How to Prepare for Black Friday & Holiday Season Distribution
Many holiday shoppers now take to the Internet to avoid busy parking lots and shopping malls. While this is great news for eCommerce store owners, it also means you’ll see a big spike in holiday season fulfillment. If you don’t plan ahead, this could result in late shipments, poor customer service, and difficulties retaining employees. But with a little preparation, your holiday season distribution can be simple and profitable.
1. Know Your Projections
The best way to prepare for an uptick in sales is to know what to expect. By forecasting for the holidays during the summer, you can be sure to plan enough time and money to get you through your busiest season.
Once you have a projection of your sales for the holiday season, you can start preparing. Be sure to have 1.5 to 2x the supplies you think you’ll need, including envelopes, boxes, tape, and any inserts or interior packaging. If you wait until right before the holidays, you’re likely to pay more for your supplies, and you may even find them on short supply.
New Product Launches
Having projected sales data will also help you schedule out other initiatives within your company during the holiday season distribution rush. If you have new initiatives or products launching at the end of the year, start planning early. You’ll want to have all hands on deck during your holiday season fulfillment, and you’ll be able to have a stronger launch if you’re able to give your team the time they need.
Also consider any big projects that are coming early in the new year. It’s easy to let deadlines sneak up on you when you can’t see them coming as easily on your calendar. Be sure to plan ahead so you aren’t working overtime on new projects while trying to handle holiday returns and customer service.
2. Have a Plan of Attack
Once you know what to expect, you can strategize to make the most of your end-of-year sales. Try these tips to stay on top of everything that needs to get done.
Create a Calendar
By early fall, you’ll want to make a master calendar with everything from November through February. This way nothing will slip through the cracks, even if you need to help out with tasks outside of your job role. List out meetings, sales goals, and shipping dates, and consider sharing some or all of the calendar with the rest of your staff.
Create Your Staff Schedule Early
Scheduling your holiday employees as soon as possible will prevent last-minute staffing changes and negativity in the workplace. Have a set plan for how you will approve time off during the holiday season long before employees start coming to you with requests. This will ensure that you have consistent staffing through the holidays, and will alert you early enough to hire additional workers if needed.
3. Get Your Team on Board
Your team is the best defense you have against a busy and stressful holiday season. With a little planning and positivity, you can have a holiday season that is beneficial for your sales and your staff.
If you have goals for the number of shipments you expect each day, or the overall sales you hope to reach during your holiday season distribution, share these numbers with your team. The only way they can fulfill their job responsibilities is if they know what is expected of them.
Setting goals as a company can help your team work together to achieve much more than any one person could achieve alone. You can also incentivize these goals with perks to keep your team focused until the last day.
No one wants to be busy at work during the holiday season. Consider providing incentives and perks for your employees like free lunches, holiday parties, or end-of-year bonuses. Not only will this help you reach your end-of-year goals, but it will improve morale and make your employees happier at work.
4. Consider Outside Help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to do to prepare for the holiday rush, you may want to consider outsourcing to a third-party fulfillment provider. If you opt to make the switch, do it early. This will help you make a smooth transition between your team and your 3PL partner. It will also ensure that they can get up to speed on your business and your customers if you opt to have them handle your customer service as well.
Outsourcing is a huge decision, but it can free up your time to work on product development, marketing, and new initiatives. Imagine never having a busy, stressful holiday season again. Imagine never having to stay late helping in the warehouse or getting up early to receive shipments. Outsourcing can eliminate the stress surrounding holiday season distribution for good.
5. Maximize Your Sales
Once you have your plan in place (or have opted to join forces with a 3PL partner), you’re ready to get to work. Try these tips to maximize your holiday sales and reach your end-of-year goals.
Keep Your Customers in the Loop
Customers love to be in the know. As soon as you know your last day for ordering to receive packages by Christmas, let them know. If you have gift wrapping options or other holiday extras, be sure to spread the word about those as well. Social and email can lead customers back to your eCommerce site and produce higher conversion rates for your business.
Offer Unique Coupons and Sales
The eCommerce holiday shopping world is saturated with sales, from November through the end of the year. In order to stand out, you’ll not only need to offer your customers exceptional value. You’ll also need to do something different to catch their attention. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to marketing around the holidays — break through the noise and earn new customers who will stay for life.