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Holiday Fulfillment Strategies:
Optimize and Automate
By: Michael Gertin
It can be challenging to prepare for the holiday season in a regular year, but in 2020 the holiday season is posing an unprecedented challenge for many businesses. 2020 has seen explosive growth in online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As online businesses boom, many companies are reevaluating their fulfillment strategies to keep up with growing customer demand.
As cities go in-and-out of lockdown and local businesses face limited capacity, people are looking for ways to spread holiday cheer while maintaining social distancing. So, it’s no surprise that online sales are more popular than ever this year. Brands across North America and much of the world are adapting to meet the overnight changes in the flow of global economies.
eCommerce: Current and Future Business Trends
In past years, approximately 25% of all ecommerce sales within a given year have occurred in November and December. Black Friday kicks off the shopping season with a buying frenzy that lasts through the end of the year as families purchase gifts for their holiday celebrations.
Because of the boom in online shopping in 2020 so far, it’s hard to predict just how much growth businesses will see in online purchases over this holiday season. But, given the statistical trend of ecommerce sales in recent years, it’s fairly safe to say this year will set new records.
Here are just a few statistics that highlight the growing importance of e-commerce sales:
Circumstances are changing rapidly, and everyone will agree that this global pandemic will be a defining moment in the growth of e-commerce. If your business is seeing an increase in demand for products and shipping, make sure you have the right fulfillment strategies in place to serve your customers.
5 Holiday Fulfillment Optimization Tips
Organizations of all sizes – from mom and pop shops to large multinational corporations – are being forced to reassess and adjust their existing packaging and fulfillment workflows as a result of the spike in ecommerce/shipping activity.
We are already in the midst of the holiday season so it may be difficult for your organization to replicate some of the recommendations outlined here in time for 2020. However, keep these in mind for the months (and years) to come, because this trend towards ecommerce shopping throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season, is here to stay.
Here are a few essential fulfillment strategies to ensure that you can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to holiday-spikes in fulfillment needs:
1. Automate Wherever Possible
When your systems depend on labour, your growth opportunities are limited without bringing more people into the warehouse. Investing in automated equipment can increase your capacity without worrying about hiring, onboarding, and training. Of course, you need skilled workers to run the equipment. But with the right machinery, you can improve the productivity of your existing staff, potentially reduce on-site labour requirements, and maximize the efficiency of your operations. Many options are available for fulfillment automation (see here for information on Gertex’s equipment offerings), can can be acquired through short or long-term lease, or purchase.
2. Stay on Top of Inventory
You can feel the excitement of a spike in orders, but running out of stock is a significant disruption that stops you from sending packages on time. Timeliness is critical since many of these orders are Christmas, Hannukah, or other such holiday-related gifts. Failing to have sufficient inventory on hand means that you are risking damage to your reputation – and potentially the loss of customers.
In addition to checking current inventory, you also need effective fulfillment strategies in place to determine when it’s time to reorder. Ensure you build in a little extra time to account for potential delays that often happen during the holiday season. Communicate early with your suppliers, so you always have access to inventory when it’s needed.
3. Stock Packaging Supplies
Not only do you need to have proper inventory, but you also need supplies to ship these items. Boxes, bags, envelopes, fill, padding, tape, and labels are just a few of the things you might need for shipping. Many businesses struggle to find the warehousing space to accommodate both their own stock as well as their packaging supplies – Gertex can solve this issue for you. We always have the packaging supplies you require, with same or next day delivery on most items.
If you want to add a little cheer to the packages, look for packaging supplies with fun holiday colours and designs. Branded packaging is also a great way to leave a lasting impression on your customers. Gertex also offers custom-printed tape services to help with branded shipping packaging. Click here for more information.
4. Choose the Right Shipping Providers
Maintain contact with your preferred shipping providers to ensure the timeliness of these deliveries. Many shipping companies are strained this year due to the increase in online shopping. Be sure that you are working with shipping providers who can offer consistent and reliable services, ensuring that your customers receive their orders before the holiday season. Ground shipping tends to be cheaper than air shipping, but it might make sense to pay for expedited services when needed.
5. Be Ready for Post-Holiday Returns
When the holiday season is over, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your warehouse will slow down! Higher sales over the holiday season means you should expect more returns in late December and early January. Brick-and-mortar retail returns are often around 10%, and e-commerce returns can be 2 – 3 times higher. Be ready to monitor incoming returns and send out new products for exchanges. Also, watch how these returns impact your profit margins. Keep in mind that return policies impact online purchasing decisions, so make sure it’s easy for customers to return their products if desired.
Your Source for Holiday Packaging Solutions
At Gertex Solutions, we support your fulfillment workflows by keeping your team supplied with all the shipping materials you need. Reach out to us right away if you are looking for a provider who can offer the essential materials to support your increased sales volumes this holiday season. In addition to general packaging materials, we can also assist with packaging automation and custom holiday packaging. Contact us to book a free consultation and learn more about available services for e-commerce.
Vice-President and Co-Founder