How to Provide Fast & Efficient Fulfillment This Holiday Season

kate-boxes-1.jpgWith the conclusion of Labor Day Weekend and fall’s official start date just around the corner, retailers everywhere are gearing up for the busiest season of the year. In order to help retailers minimize inefficiencies and maximize profit during the holidays, we put together some best practices and key dates for fulfillment success.

When should you have received all your holiday inventory?

For the holidays, we recommend that retailers have their holiday inventory in the warehouse no later than November 1. We’ve seen emergency shipments arrive the day before Thanksgiving; and having to quickly break that down, verify counts, and shelve it before the floodgates open does little for employee morale. The warehouse operates most efficiently during peak season if everything is checked in and ready to go before the orders start rolling in. Don’t put yourself at risk by accepting backorders or preorders during the holiday season—it only takes one missed deadline from one of your suppliers to throw off your whole season.

Automate order submission for fast holiday fulfillment

Last year, Shipvine processed 4-8 times our daily average order volume each day for the 10-day period after Thanksgiving Day, and we were open 7 days a week from November 23 through December 23. With that kind of volume, we recommend that retailers use automated order submission wherever possible, or, for our customers, that they continuously submit orders for fulfillment during the Thanksgiving weekend so we can process orders around the clock.

Beware of inconsistent USPS tracking communication during Thanksgiving weekend  

During the month of December, we remind our eCommerce retailers that things can become a bit unhinged and chaotic at the USPS. During Thanksgiving weekend (including Cyber Monday), retailers can expect the USPS to drop tracking events—it’s happened consistently on this week for the past two years. Typically, this manifests as packages going straight from “Shipment information sent to USPS” to “Out for Delivery” several days later, with no tracking events in between. This is because USPS opens alternate processing facilities that may not have dedicated scanning equipment, or in some cases reverts to hand sorting, but rest assured that your packages really are on the way if they’ve been marked as shipped. (For example, in Richmond, all of our mail is processed at the Sandston plant, but the USPS will ‘light up’ some of the old sorting facilities in the city to help reduce the load). Customers might need some reassurance, though, that the package really is on its way, but there’s not much you can do aside from waiting a few extra days.

Keep in mind: First-Class Package delivery isn’t guaranteed by the USPS

While First-Class Package Service and Priority Mail typically enjoy 2-3 day service throughout the year with a 95 percent delivery commitment success rate, that becomes far less reliable during the month of December. Remember that this service isn’t guaranteed by the USPS, so don’t advertise it as such to your customers. Shipvine also recommends that retailers discontinue the use of FedEx SmartPost and UPS SurePost during the month of December, as Parcel Select packages are always processed last at USPS sorting facilities. Use FedEx Express or UPS air services during the month of December if the delivery guarantee is especially important to the customer.

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