4 Great Tips for Efficient Order Fulfillment This Holiday Season 39

4 Great Tips for Efficient Order Fulfillment This Holiday Season

The following article is a guest post.

For ordinary folks, the holiday season is an amazing time when they can take a break and spend time with loved ones. Retailers and many other businesses, however, often find themselves facing their busiest season of the year as shoppers flock to brick-and-mortar stores and a swarm of orders from online buyers come pouring in.

While this hectic period may promise a surge in sales volume, you need to prepare well to avoid losses and client dissatisfaction.

Because customers desire speedy or on-time delivery of their orders, you need to have a solid fulfillment strategy to be able to meet such demands. No matter what type of products you sell, if you cannot keep up with this influx of orders, you can lose resources, profit, and customers.

To help you avoid experiencing difficulties, we’ll provide you with these 4 great tips for satisfactory fulfillment management that you can consider this season.

Partner with a 3PL company.

Outsourcing means having a portion of your business processes handled by third-party service providers.

While this may seem risky for companies that are used to dealing with all of their business processes in-house, outsourcing actually offers many benefits that you can take advantage of.

By turning to third-party logistics (3PL) companies for your fulfillment needs, you can cut back on expenses and be more time efficient. As these providers already have all the right people, storage facilities, equipment, and technologies that can take care of the entire order fulfillment process, you won’t have to invest on these things yourself.

Because 3PL companies are independent from your business, it’s imperative that you select one that is reliable and can actually satisfy your requirements. You can seek expert help from a professional outsourcing consultant, who can narrow down your list of prospective service providers.

Maintain an optimized inventory and track it accurately.

How you manage your company’s inventory is vital to meeting your customers’ expectations with their orders.

Proper order processing, an adequate stock of products, and an efficient tracking system can help guarantee your fulfillment success during the holiday rush.

A common issue for retailers during peak seasons is experiencing stock-outs—events in which items in their inventories get exhausted.

To keep your customers satisfied, make sure to stock up on goods beforehand. Staying updated regarding the number of supplies you have left is also a must.

By having an accurate tracking system, you can replenish your inventory in a snap when the need arises.

You can also use your website or social media accounts for the purpose of keeping your customers up to speed with product availability.

Make use of the right technologies.

Whether you rely on 3PL companies or on your own in-house staff and facilities, the right technologies are necessary for you to carry out your fulfillment strategy successfully.

For instance, you should have the right inventory management tools that give you complete visibility over your stock of products. This ensures that the inventory information that is available to you is really accurate, and it also allows you to make informed decisions regarding inventory restocking.

In addition, you should also make use of reporting software that lets you check and review valuable metrics like throughput, supplier performance, and sales. This gives you access to useful information that you can utilize to improve your fulfillment procedures.

It goes without saying that these tools should go hand-in-hand with efficient distribution center automation. You can deploy useful hardware like automated conveyors and mobile pick carts for batch picking.

Other tools that can increase the efficiency and productivity of picking operators include pick to light displays, radio frequency scanners, and a voice-directed warehousing system.

Plan for your peak days.

Before incorporating changes in your fulfillment management, you have to plan well first.

To come up with a reliable and sound strategy, refer to your company’s performance data from previous holiday seasons. With this information, you can determine your peak times and predict customer behavior. You can also use this as a reference for the volume of goods or merchandise you should prepare.

If you plan on relying on your own internal fulfillment operations, you can study these data to see what weak points your business has that needs addressing.

Perhaps you need to hire interns or more capable staff members, or maybe your facilities require improvement. These are problems that you can discover and solve to fully take advantage of the holiday shopping rush.

For many retailers, maintaining a strong order fulfillment strategy during peak months can be challenging. But by giving these tips a try, you can create a robust and seamless plan that can help you make profit, win new customers, and keep loyal clients happy.

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The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience 11

The Five Elements of Flawless Customer Experience

Providing a flawless customer experience is the ultimate goal for any business.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a customer experience that keeps your clients coming back for more. In fact, there’s so much involved that it can almost seem overwhelming.

