The holidays are crazy. They sneak up fast and are over before you even know it. While this momentum is great for creating excitement for your holiday campaigns, it’s not always fun for your fulfillment and shipping departments. In fact, many shipping departments often fall behind during the holidays, and larger companies like Amazon and Toys “R” Us hire up to 70,000 extra workers to help with the influx of work.
As a small business, you might not have the luxury to hire more employees to help with holiday orders, but that doesn’t mean you have to fall behind. This article will present some expert tips on how you can make everyone’s holidays merry and bright by using data to help you with shipping projections, conducting shipping test runs, using shipping software, and evaluating your carrier options. These steps will help ensure you get shipping right this holiday season.
Take a Hard Look at the Data
Data analysis reigns supreme in the business world — with good reason. According to Mark Gallagher, managing director of CMS Motor Sports, analyzing data can help inform strategic business decisions. This includes marketing, sales, hiring, operations, and, of course, order fulfillment.
Data can give you a 360-degree perspective on what to expect based on last year’s results all while factoring in future predictions. This kind of information helps you understand exactly what you need to do to stay on target for hitting your holiday shipping goals.
Start by forecasting your company’s peak day, says Maria Haggerty, founder and CEO of Dotcom Distribution. You can calculate this by combining past data with forward-looking predictions. When analyzing peak-day data, look at sales volume and customer behavior to make a solid strategy. Then organize your shipping warehouse accordingly.
If all this data talk sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. You can always hire a third-party logistics company to help you with the data analysis, even if it’s just for the holidays.
Assess Your Warehouse in Advance
Once you’ve analyzed your data, it’s important to use it wisely. Curt Barry, CEO of operations and fulfillment consulting firm F. Curtis Barry & Company, offered some expert advice in a recent article from Entrepreneur.com.
Businesses with shipping needs should look at the layout of the warehouse, Barry said, and then conduct a physical assessment. Consider the following questions to guide the process:
- Are products being stored efficiently?
- Is the equipment you use organized in the most effective manner?
- Are your most popular products close and easy to locate?
- Are your packaging processes smooth?
- Do you have enough supplies to fulfill your orders?
- Do you have enough room for your employees to work efficiently?
If you take the time to assess and then organize your warehouse according to your shipping needs, you’ll likely ensure a profitable holiday season.
Prepare by Conducting Some Test Runs
Practice does make perfect, especially when it comes to fine-tuning your holiday shipping processes. In fact, Robert Gilbreath, vice president of marketing at ShipStation.com, says you should conduct fulfillment “fire drills.”
He recommends using a stopwatch to see how long it takes to complete tasks vital to the shipping process. He also recommends documenting the process for reference. When you time and document the fulfillment process, it helps you identify what is working well, what you need to improve, and leaves you with written instructions for reference.
Use a Shipping Software Program
If you don’t already use a shipping software program, now is the time to start. These digital tools can help organize processes and remove human error from the equation. This is especially important, because logistics require many people, processes, and organizations working together to get the job done.
Shipping software organizes workflow from the moment an order is placed to the moment it’s delivered. Additionally, software can be customized to meet individual small business needs. This includes managing shipments from multiple carriers, coordinating subscriptions, tracking orders, and printing labels and packing slips.
If you want to get it right this holiday season, take time to invest in software that helps keep you organized. It will be a game-changer.
Evaluate Your Carrier
Finally, make sure you choose your carrier wisely. Take the time to analyze shipping practices, reviews, and past experiences with your current carrier and a few alternates, Gilbreath says. When evaluating carriers, consider the following questions to guide your research:
- What shipping options do they offer?
- Are you getting the best rates?
- Do they offer holiday rates?
- What tools do they have for you to use?
- What is their invoicing process?
- Do their services integrate with your shipping software?
- What are their transit times?
- Can you extend pick up times?
The holiday season is the most exciting season for retailers; holiday sales are expected to increase by 3.6 percent this year. However, if you want to continue to enjoy a piece of that revenue, you must ensure a positive customer experience, especially with regards to order fulfillment. Ensure your shipping processes are seamless during this joyful season.
Ashley R. Cummings is the owner of Searchlight Content and a professional freelance writer. She specializes in business trends, digital marketing, education, and all things travel.