Christmas is the busiest time for people in various industries, whether it’s catering or leisure or whatever it happens to be, but e-commerce in particular has seen a huge surge in its activity.
Planning for that increase in activity can really help you through that busy time of year.
So here are twelve tips for gearing up for that surge in Christmas activity, which is always going to be considerably more than the rest of the year.
Speak to Royal Mail and make sure you get additional collections.
We get two Royal Mail collections everyday anyway, but you may need a third collection or you might just need an extra one on top of that, because if you only book only one collection, the van might not be able to take everything you’ve got for it.
You may also need to tell them what sort of vehicle you need. We need a seven and a half tonne ton truck with a tail lift so that we can wheel the ‘York trolleys’ of pack onto the back, and off it goes.
And then we get a very last collection where it’s just a little van to pick up sort of any ‘straggler’ parcels and packages, after our main cut-off time, which is extremely useful.
So, tip number one… definitely talk to Royal Mail about additional collections.
You may need people to be able to make themselves available, and get additional staff on board. If so, plan it in advance, so that you’ve got them trained up so they know what they’re doing, so that they’re not just coming in to fire fight.
Make sure that they actually know, in November, “Okay, this is how we do things and this is what we expect of you.”
That way, the quality of your service is maintained – despite the fact that you’re having to bring in new people. if you give them that bit of training in advance then it should be fairly smooth.
You can always go back to the activity you had in your business this time last year, and see what percentage increase you had.
Obviously that can help you in the planning process, in terms of how many additional hands on deck you’re going to require.
Maybe by the time your read this article some of the last posting dates have already gone for service mail to Europe and America and the rest of the world.
However, you’ve got your international last posting date and then you’ve obviously got your second class and your first class, and your special delivery last posting dates for arrival before Christmas.
So, look at the bank holidays, how they fall each year and how that coincides with the last posting dates, and determine what impact that has on your operations—which are most likely going to be the busy days around those bank holidays and last posting dates.
Make sure you’ve got extra stock, because you’re probably going to shift it!
It’ll be very frustrating if you had loads of potential to sell a lot more… and then not be able to sell more because you ran out of stock, so make sure you’ve ramped up on your stock levels.
Again, you can look at historical reports to know exactly what you can anticipate, and it also depends on any marketing campaigns you’re going to be running of course.
If you’ve got extra sales, you’re going to need extra packaging.
So, make sure you’ve brought in enough of the packaging to get all the stuff out the door in the way that you know it should be packed.
I touched on this previously… work out the cut-off times for international postage dates, and have that visible on your website.
If you do have a lot of customers abroad, that want to buy your products for Christmas presents, this ensures that they clearly know whether they’re going to actually get it in time, to give it as a present.
You need to make it clear if they’re ordering after the surface postage cut-off time, whether it’s still in time for Airmail, FedEx or courier and so on… make it clear.
Obviously it’s a busy time of year, and of course everyone also wants to have some holiday time, to enjoy with their families.
Staff holiday time will need to be planned well in advance. And you need to make sure that it’s very clear how many hands on deck you need during that period.
And of course you also need to make sure that your staff get the holidays they want, so that they’ve got their time with their families too.
If it really is very busy, instead of increasing your workforce, so that you’ve got a number of people that are not necessarily regular workers in the business, it’s sometimes a good idea to offer weekend shift work to people, where they can earn a “time and a half” rate of pay.
It’s good for them, and it’s good for your customers because your parcels and packages go out of the door, and the warehouse and production team can be a lot more productive, and just be open for longer… it’s a nice alternative to incresing the size of your staff and be still working from nine to five.
Even though everyone’s activity is increased, you still obviously don’t want to forget your own customers and suppliers, and staff and family and friends over Christmas.
You’re still going to need to make time for that, so try to get it done sooner rather than later. It’s all too easy to get half-way through December and realize you haven’t done any yourself!
Remember, every year Christmas is going to be bonkers, so get your own tasks and chores done well in advance, and then it’s ready and can go out in good time.
You can only do what you can do, and everyone that’s working in your business is likely to be doing their absolute utmost and will be enjoying the hubbub and the excitement of that time of year.
But don’t panic!
Just calmly plough through the workload. Keep your head down and your chin up!
The number of times I hear people say, “Oh my God! I never expected it to be so busy between Christmas and New Year.” And invariably it is, for a number of reasons.
Sometimes it’s because people who were expecting to receive a particular gift at Christmas, but don’t get it, then go and buy it for themselves after Christmas anyway.
Then there will be product returns. And sometimes customers just get bored with the festivities and end up surfing online and buying extra items.
Then of course there may be special offers in the New Year, which makes some people to think “Okay well… I’ll buy it now.” And there are of course some people who buy all their Christmas presents in the January sales, for the next year! (Which is really forward thinking!!)
Finally, all the stock that hasn’t shifted during Christmas will obviously go straight on sale in January, and so you can expect an influx of sales thanks to that as well.
If you plan your Christmas e-commerce order fulfilment well, in advance, then it really shouldn’t be a stressful time.
It will be busy, but of course it should be… and that’s a great because it means your business is doing well!
Plan it properly, and it won’t be stressful, and you’ll be able to look at your accounts at the end of the year and think “Well, that was a good year!”
It’s still only November, so it’s perhaps a tad early, but let me say it anyway… Merry Xmas!
I hope you have a great time, and also wish you a ‘wonderfully profitable’ year of e-commerce in 2014!
P.S. Many fulfilment houses and courier companies don’t take on new customers in December.
So, make sure you have secured the services of an order fulfilment house before December to ensure that you don’t have the worry or hassle of having to fulfil all your orders over the Xmas period.
Get in touch today for a quote. Even if you’re not quite ready yet, we can at least have a chat about the possibility of you outsourcing your fulfilment for a hassle free year of e-commerce success in 2014!
You’ll have access to the very best cutting edge OMS software, Mintsoft, for no extra cost at all! Unlike any logistical service, you’ll be able to see your orders being fulfilled from multiple shopping carts right from the comfort of your own computer, smartphone or tablet.