The 2022 holiday season saw ecommerce businesses hit a new record with shoppers spending a whopping $211 billion on online purchases during the 4th quarter last year. This landmark achievement was, in part, fueled by the most substantial discounts ever seen across most major e-commerce categories, these figures present an incredible opportunity, they also underscore the complex landscape that e-commerce business owners must navigate. The potential for record sales is tantalizing, yet the challenge lies in attracting customers from a pool teeming with competitors, determining which promotions to offer, how to manage inventory effectively, and crucially, ensuring the timely delivery of shipments. To help anyone looking to make sure their e-commerce business makes the most of the 2023 holiday season, we put together some invaluable tips and strategies to tackle these challenges and make this year your best one yet.
Assessing Sales Trends from Past Peak Seasons for a Better 2023
Understanding past sales trends is crucial to plan accurately for the upcoming holiday season. Per the Retail Dive article on the record sales from Q4 2022, products like toys, video games, watches, gift cards, cosmetics, and outdoor grills are items that saw the greatest increase in sales volume during the holidays last year. Getting ahead of any of these trends for 2023 requires a review of your own past performance, a general assessment of your competitors, and setting up simple ways to stay on top of what is being offered in the marketplace.
Here are a few simple and effective ways to help succeed this peak season:
Analyze Your Past Sales Data: Look at which products sold well during the past holiday seasons. Were there any particular days or weeks when sales peaked? Did any promotions or sales events (like Black Friday or Cyber Monday) drive a significant increase in sales? Also, pay attention to any customer feedback or complaints about shipping and delivery. These insights can help you forecast demand, optimize your inventory, and improve your shipping processes for the upcoming season.
Perform a Competitive Analysis: Understanding your competitors' pricing strategy can give you a competitive edge. Look at how much they are charging for similar products. Are they offering any discounts or promotions? If so, how deep are these discounts? Are they bundling products together? How does their shipping cost compare to yours? These insights can help you price your products competitively and plan your own promotions.
Set Up Google Alerts: This is a great way to keep a pulse on the best offers and sales out there. Set up Google Alerts for your competitors and the types of products you sell. You’ll start getting real-time updates on any news or updates related to these terms in your inbox. When any of your competitors launch a big sale or a new company starts offering a similar product, you'll know about it right away and can react accordingly.
By performing a detailed analysis of past sales trends and current market conditions, you can better prepare for the upcoming peak holiday season. You'll be able to anticipate demand, optimize your pricing and promotions, and ultimately, maximize your sales.
Inventory and Operations Review
Inventory management is at the core of a successful e-commerce operation, especially during the peak holiday season. Here's how you can adjust any of your Just-in-Time (JIT) supply chain models, conduct a physical inventory count, leverage inventory management software, and optimize your warehouse operations to ensure you're ready for the holiday rush:
Understanding Just-in-Time (JIT) Supply Chain Models: The JIT supply chain model is popular because it generally involves reducing the amount of capital tied up in inventory and cutting down on potential waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process. This is a key reason that most e-commerce businesses have adopted some form of the JIT model, whether knowingly or not. However, during the holiday season, when demand is high and shipping times can be unpredictable, the JIT model can pose significant risks. To mitigate these risks, consider stocking up on your most popular items and packing/shipping materials ahead of time. This can help you avoid stockouts and shipping delays.
Conduct a Physical Inventory Count: While this may seem like a daunting task, a physical inventory count can give you a clear picture of your current stock levels and help you identify any discrepancies between your physical inventory and your records. This can be particularly useful in preparing for the peak season, as it allows you to ensure you have adequate stock of your most popular items.
Leverage Inventory Management Software: Inventory management software can greatly simplify the task of tracking stock levels and predicting demand. It can automate reordering, prevent overstocking and understocking, and provide real-time inventory updates. This can be especially helpful during the peak season when inventory levels can fluctuate rapidly.
Review Your Pick and Pack Process: The efficiency of your pick and pack process can significantly impact your ability to fulfill orders quickly and accurately. Routine reviews of your pick and pack process are always a good idea, but it is especially important going into the holiday season. Document your current process and how long the various tasks take on average. With this info in hand, take some time to see how that stacks up with other e-commerce businesses. Consider asking other warehouse operators in your network for their thoughts or suggestions on how to improve this process.
Review Your Inbound and Outbound Staging Areas: Make sure these areas can handle increases in traffic during the peak season. This might involve rearranging your warehouse layout, adding extra storage space, or implementing new procedures to manage increased traffic.
Have an Open Discussion with Your Team: Your team members are on the front lines of your operation and may have valuable insights into potential challenges and opportunities for improvement. Ask them about any issues they faced during the last peak season and solicit their ideas on how to improve operations this year.
By conducting a thorough inventory and operations review now, you can ensure there is time to make adjustments so your e-commerce business is prepared to handle the surge in demand during the peak holiday season. With careful planning and execution, you can turn the peak season challenges into opportunities for growth and success.
Website Review: Easy Checkout for Customers
A smooth, user-friendly checkout process can greatly enhance customer experience and boost conversions. Research from the Baymard Institute shows that the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. Some of the most common reasons cited for consumers abandoning an active cart were high extra costs during checkout, the site requiring everyone to create an account, a complicated or lengthy checkout process, unfriendly return policy, website errors and not enough payment method options.
Here are a few simple tips to improve your checkout process:
- Offer guest checkout options: Not all customers want to create an account.
