You’ve seen it before. The holidays roll around, and suddenly there is a frenzy of activity as shoppers rush to take advantage of sales and prepare for holiday gift-giving. Without proper preparation, e-commerce sellers may find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew as customers come knocking down their (virtual) doors.
Here are a few ways you can prepare to keep things running smoothly and avoid these 3 common peak season fails.
1. Develop a Rock-Solid Order Management and Fulfillment Strategy
During peak season, primarily Black Friday through the end of the year, e-commerce sales increase significantly—for many online sellers, 40% of their annual sales occur during this period. To keep up with increased demand, your order management strategy should be sophisticated and robust. In addition to an increased workforce, you’ll need a technology platform that seamlessly integrates order management with your online shopping cart, warehouse management, and shipping software. This requires the latest technology as well as the fulfillment know-how that keeps products flowing out the door without a hitch.
If your infrastructure isn’t capable of handling peak demand, consider partnering with a third-party logistics company (3PL). These fulfillment experts will manage your incoming orders, pick, pack, and ship them, and also handle returns. They are able to provide scalability, so the spikes of peak season don’t cause delays in filling orders. Look for a 3PL that backs their service up with a solid technology platform that automatically manages orders and keeps the entire process running smoothly.
At Simple Global, we develop software that integrates seamlessly with your shopping cart and handles store and order management, shipping, warehouse management, returns, and more. We also provide full-service fulfillment from our global warehouses, and can even handle your customer service through our Brand Support team. We’ll scale to suit your needs and make sure your peak season orders are shipped without delay.
2. Turbo Charge your Site
Customers hate slow websites and apps, so much so that 18% of abandoned shopping carts are caused by slow load times. If your site is sluggish because it can’t handle increased holiday traffic, you could be losing out on sales.
In the same way you must ensure your workforce, warehouse, and internal systems can scale to handle the increased demand of peak season, you have to make sure your website is capable of handling heavier holiday traffic. You’ll need to gather data to analyze the effects of heavy traffic on your site, and discover where slow-downs occur. You might discover a matter of inefficient coding in part of your site or app, or you could unearth problems with the integration of 3rd party software. Fixing issues like these can help your site operate at peak efficiency and keep potential customers from abandoning their purchases.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can help you optimize your site. This blog post from Kissmetrics points out some common problems that might be slowing you down. And software from companies such as New Relic can help you find and correct problem areas in your sites and apps.
3. Study the Past to Predict the Future
Forecasting sales for the holiday season can be challenging. You’ll probably need to ramp up your inventory but by how much? Being conservative with your estimated demand can help save some money and warehouse space, but is likely to result in stockouts which lead to missed holiday sales. On the other hand, grossly overestimating demand can leave you with unsold product and hurt your bottom line.
To best manage expectations for the next holiday season, look to the past as an example. Review your sales records across all channels from past seasons and use this as a basis from which to work. Study your Google Analytics, too, and note how much website traffic increased during past peak seasons. Pay attention to sales trends in your industry—how well do products like yours typically sell during the holiday season? Whatever you do, don’t be too conservative with your estimate. It’s better to have slightly too much inventory than too little, or you’ll risk disappointing customers by not being able to fill their holiday orders.
Getting ready for the holiday shopping season is always a challenge. Even the most prepared e-commerce brands might find themselves twice as busy as normal in a rush to fill orders and keep their business on track. But with proper attention to forecasting demand, optimizing website speed, and managing orders, businesses can ensure that their customers get their purchases on time, even during peak. Start preparing early, so that when Black Friday rolls around, you are ready to meet increased demand and can avoid the e-commerce peak season fails.