We all know that the fourth quarter holiday season is the single most important sales period of the year for retailers. Nearly 40% of retail annual sales occur in the fourth quarter. Given the pace of the sales cycle during that time, ecommerce businesses may find themselves struggling to fill orders, especially for huge sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Taking steps now to prepare your warehouse for the increase in orders and to ensure fulfillment processes are optimized is essential to make your ecommerce peak season a success.
Having adequate inventory to ship is job one for any ecommerce business. Knowing how much of each item is in stock at any moment, and forecasting how much inventory is needed, are critical components to holiday fulfillment success. It’s also critical that the entire warehouse operation is prepared and ready to meet the demands of fast and accurate, high-volume fulfillment during the increased influx of orders.
There are a few key components to holiday preparedness:
Plan ahead: It might sound elementary, but basic planning and preparation of your physical space will ensure that warehouse layout efficiency is maximized for the holiday season. Having a well-organized, clean and safe warehouse environment should be “step zero” of any warehouse operations, but it’s even more important during the holiday season, when the pace is frenzied and you may have new or temporary workers getting up to speed.
Something as simple as rearranging the placement of packing or shipping stations to keep all warehouse processes functioning with absolute efficiency can resolve operational bottlenecks. An intelligent warehouse management system (WMS) can create schemes for where different products are stored and makes every subsequent task — picking, packing and shipping — more productive. An optimal warehouse layout enables you to employ complex processes associated with high-velocity ecommerce fulfillment.
Another basic planning tenet is ensuring ample supplies are ordered for peak season. Everything from shipping materials to labels to printer ink are very important. Running out in the midst of the season risks delaying orders — a scenario you want to avoid. Consider building in redundancy plans: For example, if a printer at a shipping station breaks, make sure there’s a backup so you can continue to get product out the door without interruption.
Shipping takes on added importance during the holiday rush. Typically, ecommerce businesses only work with one or two carriers, so consider adding more shipping solutions to your arsenal to get through the peak holiday season smoothly. But a word of caution: the holidays are just as busy for carriers, and they may charge higher rates. Before you get into the thick of peak season, do your research and find other carriers that give you flexibility. Once you have finalized those relationships, keep in contact with your chosen carriers frequently and foster an open dialogue in advance of and throughout the holiday season. Frequent and transparent communication can adequately prepare them to handle your anticipated order deliveries.
Labor planning: Labor planning is another important element of holiday season fulfillment preparation. If extra help might be needed to get through peak season, determine staffing needs as quickly as possible. Also, remember that temporary help needs to be trained in your operations, so allocate enough time to hire and train the seasonal staff to set everyone up for success. A modern, cloud-based WMS with a simple, intuitive user interface can help to onboard seasonal employees quickly and keep your fulfillment operations running like clockwork.
Before peak season, perform a complete count of all your inventory. Fulfillment operations have become more complex as order size continues to grow. In fact, the average number of items in each ecommerce order during the 2022 peak season included at least four products. If you aren’t yet using modern inventory management systems or a modern WMS, you risk facing costly setbacks, including mis-shipments, incorrect orders, unfulfilled delivery timelines and the loss of future shoppers.
The ability to assemble and ship multiple items in the same order will no longer be a competitive advantage during this year’s peak season: it will be a matter of survival. Utilizing intelligent inventory management and WMS software that automatically directs workers which items to pick, pack and put away makes shipping single and multiple items easier. while also lowering operational costs.
Keeping a competitive edge is every warehouse’s goal, but the key to successfully navigating peak seasons is not working harder: it’s working smarter. Having the right fulfillment technology will make all the difference in 2023, especially when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Today’s cloud warehousing solutions provide real-time inventory monitoring, demand forecasting, effective labor and storage management and integrations that connect your fulfillment operations directly to online ecommerce sites, shippers, billing and invoice systems. These solutions also integrate with other fulfillment partners needed for successful operations.
An intelligent WMS should incorporate real-time analytics that provide end-to-end visibility and control of inventory to ensure customers get their orders on time and as expected. Business intelligence tools eliminate guesswork in warehouse operations and enable staff to quickly make adjustments and stay ahead of potential setbacks.
Utilizing automation in your digital warehouse streamlines warehouse management and inventory fulfillment functions. Tracking product lifecycles, automating replenishment systems and boosting efficiency with real-time data and reporting analytics will go a long way in making sure your warehouse is ready for the holiday season.
High-volume ecommerce is the fastest growing segment within retail. Having intelligent warehouse technology is no longer a differentiator for ecommerce operations. It’s now essential to meet the complexities of ecommerce fulfillment. Coupled with proper planning, you’ll be well positioned to finish 2023 strong. Starting to plan for the holidays now will ensure that every part of your business and supply chain are aligned and equipped to handle the increase in orders and meet customer expectations.
Erhan Musaoglu is Founder and CEO of Logiwa, a cloud fulfillment platform for high-volume direct-to-consumer (DTC) and omnichannel businesses. His expertise and leadership in navigating the enterprise and B2B industry has led Logiwa to grow exponentially since its inception in 2017. With more than 20 years of experience in the warehouse management industry and deep expertise in industrial engineering, he has started multiple companies, including Unitec and IFS. Musaoglu recognized that the continued growth in ecommerce and DTC would drive industry transformation. He founded Logiwa, a modern cloud-based WMS solution specifically designed to address the unique challenges faced by high volume ecommerce and DTC businesses.