The Plane Truth about Holiday eCommerce Fulfillment 2020

September 24, 2020 by Harry Drajpuch

Oh you better watch out if you’re an eTailer, because according to research from Voxware, 76% of shoppers are planning to purchase more than half of their holiday gifts online this year.

When you combine that estimate with the exponential growth that eCommerce has already experienced due to COVID-19, you’re looking at unprecedented levels of holiday eCommerce fulfillment activity.

No wonder parcel carriers are bracing for record holiday volumes – and warning all of us to prepare for a bumpy ride that could challenge shipping times like never before.

Thankfully for you, this isn’t Amware’s first experience with helping people handle turbulence. Nor is it mine.

In fact, as a licensed pilot, I’ve encountered bumpy conditions numerous times and learned some important lessons that I’d like to pass along as you begin pre-flighting for one of the busiest peak seasons in history.

Fasten your seatbelts

holiday-ecommerce-fulfillmentWhen pilots learn of turbulent conditions, one of the first orders of business is to ensure that nothing in the aircraft can get tossed around as a result of sudden shifts in altitude. We call this securing the cockpit and cabin, and it involves everything from putting away loose objects to strapping down equipment.

In a similar vein, your business needs to do everything in its power to keep your carrier and 3PL relationships secure, because eCommerce fulfillment this holiday season will have a lot of service-related ups and downs.

Check in with your carrier reps to find out what kinds of increases in volume they’re already experiencing and re-verify how many of your parcels they anticipate being able to carry. Give your 3PLs the best possible forecasts for your holiday sales so they can staff and schedule shifts accordingly. And please put away any unrealistic expectations you might have for getting packages delivered to customers faster than you did last year, because that’s just not going to happen.

Alert your passengers

Few people actually enjoy flying through turbulence. But most passengers handle it better if you tell them that it’s coming well in advance. In fact, giving them such a heads up is a big part of keeping them safe and comfortable, because it gives them ample time to take their seats, check the security of their seatbelts and even take a Dramamine if they’re prone to motion sickness. It also tends to keeps them calmer.

Your eCommerce customers deserve a comparable heads up so that they can make the necessary adjustments to their holiday shopping plans. Unlike you, they’re probably not closely following stories about UPS, Fed Ex, DHL and the USPS and the many delivery challenges these carriers have already faced this year. As a result, they could be blindsided by the news that your company can’t guarantee on-time holiday deliveries quite as confidently as you usually do – unless you take the time to forewarn them.

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Send your customers an e-mail to make them aware that it’s going to be super-busy season and that all bets are off if they try to shop like it’s a typical year. Post clear, visible advice about shopping early on your web site. And speak candidly and frequently about these changes on your social media channels.

Your customers will be glad you did – and so will the people who are expecting a present from them on Christmas or Hanukkah!

Adjust your timeline or ETA

During times of turbulence, safety protocols require airplanes to reduce their airspeed, which is better for the aircraft but often bad for timely arrivals.

To help offset this, pilots can either recommend an earlier departure in order to ensure the flight still lands on schedule. Or they can adjust people’s expectations by giving their passengers and people on the ground a new ETA.

Your company has a similar choice when it comes to how you’ll handle parcel carrier’s slower delivery times. In short, you can either select a significantly earlier order cut-off date for guaranteed holiday deliveries than you ordinarily would (which we at Amware highly recommend). Or you can manage customers’ expectations by letting them know that, while your company will do everything in its power to get their goods shipped and delivered on time, you can’t offer the usual promises. Better yet, you can do both.

What you CAN’T do is put your head in the sand and act like it will be the usual peak season, because it won’t be. It will be a very different year for holiday eCommerce fulfillment

Keep in touch with people on the ground

No pilot truly maneuvers his or her aircraft alone, even on a solo flight. From air traffic control to aircraft maintenance, there are numerous personnel who play a critical role in ensuring a flight takes off, flies and lands safely. Just as important, there are many systems that back them up.

Your eCommerce deliveries are much the same, because even though your parcel carriers may handle your parcels’ actual transit, many other things have to happen in order to get each customer’s order successfully picked, packed and on its way.

Just like you wouldn’t want an inexperienced pilot flying any plane you’re on, especially when the flight is bumpy, you don’t want people with limited experience handling your fulfillment when times get tough. When it comes to 3PLs, you want a partner that has the know-how to perform high-quality, flexible fulfillment operations despite significant volume surges.

Have a safe landing

This will be a peak season like no other. But with solid preparation, you can keep orders flowing and keep your customers happy. In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to pass along helpful advice about how you can do the best possible job flying through the updrafts and downdrafts. If you have any questions about preparing for holiday eCommerce fulfillment, ring your call button. On second thought, contact the fulfillment experts at Amware.

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Filed Under: Parcel Shipping for eCommerce, Fulfillment Operations