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Mid-Year Check-In: Are You Ready for Peak Season?

Alex Selwitz

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Peak season will be here before you know it, with everything that brings for eCommerce businesses. Most online sellers know that now is the time to start preparing your supply chain to meet holiday demand, but is your warehouse equipped for peak eCommerce fulfillment? Your fulfillment needs to scale up for greater order volume while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality. Failure to deliver on holiday sales could set your business back and slow its growth.

Mid-year is a good time to evaluate your fulfillment operations and see if you need to make changes to meet peak season demand. If your order fulfillment lags or your inventory isn’t accurate, you might be better off switching fulfillment companies before the rush.

What do you need from your fulfillment provider during the holidays?

Online retailers need quantifiable results from fulfillment partners. Needs vary depending on the type of products you sell, whether they require special handling, and your sales volume. Here are some of the basics that every eCommerce company should expect:

  • Same-day fulfillment. Your fulfillment center should be able to get orders out the door within 24 hours of receiving them, if not on the same day. RSF offers same-day and next-day service levels, and our on-time shipping record is near perfect.
  • Flawless pick and pack services. Exceptions to your pick and pack services—like wrong quantities, missing SKUs, or incorrect products—cost you money and time and lead to dissatisfied customers. RSF guarantees accurate order fulfillment, and we back it up with our fulfillment guarantees: If we make a mistake, we fix it and pay you $50.
  • Expanded storage availability. Your warehouse should be able to accommodate increased stock during the holiday season rather than placing limits at peak, as Amazon FBA does.
  • Inventory accuracy. Without accurate, real-time data about what’s on the shelves, you can end up with stockouts and backorders. Your fulfillment partner should provide inventory visibility and highly accurate stock counts throughout the year to keep you on track for peak. 

Red Stag Fulfillment has one of the highest accuracy rates in the industry. We’re not perfect, but we’re pretty darn close.

Turn fulfillment into your secret weapon

Can your fulfillment handle peak season?

It’s never good when your fulfillment goes wrong, but the volume and rush of peak season sales can amplify errors and cause lasting harm to your business. 

Consider, for example, the experience of the entrepreneurs who founded Red Stag Fulfillment. Their eCommerce businesses were growing so much that they outsourced their fulfillment and then switched to a bigger 3PL when the first could no longer handle their volume. But poor management by their fulfillment partner led to unfilled holiday orders that put a damper on their business growth.

Entrepreneurs founded Red Stag to provide the kind of fulfillment businesses need to support eCommerce growth at peak season and year-round. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. A mid-year checkup to make sure your fulfillment works for your business should be an essential part of your preparations to meet the peak holiday rush. 

peak season checklist

5 metrics to track before peak season order fulfillment

If your fulfillment has issues now (and if summer is not a peak season for your business), things are likely to get worse during the holiday season. Track your fulfillment metrics to ensure your 3PL is ready to help you have a bountiful holiday selling season.

Fast fulfillment

When a customer places an order on your website or one of your eCommerce platforms, it should be transmitted immediately to your fulfillment warehouse for processing. Look for technical glitches and correct connection problems now. If you’re still manually transferring orders, look for a software solution to make the process automatic and put it in place now.

Once an order reaches your fulfillment provider, how quickly does it get out the door? If the pick and pack queue is more than 24 hours, your fulfillment operations are creating longer order delivery times, and that could hurt sales and customer loyalty. 

If you handle fulfillment in-house, now is the time to review warehouse processes and look for ways to add efficiency to your order fulfillment. With your 3PL, discuss service level options to move your packages more quickly and discuss expected order handling times during peak season. If your fulfillment partner can’t provide same-day or next-day fulfillment, it may be time to consider switching fulfillment companies

Inventory accuracy

Suppose your inventory count is short by one or two units per SKU in your most recent shipment. That’s not a big deal, right? Then your next stock shipment is entered short, and the next. Small inventory errors can quickly add up to big inventory management headaches. If you don’t know what you have in stock, your online store won’t have accurate inventory, which can harm customer satisfaction.

Accurate receiving, regular cycle counts, and periodic stock-taking are essential to a successful holiday sales season. Ensure your warehouse gives you precise inventory data as you head into peak fulfillment.

Flexible warehouse capacity during peak season

For in-house fulfillment, make a plan now to expand your fulfillment capacity during peak. That could mean scheduling inbound shipments closer together and restocking more often. Or you might want to find more storage space in your warehouse or rent additional space temporarily so that you can stock up for peak.

If you outsource fulfillment, check with your 3PL about its ability to handle extra stock during peak. Limits on warehouse capacity at Amazon FBA warehouses during peak fulfillment season make it impossible for many sellers to stock enough inventory to meet holiday demand.

3PL support 

If you’ve been through one or more peak seasons, you know unexpected problems often crop up. Working with a 3PL that provides responsive client support to resolve issues quickly will ensure a smoother peak fulfillment experience for you and your customers.

Extra services to get you past your pinch points

Some fulfillment companies provide special services to help you prepare for and weather the peak fulfillment rush. For example, kitting is pre-packing sets of SKUs into a new SKU. If you want to offer gift sets for the holidays, special pricing on bulk purchases, or simply prep items commonly ordered together, kitting streamlines the fulfillment workflow. Not all 3PLs offer kitting services, so check whether yours can create kits, if you need them.

Another extra fulfillment service that comes in handy during peak is cross-docking. An excellent way to process backorders quickly, cross-docking has warehouse staff prep an inbound shipment for outbound delivery right on the dock. Your stock moves from the receiving dock to the shipping dock without being logged into inventory or shelved. 

Cross-docking saves valuable order processing time, reduces storage costs, and increases customer satisfaction. It works well for large products that don’t require overboxing. Again, not all warehouses are set up to accommodate cross-docking, so find out if your partner provides this service.

Need to switch 3PLs? Do it now!

It’s natural to hesitate before switching fulfillment providers. Moving to a new warehousing partner is an investment of time and money as you ship stock to the new warehouses, set up and test system integrations, and work out the bugs.

But bad fulfillment can sink your eCommerce business with angry customers and negative reviews. And that’s a cost your business can’t afford.

If your fulfillment isn’t seamless and nearly error-free now, whatever problems you’re experiencing will be magnified during the peak fulfillment season. Switching now gives you time to research potential partners and get through onboarding before the holiday rush. 

The peak may seem far off, but it will be here before you know it. Now is the time to secure top-notch fulfillment for a successful holiday selling season.

Red Stag Fulfillment helps clients meet peak season fulfillment challenges

At Red Stag Fulfillment, we deliver accurate, fast fulfillment year-round. Our fulfillment report card has our statistics for on-time delivery, inventory accuracy, and more, including 12-month and peak data. Use our form to rate your 3PL, and if they don’t measure up, talk to Red Stag. We’d love to help your business have the best peak fulfillment season ever.

Find Out How  Professional Warehouse & Inventory Management  Can Grow Your Business

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