7 Tips for Businesses to Get Ahead of a Shopping Rush
Over the years, e-commerce has redefined shopping. Thanks to a more convenient shopping experience than brick-and-mortar retail, customers are always on the hunt for the best deals online. And ways to avoid the business shopping rush.
For retailers, the challenge is to capitalize on this demand for convenience: boost sales by getting ahead of the rush, and in doing so, fulfill orders the moment customers hit checkout and eagerly await the joy in the mail.
Are you ramping up preparations for Ontario’s sale season or looking for ways to enhance your processes for next year? Get ahead of customer demand with the right fulfillment process. Check out this complete guide to optimize the shopping experience and manage orders with ease. Keep customers happy and coming back for more purchases with these fulfillment tips:
1. Restock inventory early
There’s nothing else that puts a damper on a sale than seeing a long-awaited item out of stock. While some precious commodities are worth getting on the waiting list, most customers will quickly move on to alternatives when their favourite items are out of stock — especially during the holidays. After all, you can’t deliver a holiday present late.
Successful order fulfillment requires capturing customer demand — and delivering on it. Based on previous years’ shopping patterns and sales records, you know what customers want during the holiday or sale season, so make sure to stock your inventory with these best-sellers. Remember — every item out of stock is lost revenue, translating to increased customer churn.
2. Establish a restock agreement with suppliers
In retail, fulfillment encompasses the entire inventory management and supply chain process: the cycle of restocking, sales, and delivery to satisfied customers. At the core of designing an excellent customer experience is ensuring a stable inventory that allows you to fulfill orders at a moment’s notice. To do this, you need to cultivate relationships with your suppliers: establish a fast-restock agreement in preparation for increased shopping volume.
A fast-restock plan provides proactive inventory top-ups, so best-selling merchandise never goes out of stock, especially as seasonal promotions are launched, and demand reaches record-highs. Look into previous sales to accurately predict ideal restocking schedules and quantities and avoid surplus stocks’ inventory losses.
3. Make sure customers understand your shipping and return policies
There’s nothing customers hate more than delayed shipping — this delayed gratification is the one aspect e-commerce can’t compete on with brick-and-mortar retail. However, it’s nothing that proactive expectation management can’t fix.
Successful order fulfillment requires addressing bottlenecks in shipping and delivery early on, such as warning customers about increased demand around key sales periods, such as Black Friday.
When conveying a sales rush, follow up with your service guarantee — remind customers that while it’s the busiest time of the year for everyone, you always do your best to ensure fast order fulfillment. Be transparent by providing shipping cost and delivery times for each shipping option. This is an excellent way to encourage shoppers to get a jump on their shopping.
Be upfront regarding returns, exchanges, and refunds — state whether or not sold merchandise is accepted under these terms and within what timeframe to help customers comply with return policies.
4. Create promotions
Think Black Friday and Cyber Monday already have you scrambling to maintain order fulfillment guarantees? Further markdowns and bigger sales are right behind as the holiday season brings even more shoppers. Turn the holiday shopping rush into the most rewarding time of the year with impossible to resist deals and promotions.
Customers are always looking for the best deals and bargains, so make sure that they find these. Segment customers into different funnels for precise targeting and create other promotional materials. These should range from personalized items and last-minute stocking-fillers to your more budget-friendly options. Along with tailored messaging, create central promotions like Shipping Day and Green Monday, so customers flock to your site or store.
5. Feature gift ideas
Not everyone knows what they’re looking for, which ultimately impacts order fulfillment as many people do their last-minute shopping. Help customers get their shopping done with ease by curating shopping suggestions and gift lists.
Get creative with these curated finds — don’t just organize them by type or budget but personalize curated suggestions to help customers find the perfect present no matter the occasion. With virtually every retailer already holding massive sales and selling at marked down prices, you need to deliver more than the typical sales pitch. Like gift ideas, creative messaging is a great way to feature and push merchandise, including overstock items and old inventory
6. Boost your website capacity and security
With online sales ramping up, you need to ensure a pleasant and stable storefront. In e-commerce, the in-store equivalent is your website, which you need to invest in well ahead of the busiest shopping season.
Don’t risk a website crash: address page load, capacity, and security issues well ahead of a shopping rush to avoid website issues that force customers to navigate away from your store.
Ensure your site is equipped with an up-to-date SSL certificate to guarantee customer safety, especially as they tender payment information to complete online orders and move along the fulfillment process. When left unaddressed, minor glitches can eventually result in a breakdown that ultimately leads to lost revenue during retail’s most profitable season, no less.
7. Optimize your checkout process
Attracting customers to your website is only the first step in generating a steady stream of holiday sales. To maximize profit, customers need to move along the order process and hit checkout — this is how you close the deal and begin order fulfillment in response to their shopping needs. There’s nothing that kills a sale faster than having to click around to get to the checkout page and then being further slowed down by having to fill out so much required information.
To close the deal and begin order fulfillment right away, show shipping estimates per option to help customers decide on the best choice for their needs. Consider integrating more payment options to help customers purchase faster and provide options for remembering information like their shipping address. Finally, make sure that checkouts load quickly — eliminate errors resulting from customers refreshing a lagging page, or worse, abandoning their filled-up shopping carts.