Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holiday Planning for Online Retailers: Shipping

One of the worst situations you can find yourself in is not being able to fulfill the orders you’ve worked so hard to generate. Prepare by assessing your previous holiday outbound shipping needs and adjust for this year by taking into account your forecast. Here are some considerations to keep in mind while you’re planning:

Staff
Your shipping team is an important part of the ecommerce department because they’re the ones sending products to the customer. Understand your staffing needs and make sure you have a core group of individuals who understand the products, standards you set in shipping, processes and have experienced the holiday rush in your business. These individuals will be key in making sure shipping goes smoothly and the new guys understand what is required of them

Supplies
One of the most overlooked elements of shipping is supplies. Don’t assume your vendor(s) will have the stock when you need it because they likely have other customers who want supplies when you do. Forecast your supply needs and negotiate cost with your vendor. Because you’re buying in advance, they should be willing to cut you some deals which ultimately helps to lower your per order fulfillment cost. If you’re tight on space ask them if they will store and deliver as needed – but they have to be close enough to your fulfillment center to make this an effective solution.

Shipping Rates
Here’s where you can save extra money. First, pull your shipping invoices from the previous two years and record the dollar amount per shipping method (ground, 2 day, etc.). Second, figure out how many orders you expect to ship this year and break it down by ground, 2 day, etc. Third, determine the zones to which you ship most often. Lastly, call your rep at UPS and FedEx. Tell them you want to negotiate shipping rates for the holiday and be prepared to show them your analysis. Play your UPS and FedEx reps against each other to get the best possible rates and get it in writing.

Shipping Calendar
Ask your shipping rep to give you a calendar of shipping dates for the holiday season. You need to understand your shipping window so you get orders in customers hands in a timely fashion. There’s no better way to lose customers than to deliver gifts on the 26th. Run Guaranteed to Get There promotions based on the shipping windows listed in the calendar.

Processes
Get your shipping team, customer service team and order processing team (or whatever teams you have in the order fulfillment chain) in one room and iron out any hiccups there are in the fulfillment process. Communication is key and designate point people along each step who will be responsible for communicating with others and raising the red flag when necessary.

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1 comment:

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