However, providing a flawless customer experience becomes much easier when you approach the task through these five distinct elements:

Time
Understanding
Ownership of Emotions
The Unexpected
Follow-Through

Time

When it comes to your customers’ satisfaction, time is essential. Think of how a great experience at a new restaurant quickly sours if you’re left waiting for your food to arrive. Think of how your excitement over a great department store sale turns into frustration as you stand in line for what seems like hours.

Time is your most valuable resource and it is up to you to make sure you’re using your customers’ time wisely.

This is why restaurants have comfortable waiting areas with drinks and appetizers, or why airports have lounges with restaurants, shops, and even bars.

If your customers are being forced to wait for a service, make them feel as if their time spent is not wasted. The more positive drivers you offer customers, the less likely they are to grow dissatisfied with their experience.

Think of how you can implement this in your own business. Are there places where you can help fill customers’ time? Are there places where technology can be used to cut down on the time it takes to complete a task? Remember, it’s the customers’ time that should be valued, not your own.

Understanding

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You must understand what your customers want, when they want it, and how.

While this may seem daunting, getting a better understanding of your customers doesn’t take millions of dollars, complex data analytics, and a degree in psychology. Instead, all it takes is a simple look. Watch their process, engage with them, ask them questions, and listen to them.  

How are customers interacting with your product? What’s the first thing they do when they enter your store? What’s the last thing they do before they leave? How long are they spending in each department? Do you notice anything that hampers their experience?

Take a look at your competitors. How are your potential customers interacting with them? What does this business offer that you don’t or vice versa? What is your, as Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen says, “job to be done?” What are your customers hiring your product or service to accomplish? Understand why your users are turning to your products.

Ownership of Emotions

Many companies have already taken hold of their customers’ emotions, though cynically. Subliminal advertising is a key example. However, the ownership of emotions does not have to be cynical. When used correctly, it can be the “holy grail” for companies.

Owning emotions begins with the aforementioned ability to understand. When you truly understand a customer’s choices and then act to make the experience better, you’re building a relationship of trust. That trust is the foundation of emotional ownership.

One way to build this trust is to reduce the “emotional” noise that surrounds your customers. Let them know that, even on their worst day, your business or product is there for them and that it will be a constant in their lives.

Think of restaurants and the long wait times you have to endure when they’re busy. Think of how angry—or “hangry”—you feel as you stand around, waiting for your table, and listening to your stomach growl. However, think of how some restaurants are able to reduce that emotional noise by serving you finger foods and drinks as you wait.

Also, seek to understand what emotionally motivates your customers.

Why should they be motivated to visit your store or use your product? To feel confident? Free? Unique? Secure? Successful? Research shows that all human beings are motivated by one of those factors.

The Unexpected

Experiences become stronger and more memorable when they’re accompanied by an element of surprise. Surprise can be addictive, which will only keep your customers coming back for more.

Think about mailing your customers or clients small packages with gifts and swag. Everyone loves to get mail and everyone loves free stuff, especially when it’s least expected.

A surprise doesn’t have to be a huge flash mob (though it could be!). Hand out snacks at your store. Is it a cold day? Give your customers hot chocolate or warm punch. Is it a client’s birthday? Send a card! Even a small note of thanks for a customer’s business is a nice little surprise.

The most important thing to remember: simply be sincere and don’t become predictable. Chocolates on hotel pillows were once a great surprise for guests. However, now that their wow-factor has faded, hotels are continuously trying to get back to the “unexpected.”

Follow-Through

You’ve made promises and established goals. The only thing that’s left is to follow through on them. This starts with creating your mission statement, one that you, your employees, and your customers can commit to it. This will define your customer experience.

Your mission statement must promise to impact yourself/your business, the community, or the world. It may commit to impacting one, or all three. However, whatever it promises, you must follow through on. Your customers’ trust, and thus their experience, depends on it.

More about these five elements can be discovered in Unforgettable: Designing Customer Experiences that Stick, to be published in 2018.

***
Kyle H. David has made a career in technology and entrepreneurship for nearly 20 years. In 2001, he formed The Kyle David Group, now KDG. Over the past 16 years, KDG has grown at a rapid pace, attracting clients ranging from the United States Senate to major financial institutions, international nonprofits, and Division I universities.