Don’t Let Your Logistics Provider Put You on Customers’ Naughty Lists

bad-santa-300Holiday season is one of the most important times of the year for brands. For retailers, it represents a surge in first-time customers and an opportunity to reinforce relationships with existing customers who purchase online.

Customers’ experiences during the holiday season significantly influence sales year-round, so from now through the end of the year it’s critical to make a great first impression and live up to customers’ expectations about your brand.

The customer experience doesn’t end after a transaction is complete. Online holiday shoppers are looking for superior service from the time they conduct research until a product is delivered and potentially returned, which means your customers’ perceptions of your brand depends on your ability to pick, pack and deliver products on time during the holidays and process returns quickly afterwards

As more retailers outsource delivery and warehouse management, it’s important to develop a close working relationship with your 3PL provider this holiday season. Here are a few key requirements of a successful fulfillment strategy during the holidays when order volume can easily be 10 to 20 times higher than the busiest days during the year.

Optimized Workflows and Staffing  
With more holiday shoppers purchasing gifts online, gift wrapping has become a must in the eyes of consumers. However, special packaging and delivery requirements can be difficult to manage given the high order volumes most retailers experience during the holidays. Simply put, many warehouses are not adequately prepared to keep up with the logistical demands of the increased number of orders requiring gift wrapping, gift boxing and gift message cards.

Warehouses must be prepared to implement efficient processes associated with packaging, gift wrapping and delivery, especially with the spike in holiday order volume. Your partner should start by separating orders based on the type of gift or packaging they require and designating specific packaging areas for gift boxes, customized wrapping paper, etc. With an optimized workflow, warehouses can take advantage of process efficiencies.

Another major challenge for logistics providers during the holidays is hiring and training qualified workers to support increased demand. The best way to staff warehouses for holiday peaks is a simplified and effective onboarding process. By training new employees, monitoring progress and providing incentives, logistics and fulfillment providers can manage workers effectively and ensure processes run smoothly.

Accurate Forecasting
Many logistics and fulfillment forecasting routines fall short, which causes problems for retailers and their partners. Accurate, daily forecasting and a clear understanding of your warehouse’s capacity limits establish a foundation for defining the labor requirements, trucking and shipping expectations and facility hours required to meet aggressive sales expectations. On the other hand, a lack of integration with client systems and a breakdown in information sharing can dramatically increase the risk of logistics and fulfillment errors.

During the holidays, there’s a greater risk of forecasting fluctuations. This makes it critical for logistics providers to have a backup plan in place to address an unexpected increase in orders. Without a backup plan, flexible staffing options and sufficient physical infrastructure, backlogs can delay orders for days – an event that your customers won’t tolerate during the holiday season.

The customer is king, but even more so during the holidays. By following best practices around holiday warehouse and fulfillment, retailers can ensure they are meeting existing customers’ expectations and encouraging loyalty among new customers. Sure, it’s a busy season for your brand, but with the right strategy and resources in place; you can avoid costly mistakes and take advantage of increased revenue opportunities during the holidays and beyond.

Maria Haggerty is president at Dotcom Distribution.

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