Checklist for Ecommerce Peak Season Readiness

Quick resources:

Here’s a list of top resources to ensure a smooth peak season:  

When the calendar flips to October, peak season is officially ramping up and the biggest ecommerce shopping days of the year are approaching. While it may be too late to add any big fulfillment projects to your Q4 strategy, there are a few last-minute details you can review to make sure this year’s holiday season is your best yet.  

Here’s a quick readiness checklist for ecommerce brands to make sure they have a smooth holiday season.  

1. Forecasts

There are so many aspects of your operations that are affected by your holiday forecast—labor needed to process order volume, packaging materials to match product count, shipping capacity, and inventory management planning.

Continue to update your forecast and communicate any changes to your fulfillment provider and shipping partners. If they end up with a different plan than you do, your customers may not get their gifts on time.

2. Customer Communication

During Q4 your time and effort should be put into real-time updates for your customers. Make sure they have all the information they need to have a really positive experience with your brand.  

  • Alert them dates for your sales and promotions and tell them how to participate. 
  • Update any support resources they may need for assembly or product use.  
  • Send them ideas on best gift bundles and kits (hello increased average order value!).  
  • Clarify shipping costs—no one wants to get hit with surprise fees! 
  • Communicate delivery times and shipping windows so customers get products on time.  

3. Surcharges

Many shipping carriers add peak season surcharges in Q4. Some go into effect as early as October, while a majority of surcharges are highest between Black Friday and Christmas.  

It’s never too late to run a shipping cost estimate, even in the middle of peak season. Because surcharges and transportation costs change frequently during Q4, it is better to know what you’re paying rather than seeing surprises on your invoice.  

Here is a full chart of 2022 Peak Season Surcharges.  

4. Shipping cut off dates

Do your customers know when to order so that they receive gifts by Christmas?  

All companies should put a ship-by date on orders so that customers are aware if products will arrive before, by or after Christmas.  

Most carriers publish a list of shipping cut-off dates for exactly this reason—dates vary based on the carrier and service you choose. Ecommerce brands need to note that these are not usually guaranteed, rather they are suggestions, so adding in a few cushion days might be wise. Work with your fulfillment provider to come up with the right ship-by dates for your brand.  

Here are our estimates (not guarantees) for this year’s ship-by dates.  

5. Operations schedule

Do you know which days your fulfillment provider is not operating? What about your shipping carrier? It’s so important to get clear on what your operations schedule will be for Q4. You don’t want to run a promotion and realize last minute that your fulfillment provider isn’t running that day.  

Be aware that some 3PLs will have a few days that they charge extra for staying in operation. Also look at overtime costs and talk with your provider if you think you might need weekend or overtime support. 

6. Returns

Many ecommerce brands forget to plan their reverse logistics strategy until it’s January and they are inundated with returns.  

You want your good stock to get back into your inventory flow as quickly and seamlessly as possible to maximize sales. Work with your fulfillment provider now to ensure returns will get processed timely and accurately.  

 

If you need a 3PL to help you make the most of the holiday season, reach out to chat with our team. Last year we helped many high-growth brands have the smoothest fulfillment possible.