Fulfillment Lessons We Learned From Q4 2020

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Last year, we saw the world and the eCommerce landscape change completely, and we were all really expecting it to be just a temporary change. From shortages to carrier delays, companies had to create new plans and strategies to keep up with high demands. Today, we are still in that altered landscape — and businesses have just had to learn from the challenges they faced. In this article, we sat down with Tony Runyan, VP of Client Relations, to discuss the fulfillment lessons Red Stag learned from last year’s peak season — and the supply chain issues that have continued since.

fulfillment - inventory

Always have a backup plan.

Fulfillment lesson number 1: always have backups for your backups. No one could have predicted what last year was going to look like for the logistics and eCommerce realms. Having a backup plan for this year can help you overcome challenges that you may face. By communicating to your clients and customers, starting your holiday sale efforts now, and diversifying your carriers, you can create a backup plan to easily maneuver this holiday season if — or we should say when — you need to.

Communication is key.

Communication is an essential part for a business to grow. From informing customers of delays to keeping clients up-to-date, communication allows a company to set proper expectations and gives themselves breathing room as they navigate peak season.

We now have updated processes that ensure we are communicating with our clients about any potential problem indicators that show up. This provides our clients the ability to quickly send out e-blasts to customers that might be affected.

— Tony Runyan

As a 3PL provider, an increased communication cadence with our clients during peak season can give them peace of mind, but it also allows our clients to keep their customers informed. Last year, we saw challenges with FedEx’s shipping volume limitations. As soon as we were notified, our team wrote a blog to quickly inform our partners of what happened. 

For businesses, communicating any challenges, or even potential problems, to their customers quickly during the holiday season is key. “Establishing initial buffers that pop up on your website homepage to inform customers of shipping delays gives the customer an understanding on what’s going on,” Tony says. “And adding language to your confirmation emails about potential shipping delays also helps set realistic expectations.

Communicating to clients and customers is crucial to navigating peak season. Setting the proper expectations of delays or other challenges your business may face can allow the customer to feel like they are in the know of what’s going on with their recent purchase.

Start your sales now.

It may seem a little early to push holiday marketing in October, but one of the fulfillment lessons we learned from last year is it’s actually the perfect time. With the shipping constraints that we are already seeing, businesses should push their marketing efforts now to make sure items arrive on-time for your customers.

Retailers like Lowes, Target, and Wal-Mart are starting their [holiday] sales now.

— Tony Runyan

With 76% of consumers opting to shop online versus in-store this holiday season, online businesses need to also push their marketing efforts now to entice shoppers to shop early. “We highly recommend our clients try to stretch out the amount of orders over time, so the amount being shipped isn’t condensed to one timeframe, which could overextend carriers,” Tony says. The ability to start your holiday sales now can help take the strain off of 3PL providers and carriers. 

Change your buying habits.

On the flip side, consumers need to think about their holiday shopping habits. Shopping early was a concept for overachievers, but it’s now essential to get your items in on time. Shipping delays  are already prevalent. By buying your holiday gifts now, you may be able to avoid some of the inventory issues retailers anticipate. With 61% of consumers planning to start holiday shopping now, you might need to consider planning. “If you buy on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, there will be delays,” Tony says. With consumers opting to shop online early this year, online businesses need to consider these things as they move ahead into their busy season. 

holiday fulfillment - shopping

Diversify your carriers.

Last year, we focused on national carriers to help move our clients’ products; however, we ran into challenges relying on only the three major carriers. As we moved into the new year, we started to build a relationship with regional carriers to help spread out the package volume. Now, diversifying our carriers allows us to take the burden off of the national carriers that we use, like UPS, FedEx, and USPS. Major brands like Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Amazon, Blue Apron, and many more already use regional carriers as a core part of their network.

3 points to utilizing regional carriers

We learned from last year that shipping delays will happen; however, adding more carrier options can give us more opportunity to get your packages out. As we move into this year’s peak season, our use of regional carriers will be a way to get our clients’ products to their customers’ doors faster.

It’s never too early to start planning.

The holiday peak season normally happens at the same time each year. As you jump into peak season now, “it’s never too early to start planning for next year,” Tony says. Use these fulfillment lessons that you will be learning this year to help you plan for next year. Think of things like starting your holiday sales early and strategizing with your carriers to help you be prepared for 2022. 

At Red Stag Fulfillment, we can work with you and help you plan for 2022. With our relationships with national and regional carriers, we can take the logistical challenges of getting your product to your customer off your plate. It’s just a click away to learn more about what Red Stag can do for you during your peak season.

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Red Stag Fulfillment is a 3PL founded by ecommerce operators, and built for scaling businesses.

A team of fulfillment fanatics who care about our clients’ businesses like their own. We see things from our customers’ perspective, and have the guarantees to prove it.

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