While peak season brings the promise of higher sales, opportunities for new customer acquisitions, and a chance to build stronger relationships with shoppers, it doesn’t come without drawbacks. In fact, as online orders pour in and foot traffic increases, it can be the most stressful and chaotic time of year for many retailers.
Although store closures and restrictions due to the pandemic are thankfully a thing of the past, many consumers are still concerned about health and safety issues. And between labor shortages, rising inflation, and other economic challenges, retailers are still facing many uncertainties as they plan for a successful peak season.
To best prepare for a unique 2022 peak season, there are four key things you can do to get your business ready for in-store and online peak waves this year.
Enhance Your Order Management
Handling customer orders is complex on a good day. During peak waves, it can be downright chaotic. An order management system (OMS) makes it easier by allowing you to keep a constant pulse on the inventory you have available across your organization. It also enables you to map out routes for transporting inventory to individual stores (or customers) as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
This means you can rest easy knowing that everything is getting where it needs to be on time and that your customers are having positive shopping experiences with your business.
Streamline Your Fulfillment Process
The importance of having a clear fulfillment process cannot be overstated. In addition to impacting your ability to stock your shelves and end caps, it also affects the timeliness of online orders reaching your customers. And during peak season, This is even more important during peak season since inventory has to ship more quickly from place to place.
By creating a clear path for orders to move from your suppliers to your customers’ carts and doorsteps now, you’ll be able to scale your operations more easily as shopping ramps up. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Forecast inventory needs based on sales throughout the year
- Know where all inventory is located so you can ship orders quickly and cost-effectively
- Decide which fulfillment options make the most sense for getting products to customers, including store fulfillment options like in-store pickup, curbside pickup, ship-from-store, ship-to-store, and store associate delivery.
Kick Customer Service Up a Notch
Your customers care deeply about their relationship with your business. They don’t just want to buy amazing products from you. They want to have positive interactions with your employees every time they come in contact with your brand. And in no place is this more expected than in customer service.
The problem is that it can be difficult for your customer support team to provide each of your customers with the right amount of care and attention when support tickets flood in and long lines form at the curb.
To deliver positive, empathetic service at scale, many retail and eCommerce businesses need the support of an outsourced customer care solution. Deliver 24/7 support to your customers via live chat, text, phone, email, and social media with both a professional customer support team and contact center software. This means you can continue to offer your customers top-notch support during the busiest times of the year, without putting extra strain on your own employees.
Simplify Reverse Fulfillment
As sales rise during peak season, so too do product returns. This might come in the form of customers wanting to exchange a gift that was the wrong size or color, or it might be a shopper wanting to return a damaged product.
Whatever the case, if you want to make reverse fulfillment as simple as possible, take some time to look at the way you handle returns. Is it easy for front line employees to log a returned item back into your inventory? Likewise, is the process of damaging out a returned product straightforward? Is the process of transporting it where it needs to go smooth? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it may be in your best interest to look into integrating a flexible order management system (OMS) into your processes.
At the same time, you want to make sure reverse fulfillment is a straightforward and positive experience for your customers. One way you can do this is by offering convenient return options, like curbside return or free return shipping, or by extending returns to give shoppers more time to get products back to you.
No matter how you choose to go about it, creating a detailed plan for handling this peak season will enable you to keep your customers healthy, happy, and coming back next year.
Peak waves can be stressful, but by evaluating your current operations, pinpointing areas where you can improve, and implementing strategic solutions to enhance your overall customer experience, you’ll be well-prepared for the 2022 rush.