How to Prepare for Peak Season As An E-commerce Business

How to Prepare for Peak Season As An E-commerce Business

By Chris Crutchley on November 30, 2021
With a shipping crisis plaguing the globe, peak season woes are a reality facing us all. However, there is no reason why this should make your business flounder. Here are some general peak season preparation tips and a bit of what to expect this year.

The holiday peak season is now in full swing. If you’re like most retail businesses worldwide, you are gearing up to handle the estimated $1,387 per US household that will be spent this season. That’s not to mention servicing Europe and the growing e-commerce powerhouses in Asia that extend the gift-giving season into February.

While many companies close down and relax operations around the holidays, e-commerce and retail are shifting into overdrive. Instead of holiday parties and bonuses, retail brands worry about whether or not peak season operations will wipe them out or bring them to prominence. Even for more established retail businesses, one botched holiday season puts them on thin ice for the coming year.

With a shipping crisis plaguing the globe, peak season woes are a reality facing us all. However, there is no reason why this should make your business flounder. 

Here are some general peak season preparation tips and a bit of what to expect this year.

Read About CBIP’s Global E-commerce Logistics Services

Tips For Peak Season in Any Year

The holiday season manifests in two forms in the corporate realm; businesses are either too busy to think or are basically out of the office all December. 

Both scenarios mean any operations planned at the last minute won’t happen in the timeframe you want. To ensure you don’t get caught off guard, you need to:

  • Make sure your logistics are set up way ahead of time (more on that below).

  • Update that website or online store early.

  • Make sure you have adequate customer service on standby.

  • Make sure you have all means of payment set up in every country you operate in. Financial institutions aren’t particularly responsive during peak season.

  • Plan backup options for everything.

Make sure you have a logistics service you can rely on

According to a Deloitte report, 64% percent of retail executives don’t expect to receive their goods on time in 2021. Big retailers like Gap and Urban Outfitters are reported to have placed orders as early as six months ago to avoid supply backlogs.

However, even if you prepare logistics six months out, chances are your retail business is not quite as big as Gap or UO. At the end of the day, most major logistics providers prioritize service to larger contracts. That means you need to work smartly with your providers and ensuring you have the right plans in place.

Fourth-party logistics (4PL) can help any e-commerce business adapt quickly today. Unlike express courier services like Amazon or DHL, they don’t own ships or warehouses. Instead, 4PLs do the legwork for you to find logistics providers that fit your budget and schedule - and they can pivot if you need them to.

Bulk up your customer service and set customer expectations

Even with a great logistics system, you should be prepared for the worst. It’s highly likely some of your orders are probably not going to be delivered on time - but that doesn’t need to kill your business.

When logistics breakdowns occur, customers are more than willing to stay loyal to your brand if they are handled correctly. As a business, you need to set the tone for your customers. Ensure they have realistic expectations of what you can do on the front end and use strategic promotions and quality, well-supported customer service staff on the back end.

Finding a logistics partner that offers that the level of support you need is also very important for keeping your customers satisfied.

Additionally, when preparing your customer service and website:

  • Figure out which parts of your process you can automate. Can you create a chatbot for simple questions?

  • Look for manual data entry bottlenecks. Are there ways you can scrape customer data from other sources?

  • Have a clear return policy. While e-commerce makes shopping easier, it also makes people much more likely to want a refund if products don’t match expectations.

  • Work on webpage speed and security. There is a direct relationship between page load speed and revenue.

  • Make sure your customer service staff is on the same page. With a growing number of outsourced CS solutions, you need to make sure staff feel empowered to make decisions and actually help customers.

  • Set some money aside for refunds.

  • Get creative. Are there any promotions you can do to encourage more leniency in shipment times? In 2021 Banana Republic let customers enter into a drawing for a $500 gift card if they were willing to allow up to three weeks for shipping.

TIP 👉 If selling high-value items, don’t put pictures or descriptions of your business on the outside packaging. These can attract porch pirates and even affect shipping insurance.

How 2021 Looks Different From Previous Peak Seasons

Retailers have spread peak season out

According to Deloitte, 39% of holiday buyers are doing their shopping earlier this season. Other reports also indicate that  Target, Walmart, and other giants will be trying to spread their sales season across whole months instead of just one or two days.

A growing number of orders are serviced online

According to an Accenture report, 83% of businesses this year will continue allowing online orders. 40% of retail executives expect double-digit online growth. Ecommerce is here to stay and the majority of competition will continue to be online.

Buy now pay later has become widespread

A growing number of online payment providers like Klarna, AfterPay, Affirm, and even PayPal are breaking down payments into interest-free installments. The idea is to give cash-strapped customers more options when purchasing larger gifts online.

Logistics are slower this year

You’ve probably heard it before but it’s expensive to ship right now. Many ports are congested and there are simply fewer ships than there used to be. Brands will need to be very careful they do not overpromise and underdeliver. While the peak season is a tantalizing time to scale a business, not keeping promises is a great way to go under fast.

We’re a 4PL Firm That Wants to Help Your Business Keep Its Holiday Promises

At CBIP our strength is helping new businesses that need adaptable logistics but don’t want to take things in-house. 

When you work with a 4PL like CBIP, we aren’t just a middle man service. We’re an all-in-one logistics interface and consultancy giving you tools like:

✅Comprehensive logistics solutions

✅End-to-end order and parcel tracking

✅Value-added services (e.g. duty & tax reporting)

✅Dedicated account support

✅Flexible routes and pricing

During the holiday season, we’re busy making sure our clients get their products shipped on time and at the price they want. However, we always have a space open for new customers who want to take their operations to the next level.

Do you want to learn more about how your customized logistics plan could look? Check out our Services and schedule a free, no-strings meeting with one of our consultants.

About Author

Chris Crutchley

Chris Crutchley is CBIP’s director of operations and finance. He has over a decade of corporate finance and operational expertise throughout the Asia Pacific.

In logistics, Chris strives to continuously innovate and challenge the industry’s norms in order to offer clients world-class service that emphasizes clear communication.

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