For retailers and businesses across the globe, the Christmas period is by far the busiest time of the year. Shoppers intensify their online searches in the months and weeks leading to the big day, and sales sky rocket, providing a short increase in economy that all retailers should be looking to capitalise on.
However, with this seasonal peak brings a unique set of obstacles in the logistics and delivery process that retailers must be prepared to efficiently manage in order to provide great customer experience. Organisations need to be able to meet the demands of their consumers while also fulfilling orders profitably, which is something that can be difficult to ensure in the hectic nature of the festive weeks.
Here we’ve provided our top Christmas logistics and delivery tips to help businesses cope with the inevitable stress and chaos of scaling up and fulfilling the soaring festive demand.
Preparation is Vital
Nearly all of the below tips refer to being prepared for the sudden rush, so if you’re going to take anything away from this article, make it be that preparation is key.
Making sure you’re proactive in your logistics approach and prepared for the surge in orders will be of a huge benefit going into Christmas. If your team or infrastructure isn’t ready for the increase, expect to face productivity problems and a waft of customer complaints that will continue into the New Year. Although you might receive 5 times as many orders as you usually do, taking 5 times as long to meet the demand isn’t going to be appreciated by your customers. Many businesses outsource their logistics during the Christmas period to a reliable and experienced 3PL who has the resources, skills and expertise to deliver a top-quality service to their customers, so this is certainly something to consider if you have even the slightest feeling you won’t be able to deal with the flood of orders.
You need to be particularly prepared for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day, as these are the dates that many of the retailers claim to make the most profit (some state that 50% of their overall festive income derives from these days). Processes must be in place to make sure you can still meet the next day delivery deadlines that consumers expect in 2018.
Planning for the dramatic festive spike will result in less customer complaints, returns, headaches and any unexpected additional shipping costs. Positively, it will only increase profits if done correctly.
Communicate with Your 3PL
If you’re already outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL, it’s crucial that you’re in constant communication to make sure you’re both singing from the same hymn sheet. Establishing the right expectations and deadlines will reduce the chance of any eleventh hour hiccups from occurring, help deliver sustainable results for the long-term and ensure everything has been taken care of. You want as little stress as possible during the run-up to Christmas, so stick to your schedule and get everything organised.
Communicate with Customers
With Christmas comes an abundance of last-minute orders, so an advantageous tactic to utilise would be to promote to the early shoppers, or for B2B sales, ask clients in advance whether they expect an increased volume of orders. It’ll give you plenty of time to arrange the logistics of the order and make sure you have enough units in stock, rather than a large surprise orders coming through when you’re least prepared. Regular communication with clients will also go a long way in developing your working relationship.
Utilise a WMS & Other Logistics Technology
The most effective logistics and shipping processes are the ones that utilise innovative technology to process shipments, access documents and assist with other day-to-day tasks. A Warehouse Management System (WMS), for example, controls and organises all materials within a warehouse, saving retailers hours and hours by helping operations run faster and more smoothly.
Nowadays, customers want multiple options as to how they receive their goods, so offering just one standard delivery service isn’t going to be enough. You need to be able to offer a variety of delivery options, so that the individual customer can choose the service most convenient for them. Consider utilising a parcel locker service or parcel collection shop as well as the standard door-to-door delivery.
Customers also want to be kept up-to-date with the delivery process of their orders, which is why trackable delivery has become so popular. It records the goods and traces it from the moment of despatch to the end delivery, enabling the customer to know exactly of its whereabouts and allowing you to easily identify exactly where any delays occur.
Also, bear in mind that customers require their goods to be delivered the next day during the Christmas period, so you need to have everything in place to ensure you’ll be able to fulfil these expectations. We advise stocking up on your units so that if you suddenly receive a surge in orders, you’ll be ready to immediately ship the goods without having to wait on your supplier. This is an area where 3PLs can become beneficial as they have access to an extremely large warehouse, perfect for storing large volume of stock.
Prepare Shipping Solution
With so many parcels needing to be delivered during Christmas, carriers are highly sought after and sometimes lured away from routine shipments to help support large retailers with their increased capacity needs during the holiday rush. To avoid being left behind, we recommend regularly communicating with your transport management team to make sure they’ll be able to get your products from A to B on time. They’re in incredibly high demand for a few weeks, so get an agreement established early to rule out any unforeseen issues. This shouldn’t be too much of a worry if you’re outsourcing to a 3PL as they have a vast network of contacts that can be called upon with short notice to transport your products to their final destination.
Remember also that weather delays are bound to affect holiday shipping, and drivers are likely to want to take time off during the holiday, so you’ll need to get your freight in transit earlier than usual and may even have to look at alternative shipping methods.
If you’re an international retailer, remember that cross-border delivery comes with a number of related costs. Identify these costs and evaluate the best ways of minimising them to maximise profit.
Review Previous Years’ Mistakes & Successes
We can’t emphasise enough the benefit of reviewing the mistakes you’ve made over previous Christmas periods. It’s an effective way of determining the areas that let you down last year, allowing you to put a strategy in place to make sure you avoid making the same error this year – it will help improve the efficiency of your entire delivery process and overall competence.
Effective Returns Process
It is thought that the post-holiday period results in over £200 million worth of purchases being returned, so considerable thought should go into implementing an effective return system. Consumers are unlikely to return to a retailer if they’d experienced a poor returns service or one that was a hassle in the past, so the importance of returns mustn’t be overlooked (especially during the festive months).
Getting Started with Allegro Logistics
To summarise, there’s a wide range of logistics and delivery factors a retailer must consider in order to make the most of the Christmas boom. It’s a period of enormous potential and an opportunity that some businesses simply cannot afford to let slip, so it’s pivotal you get it right.
Located just outside of Bristol, we specialise in providing expert logistics services to our clients all over the world. With over 60 years’ of combined experience logistics industry, we have all the essential resources, contacts, key relationships, facilities and infrastructure needed to provide a slick service. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to discuss your Christmas shipping needs, or any other logistics questions you may have – we’re passionate about revolutionising the way in which your business operates, helping you take it to the next level!
See more: When is it Time To Switch Carrier?