More than 3 out of 4 consumers are shopping online this holiday season, according to NPD Group 2019 Holiday Insights, with overall growth of 2.7-3.2% over last year. Now it’s push time, with 20-30% of sales squeezed into a snug window, according to the National Retail Federation. Are you meeting your customers’ expectations for timely, accurate order fulfillment? And are you meeting your internal benchmarks?
It’s time to make a list and check it (at least) twice. Here’s a look at six top-priority actions you can take right now to fine-tune your holiday season success.
1. Track forecasting with marketing and sales
One of the hallmark expectations of customers is quick delivery—which means you can’t be out of stock. During the holiday rush, a backorder could mean goodbye to your brand. It pays to make sure your forecasting and inventory counts are aligned with the marketing push. Are you in the loop with sales forecasts? Do you work from an integrated calendar and monitor sales performance daily?
2. Monitor your inventory
Understanding where you stand with your inventory—what is moving and what isn’t—will help you adjust on the fly. Are you looking at your inventory status daily? Do you subscribe to inventory reports and have them delivered to your inbox every morning? Are you able to flag sagging stock levels?
Inventory management rhythms can speed up dramatically during the holidays and turn on a dime. Visibility and vigilance can help you head off problems. This is one reason FIDELITONE offers a Partner Portal with real-time visibility into inventory, order fulfillment status, and a host of critical metrics to keep you operating smoothly.
3. Flex your labor muscle
You may have to scale labor hours dynamically—and be ready with high-performing recruitment plans as needed to ensure all hands on deck as demand surges. How is your onboarding program? Is it optimized to activate high performance in a short turnaround? Look, too, at how shifts are defined and consider the most efficient use of skill for every hour of the day.
People are your greatest asset, so cheer your team on and look for things you can do to keep morale and productivity at their peak. Ensure supervisors are greeting employees every day with appreciation, a listening ear, and a can-do attitude. When the time is right, look for ways to recognize and reward the team. Is a pizza party in order?
4. Monitor your shipping turnaround
As holidays approach, customers become increasingly edgy and parcel carriers are taxed. Meanwhile, the acceptable turnaround dropped by a day last year, and one-third of you younger customers claim to be “frustrated” by slow order fulfillment. A customer-centric order fulfillment system with 1-2 day turnaround can be a competitive advantage that will win ongoing loyalty to your brand. If you’re not where you need to be now, take a look at how the plus-one advantage—adding a strategically located fulfillment center into your network —can help you perform in the new year.
5. Optimize the CX for order accuracy
Also as holidays approach, customers become increasingly edgy about order accuracy. There may not be (perceived) time to spare—and the stakes are high. Tolerance for error is nil. So ensuring accuracy takes front and center. Order fulfillment automation and well designed technology paired with proven processes can be key in ensuring consistent accuracy and earning customer loyalty.
6. Manage returns efficiently
If you thought your customers were edgy about order timing, you’ve seen nothing until a customer needs to make a return or exchange and the clock is still ticking. Once gifts have been given, many still feel a sense of urgency if the gift didn’t hit the mark. This is your chance to shine. Some retailers make return policies more lenient during the holiday season, but some have also begun to change their return policies to account for an increase in return fraud, according to the National Retail Federation.
Take a close look at your processes and workflows. First of all, returns should be easy. That’s part of defining a stellar customer experience. If you find any bottlenecks or breakdowns, work to clear them quickly. You can continue to focus on staffing with well-trained team members who understand the importance of getting it right, right away. If you have a dashboard such as the FIDELITONE Partner Portal, keep monitoring response and order movement. Learn more about steps to seamless holiday returns.
Debrief and refine
When the season is over, take the time to debrief. Evaluate what worked for your operation and what could be refined. Examine the KPI levels achieved, and talk to team members in all areas for feedback. Ask what surprises came into play, and consider how you’d deal with them proactively because… Yes, this will all happen again before you know it. The FIDELITONE Path to Loyalty™ process is a great model for continuous improvement.
Where can your operation improve? To analyze your order fulfillment performance and opportunities, take the free Order Fulfillment Checkup. For help, call 800.475.0917 or contact us online to speak with a FIDELITONE order fulfillment expert.