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Peak season fulfilment: Challenges and the best strategies
Order fulfilment

Peak season fulfilment: Challenges and the best strategies

Versha Kamwal
July 13, 2022
mins read

Online shopping hits its all-time high during festive seasons, holidays and major sales events—reminding ecommerce brands of the importance of seamless order fulfilment.

Keeping customers happy during such peak season is essential for long-term success. However, ecommerce brands usually find themselves being caught between receiving thousands of orders and not having the fulfilment capability to fulfil them.

It won't be wrong to say the peak season can have both favourable and unfavourable consequences. It ultimately depends on ecommerce brands on how they prepare and execute it.

In this blog, you will learn what is peak season fulfilment, what are its challenges, how to overcome them and how Eshopbox can ecommerce brands ace peak season fulfilment.

What is peak season?

Peak season refers to the period of highest demand—meaning customers order online much more than usual. In simple terms, ecommerce businesses are bustling with orders during the peak season.

Generally, the peak season starts with the onset of festivals in the country (Diwali, Eid, Christmas, New Year, and more) and during major sales events—when customers shop online more than ever.

What is peak season fulfilment?

During the peak season, the majority of ecommerce brands experience the biggest surge in orders. As the order volume increases significantly above BAU (business as usual), ecommerce brands' requirement for warehouse space, manforce, fulfilment infrastructure and capabilities increases drastically. Thus, ecommerce brands need a strategic fulfilment strategy to fulfil all the orders as efficiently as possible—including the speed, cost and accuracy of fulfilment.

What are the challenges of peak season fulfilment, and how to overcome them?

1. Real-time inventory update

During the peak season, you receive orders constantly—making inventory tracking and updating very important. Moreover, instant inventory update becomes more crucial when you sell on multiple sales channels to prevent overselling.

Let's take an example; a brand is selling on Amazon and Myntra. During the peak season, the brand has 1 product left in the inventory. Then, a customer places an order on Amazon— resulting in a stockout. However, the inventory doesn't get updated on Myntra, and another customer places an order on Myntra. Thus, the brand makes a sale for a product it doesn't have in inventory.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can manually update inventory across every sales channel in real-time whenever an order is placed—a change in inventory levels.
  • You can invest in an Inventory Management System (IMS) that enables you to update inventory across sales channels automatically.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox that syncs your inventory across all sales channels every 5 minutes, enabling you to relay accurate inventory levels in real-time.

2. Limited warehouse space and workforce

Before peak season, it's important to understand your current warehouse capacity, workforce and how an increase in orders would impact these two. The problem that arises during the peak season is—as the order volume rises, you need more inventory, more space to store it, and more staff to process orders.

Not to mention, ecommerce brands already struggle to find adequate storage space even when the order volume is low before the peak season. With the onset of the peak season, the demand for warehouses and workforce increases—making the availability of these resources more acute. So, even if you sell more during peak season, those gains could be offset by rising warehouse and operational costs.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can invest in a new or bigger ecommerce warehouse and hire more warehouse staff.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox that can give you additional resources for the peak season, including additional space, workforce and flexibility.
  • You can also consider hiring on-demand warehousing and logistics service that can help you with additional warehouse space, fulfilment infrastructure and workforce while keeping your costs low.

3. Difficulty in forecasting demand

Another challenge of peak season is accurately forecasting how much inventory you will need to fulfil orders. Additionally, it's more important to forecast demand for maintaining adequate inventory levels on hand—as too much inventory can make you pay high storage fees, while having too little inventory can lead to stockouts.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can start by analysing your historical data and gain insights on sales velocity  at the SKU (stock keeping unit) level. This will help you analyse the amount of inventory you need during the peak fulfilment season. Though inventory forecasting is never 100% accurate, you can still get your estimates closer to the actual figures.

4. Prevent stockouts

During the peak season, high order volume can result in running low on stock. So, restocking your inventory, especially your high-selling products, is important to ensure uninterrupted order fulfilment.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You must determine your inventory turnover rate to know the number of days you have inventory until you are expected to run out of inventory.
  • You must establish standard inventory levels and reorder points so that you can order inventory from the supplier or the manufacturer when you run low on inventory. Most importantly, you need to consider the time taken in inventory to reach the fulfilment centre and any other potential delays that can be common during the peak season.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox as it helps you restock inventory to prevent Out-of-Stock (OOS) by ensuring timely replenishment by sending automated reminders when inventory is low.

5. Slow order processing capabilities

The peak season implies a high influx of orders which means you need to optimise and speed up the complete order processing cycle. Additionally, if you sell on multiple marketplaces (Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and more), you have to meet their strict fulfilment guidelines during peak demand—making sure that orders are ready to be shipped on time.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can adhere to on-time order processing with a streamlined pick and pack process.
  • You can introduce automation in the process to minimise human errors and embrace time efficiency.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox, which follows Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to make the picking and packing process as efficient as possible. Moreover, Eshopbox reduces common human errors by leveraging power technology, such as barcode scanners, conveyor belts, automated processes, and more.

