The 2014 holiday season delivered $616.1 billion in U.S. sales, according to the National Retail Federation (NFR).With that kind of sales volume, it pays to start planning early for holiday fulfillment to stay on top of the season.
In fact, more than half of retailers began planning in June or earlier, according to the NRF 2015 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook.Take time now to identify your objectives and identify the steps you need to take in order to better satisfy your customers this year. Here are a few helpful tips for effective holiday fulfillment:
1 Shore Up Systems
Systems-based planning plays a critical role in effective holiday fulfillment. Consider the effectiveness of your IT systems. Now is the time to confirm that your software is capable of handling increased volume. Data-tracking metrics are also essential for identifying issues and addressing them quickly. If you use a third-party partner, ensure that your systems are effectively integrated with those of your provider.
2 Assemble Necessary Resources
Take stock of facilities and equipment. Confirm that you have the space needed to handle increased volume and that it is configured for optimal order processing. Verify that you have enough equipment to accommodate increased holiday volume or source extra forklifts, hand-helds, etc. Identifying and addressing your needs ahead of time can prevent major headaches at the height of the holiday season.
3 Perfect Your Processes
Take time to evaluate your fulfillment processes and operations. Fine-tune receiving to ensure that incoming products are compliant (i.e. correctly bar-coded, packaged), so they can be put into stock quickly for an efficient turnaround. Evaluate picking and packing processes to ensure optimal efficiencies. Be prepared for backorders, returns, etc. The holiday season doesn’t end December 25!
4 Get All Hands on Deck
Staffing can be one of the biggest challenges during the peak holiday season. Arrange for additional support well in advance and provide sufficient training and cross-training, so associates in all areas can hit the ground running and offer excellent service. Arrange to have key people (especially IT) on call throughout the season and minimize the use of vacation time.
5 Fine-Tune Delivery
Research your holiday delivery options. It’s important to be aware of carrier cut-offs, service level options, pick-up times and holiday delivery guarantees. Understanding these details is essential in order to set and meet customer expectations. And if you want to expand available shipping and delivery options for holiday 2015 (i.e. in-store pick-up, same-day delivery, free returns), you’ll need to start planning now.
While Holiday ’15 may seem months away, it pays to start planning early. Often companies find that a third-party partner can be a valuable ally for seasonal fulfillment. Whether you outsource fulfillment year-round or simply want additional support to manage increased holiday volume, an experienced fulfillment service provider can offer the expertise, resources and support you need for a very merry 2015.
Learn more about fulfillment at Saddle Creek or call us at (888) 878-1177