And just like that, we’ve made it to the season of changing leaves, pumpkin spice, and cozy sweaters by the fire. As the holiday season approaches, it’s no surprise that ecommerce businesses are preparing for one of the most hectic times of the year: peak season, when increased demand across markets causes businesses to ramp up their production and fulfillment to meet holiday demand.
The stakes are high and the challenges are varied, but your business will prepare and prevail! We’re here to walk you through some of the challenges of peak holiday season, along with some tips and tricks to tackle what’s ahead. Let’s begin!
Breaking Down the Dates
The most popular question we get from our customers is a simple one: When does peak season start? Although it’s hard to pin down a specific date, the buying season and holiday shopping can begin as soon as September. With that being said, it’s important to begin peak season preparation as early as late summer to truly get a handle on your personal supply and shipping needs.
Some major holidays and shopping dates to take note of are:
- Halloween (October 31)
- Thanksgiving (November 24)
- Black Friday (November 25)
- Small Business Saturday (November 26)
- Cyber Monday (November 28)
- Christmas (December 25)
- New Years Eve and Day (December 31 - January 1)
With those dates in mind, August through early October is a time to plan and order products, whereas November through December can be considered as peak shipping season.
Potential Problems and Solutions
Supplier and Supply Chain Issues
It’s an age-old story. Although supply chain and shipping complications have drastically improved in the last few months, you can’t always count on your supplier to meet the deadlines you so carefully prepared for. Backorders and stockouts are a constant challenge in any ecommerce business. How do you avoid these challenges when working with a supplier?
An easy way to combat a bump in your original strategy is with a solid backup plan. Working with multiple suppliers means you’ll always have options to get your product in and a variety of other businesses shipping directly to you. You can reduce the risk of low inventory and restocking issues by ordering in bulk ahead of the season to avoid future issues, as well.
Shipping and Fulfillment Costs
With so many orders to fill from so many places around the nation (and internationally), it’s no surprise shipping costs can be through the roof, especially during the holiday season! Since Covid, major carriers have been regularly hiking up shipping fees and fulfillment timelines. Don’t let your business get caught up in the mess!
It’s not surprising that some shipping carriers (and even some 3PL partners) are bumping up their pricing as we approach peak season. With supply chain issues, labor shortages and other factors, companies are struggling through the many highs and lows of peak season. There’s no easy way to maneuver these additional prices, but we do have some recommendations to make your numbers work, even through all the updated price hikes.
Although not always a fan favorite, raising the price of shipping on your ecommerce site can help you meet your numbers when working with higher-than-usual carrier pricing. If you still want to offer free shipping, consider adding a threshold order price to receive free shipping. Because shipping costs are based around how many shipping zones a package must go through, it may be a good idea to work with a regional shipping carrier or a 3PL service that have fulfillment centers in key areas for your business to reduce those prices.
Oh, the ongoing troubles of 2022. Another post-pandemic challenge is the lack of people in the workforce and the ongoing difficulties of retaining workers. This employee shortage causes all kinds of issues for ecommerce businesses’ supply chain, putting even more pressure on small businesses. Fewer workers can lead to slower production times and fulfillment challenges, ultimately resulting in backorders and unhappy customers overall.
We recommend adding extra advertising dollars to promote seasonal work hiring for your business and hiring reputable staff for the peak season. Now is the time to hire individuals who may be looking for additional work in preparation for the buying season themselves. Now is also a great time to team up with a great 3PL service (like Saltbox) that can help with inventory tracking and fulfillment as we head into this challenging season.
Tips and Tricks to Take on the Season
Prep for Deadlines and Big Shopping Days
Going into peak season doesn’t mean you should just be accounting for the holidays and shopping events throughout the season. Managing your own business deadlines is key to keeping up with your business goals and meeting your own financial benchmarks by the end of the year. Know when inventory needs to be ordered and received by. Keep your employees informed on all deadlines regarding advertising, hiring, shipping and more. Set deadlines for when your customers should be receiving their order and keep those customers informed if you hit any roadblocks.
With that being said, stay on top of and prepare for those big shopping days (we’re looking at you, Black Friday)! Make sure you’re ordering the right amount of inventory for the trifecta of shopping days following Thanksgiving, and use previous data from past years to make informed decisions on how much staffing and inventory you’ll need for these challenging and exciting few days. Although every season is different, it’s incredibly important to prepare for the unpredictable (…as much as you can). You never know when an influencer may promote your product online, leading to an influx of orders. Stay prepared for different outcomes!
Prioritize the Customer Experience
With so many businesses promoting the biggest and best sales of the season, your customers have a wide array of businesses they can support for their seasonal holiday shopping. An easy way to keep your customers on your site is to offer a streamlined website experience and checkout process. If your site is easy to navigate, your business shows they are handling ecommerce orders efficiently. Offering through a frictionless experience is key to accumulating repeat business.. Keep your site optimized and running fast, and the sales will roll right in!
Brand Everything and Keep Promoting
Connect with your customers any chance you get. Your business is built around your branding, and peak season offers your company the perfect chance to promote through marketing and across all packaging. Don’t miss your chance to brand your business at every step. Check out our blog about all things Custom Packaging to learn more ways to build out your branding through custom packaging.
Internal Communication is Key
…And it always will be! Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. It’s important to prioritize communication in these challenging times as you work through hard to meet deadlines. Candid communication with your employees gives you an edge on potential creative ideas they may introduce, challenges they foresee in preparation, and other informative knowledge that can greatly benefit your business throughout peak season and beyond. Familiarity with your people and the warehouse experience is key to running a great business. Use it!
Work with a Supportive 3PL Service
Working with a 3PL service offers hands-on care, fulfillment solutions, and logistics strategies that can’t be found anywhere else. Even better, when working with a 3PL service like Saltbox, you’re working in a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who are also growing and scaling their ecommerce business all across the United States. Saltbox helps businesses of all sizes thrive through peak season and beyond, solving the toughest business problems with comprehensive logistics support in a community-focused workspace.
Allow Saltbox to Be Your 3PL Choice this Peak Season
Although peak season is considered a massively demanding time for business owners across the world, it’s also an opportunity to truly expand your business and reel in new customers when they’re looking for unique and exciting businesses to support. How wonderful! With transparent pricing, solution packages curated to your unique needs, and a team dedicated to learning the ins and outs of your business, Saltbox is the logistics support small businesses leverage to get going, grow, and thrive.
Step confidently into peak season with the best fulfillment strategies and shipping solutions already in place. Go with confidence as you connect with new customers and expand your business seamlessly with a 3PL service built by ecommerce business owners, for ecommerce business owners!
At Saltbox, we want to grow your small business with you. Offering the key fulfillment services all businesses require across a wide variety of locations, Saltbox benefits your growing business by focusing on those personal needs that many 3PL services overlook.
Saltbox offers hands-on care when it comes to logistic solutions and fulfillment, letting owners take the lead on running their business and improving their marketing while we handle everything else. You don’t have to expand your business alone. Get started with Saltbox Fulfillment and let’s grow your business together.