Hughes Enterprises

How to survive the holiday fulfillment rush

The holiday season is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for ecommerce orders. Ecommerce has gained exponential traction over the past decade, making it the most popular way for people to shop during the holiday season. Between the convenience of shopping from home and the opportunity to avoid crowds and lines in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s no wonder consumers are flocking to ecomm shops. In fact, for most online retailers, a quarter of their revenue can be accounted for during the holiday season.

While this is great for increasing revenue and profits, it also creates a fulfillment conundrum. What do retailers do when there is a 500% increase in orders in the last few weeks of the year? It starts with having a plan and knowing what to expect. Here are our top tips for surviving the last-minute holiday fulfillment rush.

Integrating Your Departments

A spike in online orders is nothing to complain about – but everyone in your company must be on the same page about how to handle the orders that are coming in.

Your marketing department is the first on board to get the message out to your customers about the top products they should order this holiday season. The marketing team communicates sales and hot products through social media channels and other advertising outlets.

Production and manufacturing teams must also be in conversation with the marketing team so they can ensure you have an adequate supply of the products that are being pushed to your customers. The last thing you want to have happen is a shortage of your number one sellers. In order to prepare your stock, review your previous year, and consider your industry standard for holiday purchases.

It varies by industry and product, but you can expect to have anywhere from a 30%-90% increase in sales, especially for your top sellers and sale items.

Organization in Your Distribution Center

During the holiday fulfillment time, you will likely have products that are flying off the shelf faster than others. This is where it is important for your product researchers and marketing team to be in communication with your distribution center workers.

You can speed up your processes in the distribution center by storing your number one sellers, sale products, and gift products in an easy-access point. You may also want to group products together that your customers purchase together.

The Online Shopping Experience

With so many customers shopping online, the last thing you want to have happen is for your website to crash during peak shopping times. Make sure to test your servers and have your ecommerce channels in tip-top shape going into the holiday shopping times.

Online shoppers are savvy and are crunched for time. If they experience a slow online experience, they will likely jump to a competitor site for their holiday shopping.

You can enhance online shopping for your customers by creating dedicated pages for popular gift products. Your customers will appreciate the convenience of a quick shopping experience that you can provide with multiple “add to cart” buttons and an easy checkout process. Make sure to test your checkout process prior to the holiday rush – if there are any unnecessary or redundant steps, you may consider a restructuring of your checkout.

The Gift Wrap Add-On

A popular add-on for holiday shoppers is gift wrap. It’s easy enough to add this options to your online store. However, you also have to make sure you have the holiday gift wrap on hand and your fulfillment team is trained on how to pack the products.

There are two options when you offer gift wrapping to your customers, so make sure they know what they are getting. One option is to include the holiday gift wrap in the box for your customer to wrap the gift themselves. The other option is to have the gift pre-wrapped so the customer can send the gift directly to the recipient. If you are offering to send the gift directly to the recipient, ensure that you offer the option to remove pricing and receipts for your customer.

Last Minute Orders

It is inevitable that if you have an online store you are going to have last minute orders. Most customers expect an overnight or 2-day delivery option. Some retailers are even able to offer same day delivery. Almost half of abandoned carts come from shipping times that are too long, but if you can’t meet the demand you can’t offer the expedited service. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place, especially during the holidays.

While this all makes sense during normal operation, this can become a nightmare during the holidays. We already have to worry about weather delays when shipping in the winter months, but a high increase in sales can make this even more challenging.

Make sure to keep your online messaging consistent with what you can feasibly achieve. Since your customers expect to have quick shipping, create a system in your distribution center that can accommodate these fulfillment expectations.

The holiday season is also a popular time of year for retailers to consider outsourcing fulfillment. Using an outsourced packaging fulfillment center is an excellent way to not only keep your customers happy but also save costs long term.

If you aren’t ready for a full-service co-packer, you may be a great candidate for automation. At Hughes, we offer our customers fully automated and semi-automated packaging equipment to make fulfillment easier and quicker.

Consider Omnichannel Fulfillment

You have great products that your customers love, but getting these products to your customers is the most important part of the puzzle. Omnichannel fulfillment is a process that involves using your brick-and-mortar stores as fulfillment centers. Many e-retailers have used their brick-and-mortar counterparts as centers for packing products and shipping out to customers.

The benefits of omnichannel are endless. You can save money on shipping or you can even offer your customers the option to pick up the product in store. You are already sending the products to the store and paying to maintain the store, so you can save money on big distribution center costs by using omnichannel fulfillment.

Surviving the Holidays

The holiday order rush is right around the corner – this is optimal time for increasing revenue and gaining loyalty from your customers. When you sell your customers a gift that wins over their family members and friends, you are building loyalty with your direct customer and their gift recipients!

The best way to make holiday fulfillment easy is by having a plan in place. You might want to try this excellent holiday fulfillment checklist that will most definitely help you when it comes to having a plan for executing.

If you need any further assistance with your holiday fulfillment, reach out to a Hughes packaging expert for guidance on your packaging strategy.

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