Analyze last year’s data and forecasts
Armed with information from your customers, use their feedback on what went wrong to delve into the corresponding statistics. For example, if customers mentioned that a certain item was consistently out of stock, see if any supply chain breakdowns occurred and quantify them when possible.
On a broader level, compare historic year-over-year sales volume and marketing dollars spent. Any noticeable trends found should be put into your “lessons learned document” that can be reviewed yearly.
In theory, sales volumes should align with marketing initiatives. By taking a look at the inventory left unsold during the holiday season, you can determine which campaigns worked and which SKUs were most successful or unsuccessful based on those campaigns. Likewise, make sure to take a look at returns data. What kind of items are consistently being returned? How long are customers taking to return items post-holidays? In what condition are return items arriving? What patterns arise? Use this information to work with your eCommerce, operations and marketing teams to align expectations and strategies for next year.
Develop a strategy
After looking at last year’s data, you should have a clear idea of what your biggest challenges were. From there, you can plan and adapt. Be sure to stay thorough when creating a plan and include elements like planned lead time, amendments to your return policy and shipping options/upgrades offered to the customer.
You’ll also need to incorporate supply chain timelines that affect the fulfillment process into your overall strategy. What non-fulfillment hiccups did you face last year and how can you work around them for 2017? Know, for instance, that goods ordered from India will take longer to arrive than goods ordered from China. Goods going to retail stores should be received by your warehouse in August and goods going directly to customers should be received by September or October.
Planning ahead allows you to better control an experience that can make or break consumer perception of your brand.
Rethink your existing fulfillment relationship
Working with a fulfillment partner ensures that your plan for peak is well-executed. Fulfillment partners are a great asset during the holiday peak season since many have relationships with major shipping carriers, potentially cutting costs with better shipping rates. Fulfillment partners also offer the benefits of strategically-located warehouses for quick shipping capabilities and warehouse performance monitoring for an in-depth look at your business’s performance. If your peak season fulfillment experience was not ideal, now is the time when you should be rethinking your current 3PL partnership. A good 3PL should make these tasks effortless on your end. If all they’re giving you is a headache, consider shopping around for a new partner.
Be transparent with fulfillment partners about what operations and fulfillment struggle you’ve had in the past and provide your lessons learned tracker for them to correct. That, coupled with a third-party logistics provider’s knowledge about the challenges of holiday fulfillment, will ensure that your 2017 holiday peak season is less stressful and drives more sales and happy customers for your brand.
Analyzing your past years’ performance is the best investment you could make with your time post peak. By analyzing the season’s wins and losses and developing a forward-looking future peak season strategy with your fulfillment partner, you’re more likely to overcome any challenges you might face in the coming year. This will set up your brand up for success and enduring customer relationships.
If you’d like to talk to someone from Dotcom about some of your holiday peak seasons challenges and how you can make them better in 2017, contact us here.