The month of November not only signals shorter days, falling leaves, and an influx of all things pumpkin, but it is also an important time of year as retailers and consumers alike gear up for the flurry of the holiday season.
With both in-store and online sales numbers expected to spike again in the 2018 Holiday season, the result will also be more logistics competition, tighter carrier availability and on-time delivery pressure. Deloitte is forecasting a 5% increase in retail sales this year from last season and AAA says this travel season will make for incredibly busy roads, with 54 million Americans traveling.
Here are some tips we recommend to help prepare and plan for the busiest time of the year.
Knowledge is power.
It is easy to be focus on preparing for the onslaught of holiday work that you miss taking in what has happened throughout the year. While Thanksgiving & Christmas are the peak time of the year for producers, shippers, and retailers, your company and team have been practicing on a smaller scale during other busy periods. Look at other busy times this year and how the weeks around them operated. What went right or wrong? What did you need to immediately adjust or what did your team do well? Maybe you have excellent customer service and were able to resolve questions quickly and satisfactorily. Did shipping rates increase unexpectedly? By looking at and evaluating the past few holidays and years, you can have a better idea going forward of what you’ll need to reinforce or fix in advance of Christmas orders.
Where is everyone?
Another tip is preparing internally for the holiday season. With more traveling days, vacations, Christmas parties, and other functions, your team will most likely have different schedules throughout the next few months. It can be a juggling act to match work productivity with team member schedules. The key here is to communicate and plan with your team beforehand. Know which dates staff members will not be available and know your company’s holiday policy for vacation time. Planning around those dates or prepare for absences in other ways. The point is not to restrict employees with taking time off, but to prepare for when they do. Offering incentives to hold off on holiday vacations in exchange for longer breaks during slower times of the year can be effective ways to help manage staffing needs during the winter season.
Prepare for the worst by preparing the best.
Of course anticipating for missed pickups or higher-than expected costs are unknown factors at this point. But you can be sure these problems will occur over the next month, so prepare. If you are seeing a pattern with certain carriers missing pick ups or delays, think about not choosing them – even if they are the LCP. Look back at your historical data and see who your most dependable carriers are through these months and weigh out whether dependability vs cost is more important to your company.
Another key focus is ensuring your customers are aware of when orders are being fulfilled and shipped, and then providing tracking information. Tracking data is always important throughout the year, but even more so at this time of year. In our current e-commerce-driven world, people are used to knowing exactly where their packages are at. Your businesses can show you care by also providing shipping details for orders as much as you can. Be as proactive as you can be in providing updates on any potential delays. Be honest and transparent as possible with customers if something did happen to their shipment. Plan ahead with customer service team members on how to handle and manage shipping problems.
Are there any ways you have practiced to reduce the stress of the Holidays at your company? Let us know!