Another year around the sun has landed us on the cusp of the peak retail season yet again. This time of year is busy and exciting for retailers and consumers alike. However, the increase in demand puts tremendous pressure on retailers. Before business owners can celebrate the financial profits of the season, they’ll be thinking about anything and everything that can go wrong in the ordering process. There could be inventory control problems, imprecise orders, delays in delivery, and unsatisfied customers.
This all boils down to order fulfilment. With the right order fulfilment strategies in place, you’ll be able to cope with inventory control, get correct orders out the door, ensure delivery times and ultimately make customers happy. Check out the tips below for a guide to managing your order fulfilment during the peak season.
Prepare your warehouse
As sales increase, you inventory stock and warehouse staff will need to be able to respond. Suppliers will be sending more inventory your way. Will you have the space to deal with it? Clear out dead stock and optimise areas of the warehouse for popular, fast-moving goods. The warehouse needs to align with the product allocation and shipping processes. Make it easy for your staff to find products and get them on the delivery trucks as soon as possible.
Hire extra staff and rent more equipment, such as forklifts, if you plan on being busier than normal. If you’re organised and plan for this ahead of time, it won’t be a mad scramble. You’ll have time to train new employees, streamline the warehouse and get the right resources on time.
Getting products into the hands of the customers and on time is a huge task. If you’re using multiple distribution centres make sure the inventory control processes are ready to manage the extra load. You’ll need to ensure that each distribution centre has a healthy balance of stock to deal with the influx of orders. Take a closer look at shipping patterns and make sure the right inventory is in the right distribution centre to decrease shipping costs and expedite shipping times.
If you’re adding any delivery features this peak season, such as same-day delivery, make sure you roll it out before it gets busy. This allows you to work out the kinks and make sure your employees understand the new processes.
Review data from previous peak seasons
We’re lucky enough to have data being collected constantly these days. Now, it’s time to harness that data and learn from the years gone by. Historical data can shed light on what items were the most popular, the average order size and patterns in past sales. You can check previous problems and identify any bottlenecks in the order fulfilment processes.
Not only is numerical data important, but customer feedback will also support you to improve for this holiday season. Look to see what the most common customer complaints were last year. Was there a common theme that you can avoid for this season? Dig through past information to help improve this year’s peak order fulfilment.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.