6. Pressure to offer fast delivery

In today's world, customer expectations around delivery time have drastically increased. Major ecommerce players like Amazon have accustomed customers to same-day, one-day and two-day delivery. Even during the peak season, customers expect their packages to arrive as soon as possible. If ecommerce brands cannot keep up with such standards, especially during the peak season, they risk losing market share to those who do.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can analyse the customer locations where you generally ship your orders by looking at your historical data.
  • You can then invest in multiple fulfilment centres to strategically split your inventory.
  • Tie-up with multiple courier partners.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox as it allows you to plan their ideal inventory distribution by analysing historical data with no manual effort, input or calculation. Eshopbox gives access to a distributed network of fulfilment centres across India so that you can reach customers across 29,000+ pin codes while saving 45% on shipping costs. Moreover, Eshopbox has strong tie-ups with multiple courier companies, enabling you to take advantage of negotiated rates and bulk delivery discounts.

7. Inability to create a great customer experience

With high order volumes, the focus of an ecommerce brand is usually on processing and shipping as many orders as possible. Unfortunately, this diverts them from the key element that drives loyalty—customer experience. However, it results in sub-standard packaging, damaged goods in transit, poor order accuracy, non-branded experience, and whatnot.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You can pay extra attention to order accuracy, better packaging and unboxing experience or hire extra staff to do so.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox that can help you create a superior and branded customer experience even during the peak season.

8. Menace caused by returns

Once the peak season is over, you are most likely to flood with return requests as customers return unwanted purchases. Unfortunately, this means you will lose out on the revenue you made during the peak demand. On the brighter side, you can ensure your profitability by managing returns appropriately. Moreover, you can improve brand loyalty by making the returns process as easy as possible.

Solution: Here's what you can do:

  • You should start by making every effort to minimise the return rate.
  • Work on your returns policy and make it customer-centric. For example, you can determine the time period for returns, expected condition of returned products, necessary documents for returns, and methods of reimbursements.
  • Ensure a fast and simple process for customers to initiate a refund and exchange.
  • Align return shipping of the product and perform a quality check on returned products.
  • Ensure that the returned product is quickly restocked in the available inventory and is re-sellable as soon as possible.
  • Turn refunds into exchanges with easy one-click exchanges.
  • You can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox that can help you ensure everything stated in the above points.

How can Eshopbox help ecommerce brands ace peak season fulfilment?

For peak season fulfilment, you need an ecommerce fulfilment process that is fast, consistent, reliable and cost-efficient. Well, you don't have to handle the peak season alone. Instead, you can outsource fulfilment to third-party logistics (3PL) like Eshopbox to ensure you are fully prepared for the highest surge in order volumes.

1. Notify Eshopbox about the peak season

‍As an ecommerce brand, one thing you have to do to handle the peak season fulfilment is inform Eshopbox about the peak season's duration and the expected surge in order volume. After that, Eshopbox will take care of the rest—from allocating more resources and increasing the daily pick and pack capacity to intimating you with expected dispatch dates for your orders.

2. Set clear expectations with the customers

‍Customers expect delivery transparency at checkout, and Eshopbox makes it possible and easy. To provide the accurate expected delivery date of your orders, Eshopbox provides you with the dispatch date of the order and the time taken by the shipping carrier to deliver orders to specific pin codes across India. Based on these two things, you can set clear expectations and ensure that your customers know when their orders will arrive.

3. Deliver an incredible customer experience during the peak season

  • Ensure incredible order accuracy even during an exponential spike in order volumes. ‍
  • Deliver quality products by performing multiple quality checks to ensure that only quality products are delivered to your customers. ‍
  • Achieve lightning-fast shipping speeds owing to a distributed network of fulfilment centres across India and fast order processing capabilities.
  • Enable real-time order tracking with a dedicated self-service portal apart from proactive order updates via SMS and email
  • Create a memorable unboxing experience with custom packaging to suit your preferences
  • Provide a hassle-free return process with the self-service portal that enables your customers to initiate and track returns.

“We work with Eshopbox for the fulfilment of orders and their solution has helped us deliver more than 300K orders in 6 months with incredible accuracy. Eshopbox handles these sudden peaks in a very organised way and ensures that our orders are delivered on time. As a result, we've been able to focus on the branding, product, and other customer-centric aspects of the business, as opposed to fulfilment operations which used to take up a lot of bandwidth earlier.”

-Shankar Prasad, Founder, Pureplay

Wrapping up

Peak season holds the potential to increase revenue exponentially. That's why ecommerce businesses should execute the peak season fulfilment wisely. But to ace peak season fulfilment, you need an order fulfilment strategy and capabilities. So, it's essential to do your homework beforehand to ensure a seamless supply chain and deliver a great customer experience. Make sure you have sufficient inventory, ramped-up shipping, and fulfilment capabilities before orders pour in. If you succeed in ultra-fast fulfilment and superior customer experience during the surge in demand, the peak season can help you increase customer loyalty and attain long-term success.

Connect with our fulfilment expert today.

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