It may only be August, but the holidays will be here before you know it. And that means peak season. This post will detail 5 things to do now to get ready for peak season.
Peak season is a “make it or break it” event for many omnichannel retailers, and preparation should happen sooner rather than later.
As consumer shopping habits continue to evolve, each peak season brings new records and even higher customer demands. In fact, Black Friday 2018 saw record sales topping out at $6.22 billion. More than one third of sales came from smartphone purchases.
That’s not a number you want to miss out on this year. Peak season preparation requires work on all fronts, from marketing to website optimization to inventory management software implementation.
Review last year’s peak season performance
Before implementing any kind of strategy, take a look back at last year’s peak season performance.
- When did you start to see a spike in traffic?
- When did you start to see a spike in sales revenue?
- What were the best and worst days?
- Did they coincide with the spikes of traffic and/or revenue?
Once you’ve identified those areas, look into best-selling products. What do you need to order more of or less of this season?
Some trends may not carry over into the next year, but it’s important to know what sold well and what didn’t to make smarter purchasing decisions. You can make generalizations of product categories over the last few years and guess what will sell well again this year.
Forecasting, forecasting, forecasting
Data is the most powerful asset your business has. And if you’re not using it wisely, you’re guaranteed to make a few inventory purchasing mistakes.
Inventory management software reports house a wealth of sales data at your disposal. Users can track sales history, quantities on hand, and every action in every warehouse.
Analyze sales history data now to make purchasing predictions for peak season. Study which products are doing well and which aren’t to prevent out of stocks on Black Friday.
When users track quantities on hand, you have a better handle on the activity of your inventory across platforms. Understanding this information, and taking the actions necessary to correct it, eliminates the risk of oversells or out of stocks between sale platforms.
Holiday sales happen quickly, so it’s imperative that your data predictions are accurate. Taking the time to forecast inventory purchases now could be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful peak season later.
Improve seller performance ratings
This is a big one. Good seller performance ratings (notoriously important on Amazon, but also eBay) are outlined by Amazon, but determined by your inventory practices.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the Seller Performance Ratings policies:
- Order defect rate must be less than 1%
- Pre-fulfillment cancellation rate, or “the number of seller-fulfilled orders cancelled by a seller prior to ship-confirmation divided by the number of seller-fulfilled orders in the relevant time period.”
- Late shipment rate, or how many shipments you don’t’ get out on time
In order to get to, and stay at, the top of Amazon search results, sellers have to meet Amazon seller performance ratings like the policies outlined above. And in order to do that, they have to have organized inventory processes.
Customers expect the best every time they make a purchase and Amazon expects sellers to deliver them the best products. To avoid negative reviews, utilize inventory management software solutions like quality control and reporting for purchasing decisions.
It’s not an easy climb to the top of Amazon search results (and a lot of it comes down to SEO), but with a solid inventory plan, your performance ratings can hold up their end of the bargain to win big sales this peak season.
Implement inventory software now
If you don’t already use software to track inventory activity, stop what you’re doing and research your options.
Inventory management software is used to organize and track inventory in and out of, and across warehouses more efficiently than a manual spreadsheet.
Manual spreadsheets run a high risk for inventory mistakes, like lost inventory, mis-shipments, overstocks, out of stocks, and so on. The list of human errors is a mile long.
Like any software, inventory management implementation can be a tedious task, and one you don’t want to leave until the last minute. If you want to do it correctly, at least.
Implementation takes time, but when done correctly with the assistance of the software’s support team, will result in much higher ROI. Opt for a plan with guided support and optimal implementation time for optimal results.
Train and hire temporary staff
Whether you’re a humble staff of 10 or a staff of 100, peak season demands the most from eCommerce retail employees. In order to hire strategically, there’s a few things to consider first.
Map out how many temporary employees you need to hire and for which positions.
You’ll need to start doing this NOW if not sooner. Because this is your most important time of year, you need enough time to train temporary staff on how to do their job correctly.
That being said, remember that temporary staff don’t need to handle all of the same responsibilities as regular staff. Allocate easier tasks to them that don’t take as much time to train and leave the higher level tasks to seasoned employees.
And when it comes down to actually hiring the right people, incentivize current employees for referrals.
It’s easier to hire a substantial team of temps when your current employees already get along with them. Everybody wins. If you can’t gather enough employee referrals, reach out to an external recruiter for help.
For a lot of retailers, peak season is a crucial piece of their revenue pie.
Business owners need to have all their ducks in a row before the big days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, instead of scrambling in the moment to find an inventory solution.
Invest heavily on external facets like a great looking website and a savvy promotional plan, but invest just as heavily internally with an inventory management system. Inventory is the basis of your business, and without it, you don’t have a peak season at all.