage costs throughout the 4th quarter as a deterrent to avoid running out of space with every eCommerce company overstocking SKUs in a panic. You must be measured, you must calculate appropriate inventory levels, and you must act early. This is the best way to avoid additional storage fees while ensuring you have the inventory on hand to get your shipments where they need to go quickly and efficiently throughout the 4th quarter and holiday season.
Feature Sales on Your Sales Channels for Black Friday, Cyber Week, and Boxing Day
You’ve got your inventory in place. Well done! Now it is time to move your inventory by making offers to your customers that will increase your conversion rates and have your revenue soaring for months. eCommerce consumers have come to expect incredible deals on Black Friday. It is not just retail doors crashing anymore. More and more consumers want to avoid overcrowded shopping malls and retail outlets in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even in general. Your customers are more likely to opt to shop for Black Friday from the comfort of their homes or on their mobile devices. Everyone is looking for a good deal, and if you offer one, and promote it correctly, you will do very well for your company. Feature prominent graphics on your website (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, etc) with sale information, so your visitors know something special is happening and create urgency for them to complete a purchase. And it doesn’t just end with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Cyber Week have proven to be just as profitable if not more so than Black Friday for eCommerce companies. Once again, plan ahead. Engage your customers with promotional content on your sales channels throughout the 4th quarter. After Black Friday, the build-up to Black Friday Weekend, after that, Cyber Monday and Cyber Week. Once those mega-events are in the books, switch to a different promotion centered around a different sale leading up to the holiday, so on and so forth. Doing this correctly, with the right marketing in your social media channels, PPC marketing and websites will result in an unprecedented uptick in revenue! What are you waiting for? Time to get going!
Run Additional Sales Leading Up to Christmas While Noting Shipping Cut-Off Times for Christmas Eve
So you’ve pumped out some of the coolest and most profitable sales leading up to December. There is still more money on the table. Consumers continue their shopping frenzy well into December, and because these are last-minute shoppers, they aren’t typically expecting the deep discounts they are offered during Black Friday and Cyber Week. Time to up your margins. But you must keep in mind, although these consumers aren’t expecting a huge discount, they often need their products in time for Christmas and even in some cases before. It is crucial that you communicate shipping cut-off times in your sales channels. It is a typical and understandable social behavior that if a consumer orders a product they need to present as a gift on or leading up to Christmas and they do not get it on time, they will simply purchase a replacement gift locally, and return the other product after it arrives late. They will also have a less than positive image of your company and may even leave negative feedback on review channels. That’s right, returns and negative feedback. Talk about costly. You can avoid this by clearly displaying and confirming shipping cut-off dates on your sales channels. Let’s say for example December 14th is the last day for Canada Post to ensure a shipment arrives prior to Christmas, let your customers know. This can be really handy in creating a level of urgency you typically only see with a limited-time offer sale. You can turn this into a conversion nudge that will increase revenue on key shipping cut-off dates. It doesn’t just end there though, to avoid costly returns, alert your customers that if they order after carrier shipping service cut-off dates that their orders may not arrive prior to December 24th. Your customers will appreciate your honesty and transparency and will be more likely to order understanding this, less likely to return, and generally have a better customer experience.
Coordinate with Your Order Fulfillment Partner
This is one that is so important and affects all of the tips we have shared today. When it comes to inventory replenishment, contact your order fulfillment partner’s customer success team. Let them know exactly how much inventory you intend to send and when. Give them time and space to ensure your inventory will be processed and received in a timely fashion. Sending unexpected large inventory shipments during the busiest quarter of the year is not the way to go about it. Get ahead of your logistics, and communicate with your partner early, to have peace of mind that inventory levels will not be a concern. Remember, the team at shipping companies like InterFulfillment wants nothing more than to accommodate you at all times. The coordination doesn’t end there though. If you’re planning on running a series of sales or promotions during the 4th quarter, let your fulfillment partner know. Huge spikes in order volume are welcomed, but without proper preparation, they can be difficult to fulfill. Let your 3PL partner know, that we expect a huge spike in sales on these dates, be ready for an influx of orders. Although there is a very good chance they will be able to meet and exceed your expectations without warning, communicating promotions with them will certainly help. Time to determine your shipping cut-off times. Reaching out to your order fulfillment partner’s support team and asking them for these key dates will give you the information you need to communicate with your customers. And remember, Canada is a waste landmass with various shipping turnaround times depending on the region. Stay informed and inform your customers. Doing all this will go a very long way in a successful partnership throughout the 4th quarter and beyond!
Hopefully, these tips have helped you understand what it takes from logistics to marketing and even helped you gain a better understanding of some of the issues you may have had in the past during the holiday season. If you are already an InterFulfillment customer, you have 2 great assets heading into the 4th quarter. One is the 4th Quarter InterFulfillment Customer Survey. This is an easy-to-complete online survey that asks you for a lot of the information we have gone over in this article, such as promotional dates and expected inventory levels. This means all you need to do as an InterFulfillment customer is complete this survey and all the information needed to serve you better will be on hand. Any changes in this information should be immediately reported. InterFulfillment also issues an annual eCommerce Holiday Schedule that includes all the crucial Canada Post shipping cut-off dates for each region and even more tips on how to make your next holiday season the most successful one you ever had!