Order Fulfillment Strategies to Maximize Peak Season Sales

The good news is that for a typical online store, the peak season sale spanning a month or less can bring in one-fourth of the entire year’s sales. Since 2015, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have remained the most profitable days for retailers. In fact, some retailers like Best Buy consider the holiday season a “favorable competitive environment” which helps them achieve their annual earnings target.

The bad news is…peak season order fulfillment comes with several challenges. It demands effort and resources for complete order fulfillment, multiple times over which means it’s never too early for retailers to start planning for peak season sales.

Here are five suggestions for maximizing order fulfillment during your peak season selling periods.

Check the Rear View Mirror

Effective planning for any business begins by looking at historical data. The data about past sales, best sellers, average order size, the origin of maximum orders (mobile, web or in-store), etc. will help in framing the right order fulfillment strategy.

Here are some questions you should ask. They will steer your peak season sales in the right direction.

  • How did the order fulfillment perform against set benchmarks?
  • Were there any bottlenecks in inventory management and logistics?
  • What were the most common customer complaints?
  • Are your suppliers reliable or do you need to consider new options?

These questions cannot be answered with calculators or spreadsheets. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, rope in data-driven decision making. Predictive analytics and Big Data analytics can go a long way in understanding the past and in planning order fulfillment strategies for the future with greater accuracy.

Plan for Additional Storage

Unlike the lean seasons, during peak season sales, there will most likely be large inbound shipments which will spike warehouse occupancy levels. Even reserve storage kept aside for exigencies will experience higher occupancy levels. Consider drop shipping or leasing additional storage space for safe storage of peak time shipments.

If you need to acquire additional storage space, consider factors like:

  1. What nature and volume of goods can be moved to the new storage location?
  2. Can the new storage location be included for a smooth delivery workflow?
  3. Will it be helpful if slow-moving or non-moving stock is moved to this new location instead of fresh stock?

These are just some of the considerations to factor in months ahead of the peak season so that you aren’t caught short of space in the last minute.

Invest In A Full-scale WMS

Seasoned retailers know that effective warehouse management is key to maximizing order fulfillment. When it comes to effective warehouse management, nothing makes the process easier and better than a warehouse management system.

A full-scale warehouse management, preferably one that runs on the cloud, can deliver the following the benefits:

  • Automates the entire warehouse management and logistics process
  • Provides real-time inventory visibility from all warehouses and distribution locations
  • Avoids the risk of missing order fulfillment and deadstock accumulation
  • Helps plan for inventory cycle, dock planning, labor allocation, etc.
  • Irons out the wrinkles in Supply Chain Management caused by manual processes

Rewire Internal Operations

Typically, most departments in a retail business – purchasing, warehouse management, logistics, billing, sales/marketing, customer support – work in silos. They lack a connection, which creates gaps that affect maximum order fulfillment during peak seasons.

A cross-functioning planning that rewires the entire internal operations from ground-up is essential to prepare for the oncoming peak season’s sales surge. Some ways to rewire include:

  1. Creating a commune between cross-functional teams for more order information exchange
  2. Training warehouse personnel of ongoing sales and promotional offers
  3. Accounting or analytics team sharing information about bestseller SKUs
  4. Tweaking the warehouse physical settings for faster movement of these bestsellers
  5. Training the warehouse personnel for breakage-free movement of goods (because less damage means more inventory available to distribute)
  6. Establishing a label system for quicker package identification and distribution
  7. Adding extra docks or delivery outlets for more dispatches per day


Fine-tune Logistics for Faster Deliveries

The last-mile in peak order fulfillment lies with optimizing logistic operations for quicker deliveries. Undoubtedly, a tailored logistic strategy would have to be adopted to achieve maximum order fulfillment. This should be achieved while keeping in mind cost constraints as well as bottom line health. Retailers who make wise logistic decisions will outperform their competition in speed and consistency of order fulfillment.

There are two major ways this can be achieved.

Ask for more hours from 3PL players.An additional hour during the peak season months will help unload more customer deliveries. Engage temporary last-mile delivery personnel for swift and cost-effective deliveries. Individual contractors who freelance as last-mile delivery personnel are cost-effective, swift in operations and can be scaled easily to meet on-demand deliveries.

Plan navigation before-hand for fuel cost optimization. UPS saved millions of gallons in annual fuel consumption and also reduced emissions equal to 20,000 passenger cars. Imagine the cost savings a retailer can achieve by pre-planning navigation for regions from where most customer orders pour in during the peak season?

Summary

Peak season and holiday season sales can be a daunting nightmare for retailers. While peak seasons promise great sales numbers, the planning for glitch-free deliveries needs to begin months ahead.

Pick up cues from previous year sales, increase storage space capacity, invest in a warehouse management system, and engage additional 3PL providers to keep up with the seasonal sales demands.

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