- Implement a progress indicator: Let customers know how many steps they have left.
- Simplify form-filling: Only ask for essential information.
- Offer multiple payment options: Include popular methods like credit cards, PayPal, and Apple Pay.
- Provide clear shipping information: Include costs, estimated delivery dates, and return policies.
Planning for Sales and Promotions
Most ecommerce business owners and operators know that special sales and promotions can significantly boost holiday sales. Plan these well in advance and communicate them clearly to your customers. Consider offering early bird discounts to encourage shoppers to buy before the peak season. This can help spread out your orders and ease the strain on your shipping processes.
Carrier Shipping Deadlines
Understanding carrier shipping deadlines is critical to ensure your packages arrive on time. Each carrier has different cutoff dates. It is important to make sure your team understands these dates for internal warehouse operations and it is always helpful to share these dates on your site for prospective customers. Creating a simple newsletter or infographic with these key dates and when customers need to get their order submitted makes for a great outreach campaign in early December. Here are the current 2023 holiday shipping deadlines for the major carriers:
- USPS: December 14 for Retail Ground, December 20 for First-Class Mail, and December 23 for Priority Mail Express.
- UPS: December 13 for Ground, December 20 for 3 Day Select and December 23 for Next Day Air.
- FedEx: December 13 for Ground and Home Delivery, December 20 for Express Saver, and December 23 for First Overnight, Priority Overnight, and Standard Overnight.
Remember to keep an eye on these various deadlines with these carriers and any other carriers your company uses. They can often change slightly if there are any delays or issues during the holiday season. Always better to be transparent with your customers about the number of days it typically takes your company to get shipments out and encourage them to get their orders in early to make sure it gets there on time.
Exploring Additional Carrier Options and Capacity
To avoid delays during the peak season, consider diversifying your carrier options. Different carriers may offer better rates, delivery times, or coverage in certain areas. Also, look into regional carriers or courier services. They might have extra capacity and can be a good backup option. It is vital to remember that it can be difficult to onboard with any major carriers during the holiday season. In the past, major carriers have stopped issuing new accounts when they are struggling with capacity and delays during peak season. Look into creating any new accounts or getting new rates right now so that you are prepared with additional carrier capacity if you need it.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Shipping
Outsourcing shipping to a third-party logistics provider (3PL) like Jillamy can provide several strategic advantages, particularly during the high-pressure holiday season. Here are some key benefits of outsourcing:
Access to a Wider Network of Carriers: Jillamy has long-standing relationships with a variety of carriers, giving you more options to choose from. This can also lead to better rates due to their volume-based partnerships and can ensure that you're not left in the lurch if one carrier experiences delays or issues.
Scalability: One of the biggest challenges e-commerce businesses face during the holiday season is the surge in demand. Jillamy’s leading fulfillment services are designed to easily scale based on your needs, allowing you to handle peak demand efficiently without having to invest in additional infrastructure or manpower.
Reduced Workload: The holiday season can be hectic, and outsourcing shipping can free up valuable time. This allows you to focus on other critical areas of your business, such as marketing, customer service, and strategic planning.
Expertise: Our experienced team has extensive knowledge and experience in shipping and logistics. We stay up-to-date with the latest regulations, technologies, and best practices, ensuring your products are delivered efficiently and on time. Our team leverages our systems, technology and experience to make sure that every one of your customers has an outstanding experience with your business.
Cost Savings: By outsourcing, you can save on the costs associated with warehousing, labor, packaging, and transportation. 3PLs can negotiate lower shipping rates due to their volume, and their expertise can help avoid costly mistakes or inefficiencies.
Risk Management: Outsourcing can help mitigate risks associated with warehousing and shipping. Jillamy has robust security measures in place to protect your inventory, and our decades of experience can help navigate issues such as customs, duties, and international shipping regulations.
Technology Access: Our clients benefit from advanced technology for inventory management, order fulfillment, and tracking. By outsourcing your order fulfillment, you get access to this technology without the high upfront investment.
Flexibility and Adaptability: Our fulfillment services can adapt quickly to changes in the market or your business. Whether it's a sudden spike in demand, a new product launch, or a global shipping crisis, Jillamy can help you navigate these challenges smoothly.
By outsourcing shipping to Jillamy, you can overcome the shipping challenges of this peak holiday season, while improving your overall operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. The most important aspect of choosing a fulfillment provider is finding one that aligns with your business needs and values and can deliver the level of service your customers expect.
Partner with Jillamy to Overcome Any E-commerce Shipping Challenges
Planning ahead and employing smart strategies can help e-commerce businesses overcome shipping challenges during the peak holiday season. By reviewing past sales trends, optimizing inventory and checkout processes, understanding carrier deadlines, exploring additional shipping options, and considering outsourcing, you can ensure a successful and stress-free holiday season.
Navigating the peak holiday season can be a complex endeavor, but you don't have to do it alone. Jillamy is here to support your business every step of the way. With our extensive network of carriers, scalable solutions, logistics expertise, and commitment to customer satisfaction, we can help you streamline your shipping operations and reduce costs. Whether you're looking to outsource all or part of your shipping, we offer tailored solutions to meet your unique needs. Don't let the complexities of peak season shipping hold back your business. Contact us today at 800-592-7449 to find out how we can make this holiday season your most successful one yet or make an appointment with one of our shipping experts here.