It’s already starting to feel a lot like Christmas. In fact, for many companies, peak holiday season is already in full swing.
With ever increasing competition among brands for a portion of holiday sales, and in an effort to avoid bottlenecks and keep costs low approaching key dates, goods are starting to appear on the sales floor earlier and earlier. Savvy brands are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the efficiency of inbound logistics and inventory management, working with their fulfillment partners to utilize technology, robotics and automated processes to achieve a smooth flow of product and information. Meanwhile, effective logistics partners are leveraging their expertise and vendor relationships to coordinate with shippers at the point of origin, ensuring adequate transit time along with reasonable shipping rates. So while it’s only October, in many stores Santa Claus has already come to town – gifting merchandise has arrived.
Many young companies are surprised by the challenges of their first peak season, from seemingly unavoidable shipping congestion to astronomical shipping fees. Even established brands may find themselves reacting to these challenges as they come, then avoid thinking about them again until next year. But with the market overall getting smarter and smarter about how to navigate through the holiday season, it’s becoming more important than ever to work with your third-party logistics partner to develop a successful and competitive strategy.
To truly excel in the holiday environment, consider the following:
1) Take a long-term view, tapping the knowledge, facilities and systems of an experienced 3PL or 3PF partner to forecast accurately and scale as needed. It’s worth noting that this “think far ahead” approach is mission critical not just for holiday volume but also for other peak periods, such as flash sales and sales bursts. Building a comprehensive year-round map that integrates peak moments along with organic growth will enable you to keep up as your business evolves.
2) Think comprehensively and consider how changes in any one area affect all others – for example, a spike in orders doesn’t just require greater volume of goods but also a larger number of workers to fulfill those orders, and adequate warehouse space to do so. Aligning your business with a tech-powered 3PL partner, especially one with automated systems in place, can dramatically improve your ability to absorb peak challenges, streamline your processes and turn around orders as quickly as possible.
3) Integrate promotions and marketing initiatives into your strategy. End consumers have come to expect extra special treatment during the holidays, from free shipping offers to gifts with purchase to guaranteed delivery dates. In order to keep pace with the competition and get the customer’s attention, brands must create and deploy their own initiatives, and work closely with their logistics team to make sure that every order arrives exactly when and how it was promised.
4) Insist on exceptional order presentation and customer service. As the holidays are about family and friends, there’s nothing like a human touch to really delight the recipient and give them warm fuzzy feelings that will last well into the new year. While the frenzy of this festive period can make it tempting to simply churn out orders as fast as you can, it’s important to maintain the quality of customer service and even try to set a new bar if possible. Here again it’s wise to select a fulfillment partner with a commitment to exceptional order presentation and the ability to incorporate value-added components – a team that will treat each order like the meaningful gift that it is.
With efficient forecasting, strategic systems and technology, compelling promotions and that special added value of genuine human touch, it’s possible not only to ease the holiday burden but also to come out of it feeling a real sense of holiday cheer.
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