04 August 2023

7 quick wins on how to prepare for the peak shipping season

Intersoft offer 7 ways to get the most out of a peak shipping season and maximise growth and profitability.

Keeley Burridge

Do your eCommerce sales increase dramatically at certain times of the year?

Are your employees, warehouses and carriers able to cope with sudden surges in demand? Here we suggest 7 ways to help you prepare for your peak shipping season.

What is peak shipping season?

A peak shipping season is a great opportunity to maximise growth and profitability. During this time, retailers receive many orders, which puts a lot of pressure on the supply chain.

When does peak season start?

The busiest time for shipping starts in October and goes until January. This time period includes holidays such as Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year sales.

Other times can also create peaks. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day see an increase in cards and gifts.

Easter can prompt increased sales of DIY and gardening products. The end of August can see a surge in ‘back to school products. And globally, peaks also occur around Thanksgiving, Diwali and the Chinese New Year.

Why is it important to prepare for the peak shipping season?

A business will face difficulties if there is a sudden change in operations.. When this shift doubles the increase in sales, it will affect every aspect of the business. Suppliers may not have enough stock; staff may struggle with more demand; systems or carriers may also struggle. Ultimately, if you get it wrong, you can lose loyal customers and damage relationships with trusted suppliers.

Woman at desk with laptop and parcels

What can you do to prepare for peak?

Fortunately, you can do a lot. But you need to plan well ahead. To maintain good relationships with customers, staff, and suppliers, start early. Have enough stock, fulfil orders quickly, and avoid wasting profits on surcharges or compensation.

1. Reflect and expand

Start planning early, while memories of the last peak are still fresh. Data is your best preparation for peak planning.

Study historical shipping data. Where were the fluctuations? Which carrier performed well?

Look at inventory levels. Did you have enough stock and packaging products? Or did you order too much and end up almost giving away some lines?

Run tracking reports from your delivery or order management systems. What worked well? Can you identify patterns so you can make informed decisions for this peak season?

Are you able to expand and spread the peaks out? Maybe you can make Black Friday promotions run over one or two weeks rather than one day. Or perhaps you can adapt your delivery promise to meet expectations.

2. Talk to suppliers early

It seems obvious but it’s worth pointing out. The peak season affects just about everyone in ecommerce. If you don’t communicate with your suppliers ahead of time, you might end up dealing with many demanding customers.

Make sure they’re aware of your expectations. And consider backup plans to avoid much longer lead times, depleted supplies or even total stockouts.

Man preparing parcels in warehouse

3. Prep your people

The peak shipping season will put a lot of pressure on employees. Are your customer service people fully briefed on peak season procedures? Do they know the dates and deadlines?

How clear are your warehousing people on health and safety protocols? Do you need to plan in staff training? Will you need to recruit additional labour to pick, pack and process?

Remember, your competitors will be in the same position. Leave it too late and you might struggle to find or train the human resources you need.

4. Create the best customer experience ever

It’s easy to see the peak season as the ‘just get it out the door quickly’ time. However, neglecting this opportunity may result in a loss of enhancing client connections and boosting your business all year round.. Get it wrong and you could risk losing lifetime value from the customer. Consider real-time tracking or a simple returns policy.

Delays are sometimes unavoidable around this time. But warning customers in advance usually prevents potentially disgruntled consumers from taking to social media to complain. Also, don’t forget your environmental impact.

Sustainability counts more than ever when consumers shop. As studies show, in the last five years, approximately 85% of people have shifted their purchase behaviour towards being more sustainable. 74% of consumers are now willing to pay more for products that come in eco-friendly packaging.

5. Consider multiple carriers

Sticking with your usual carrier might seem the most economical option but it could end up costing you more if they let you down with long delays or lost goods

If you don’t have the time or resources to find and manage more than one carrier, consider partnering with suppliers such as Intersoft.

It’s carrier management system gives you the flexibility of having multiple carriers without you needing to manage them on your own. And it’s easy to use and onboard.

Delivery driver delivering package

6. Optimise systems and technology

How efficient is your current warehousing system? Are you making the most of automated order processing, data capture and inventory management?

While it wouldn’t be wise to install a new inventory or delivery management system right before the peak season, you could consider optimising existing systems and processes.

Take time to review the operation end to end and aim to cut out as many manual interactions as possible. Every time you ask someone to make a decision or carry out a manual action, you increase the risk of error and delay.

Talk to your providers and see how they can help. Intersoft is always happy to discuss and work with clients to further optimise the way of working.

7. Tighten your returns process

A surge in demand invariably means a surge in returns. Protect your long-term business by reviewing your entire returns management process.

Make sure customers are aware of your returns policy by including it (or a link to it) with every order. Inform your customer service team about the process of reverse logistics. Provide buyers with clear return instructions.

You might want to extend your returns deadline during the peak season. You could even consider outsourcing your entire returns process to a third party if you feel dealing with a vast increase would hamper your order fulfilment operations.

If you’d like to find out how Intersoft’s Intelligent Shipper can help you manage your peak shipping season, request a no-obligation demo.