Black Friday is a little over two months away, and most retailers are already bracing themselves for the chaos likely to arise between Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the holidays are often a great time for sales, retailers almost always face unforeseen issues during this time of year.
It’s important to remember that a massive increase in orders is always difficult to handle no matter how established your business is. The key for all retailers during this stressful time is to plan ahead and take the necessary precautions.
More specifically, shipping can be one of the hardest aspects for retailers to manage when things get crazy. Not only are your customers placing more orders than at other times of the year, but they’re also doing so last minute while still expecting top-notch customer service and speedy shipping. And one slip-up during the holidays can be even more detrimental than usual due to the high levels of stress many consumers face during this time of year – it’s more likely to be remembered and hurt your brand reputation.
For these reasons, it’s more important than ever for retailers to ensure smooth delivery processes for all customers during the holidays. Here are three ways to help avoid holiday shipping disasters:
Forecast your sales
It can be much easier to prepare for the chaos if you have an idea of the numbers you’re going to see during the holidays. Use last year’s holiday numbers and your growth this year to put create an educated holiday sales forecast. This can help you prepare the right amount of staff, third-party help and inventory to ensure smooth holiday deliveries.
Paying attention to trends will also help you forecast sales for specific products and stock inventory accordingly. Trends come and go, and the sales for certain items change drastically from year to year. Just because a certain pair of boots was huge last year does not mean that you should necessarily stock up on them again this year. Use social media, market research and sales numbers throughout the year to predict which products will be a hit this season. Late shipments for popular products during the holiday season can be even more detrimental to your brand.
Build trust through communication
Customers are just as stressed as you are during this time of year, so make sure you’re communicating with them clearly. Let them know the status of their order every step of the way, from confirmation and shipment to delivery.
Constant communication builds customer loyalty and trust. Even if a shipment is going to be late, proper communication can help save the relationship. After letting them know the target date will be missed, provide an estimated time of arrival and offer some form of compensation. Allow them to cancel the order if it won’t arrive on time or give them a discount to encourage them to return to your brand despite the slip-up. Either way, letting them know is the most crucial step.
Consider a distribution partner
Even if your operations and distribution run smoothly throughout the year, consider working with a partner during the holidays to keep everything on track. The holidays are always going to be more chaotic than you think. When it comes to logistics, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A third-party logistics provider can help fulfill orders, maintain inventory and coordinate shipments. This allows you to focus on customer relationships and building the business without worrying about keeping packages moving out the door yourself. Letting go of the day-to-day operations tasks can free you up to focus on major decisions and overseeing the business as a whole during these stressful times. The right logistics partner will help you keep your shipping process running smoothly so you can do what you do best: Run your business.
It’s no secret that the holiday season is stressful. Rather than just hoping for the best, take the necessary steps to prevent significant issues from surfacing. Forecast your sales, communicate with customers at all times, and consider a distribution partner. Brands that take the time to ensure fast and reliable shipping despite the influx of sales will maintain a positive brand perception in the year to come.
Maria Haggerty is CEO of Dotcom Distribution