9 Ways to Increase Your Efficiency During Quarter 4 (Q4)
If thinking about the end of the year brings you more dread than delight, there’s a good chance that you work in retail. However, the busiest season of the eCommerce year doesn’t have to mean long hours, overflowing support tickets, or late nights spent packing delayed orders. Today, we’ll discuss 9 ways you can increase eCommerce efficiency during Q4 so you can stay in control and handle increased sales with ease.
9 Ways to Increase eCommerce Efficiency During Q4
- Predict Based on Data — Not Instinct
- Plan & Prep Your Marketing Strategy Ahead of Time
- Organize Your Storage & Workstations
- Streamline Product Accessibility
- Stock Up on Essentials
- Prepare Your Most Popular Items for Shipping
- Evaluate Your Site
- Expand Shipping & Sales Options
- Automate Customer Service
Now, let’s break down these techniques so you can increase efficiency during retail’s busiest time of the year.
1. Predict Based on Data — Not Instinct
If you’re planning out your end-of-year promotions based solely on the fact that “they’re popular items,” you’re setting yourself up for chaos. Rather, carefully analyze the data from recent months as well as metrics from the years past. By balancing current trends along with historical patterns, you’ll be in a better position to make accurate, data-driven predictions on stock and supply levels.
2. Plan & Prep Your Marketing Strategy Ahead of Time
Promotional advertising is key during the holidays and, when properly implemented, can increase your conversions exponentially. However, you cannot delay creating those emails or leave an ad campaign design to the last second.
As your busiest season takes off, make sure you already have your marketing content planned, primed, and ready to go! Schedule out your promotions in advance, giving careful thought to the timing and strategy of your content. That way, you can spend more time crafting an effective campaign that will convert, rather than haphazardly slopping together a generic email at the last second.
3. Organize Your Storage & Workstations
Make sure to keep your storage and packing materials organized and easily accessible. This may include taking a critical look at your workstations and packing areas or even bringing in additional storage methods for all of the materials.
Many highly effective online store owners add labels to different shelves or areas of the workstation to ensure everyone knows where everything is at all times — and to where it should return when they’re finished. This way, you and your employees can spend less time searching around for the tape dispenser refills, and more time where it really counts.
4. Streamline Product Accessibility
In line with getting organized, consider reorganizing your stock based on predicted popularity to ensure optimum warehouse efficiency. By making your high-volume items the easiest to reach, you can reduce the time spent fulfilling orders. Here are a few ways to implement this method:
- Use shipping software to log the locations of bins in your warehouse; then, set up an automation to organize the SKUs on a packing list in a manner most effective for the packaging employees.
- Simulate a few predicted, popular “orders” and test the path from each item to the next. When and where you find major inconveniences, try to alleviate the issues to facilitate faster packing when the real orders start coming in.
- Ahead of time, make sure to create space for an influx of high-volume items. Try to avoid, if at all possible, splitting up inventory into different spots of the warehouse simply to accommodate the “overflow.”
5. Stock Up on Essentials
In line with the predictions you’ve made regarding the upcoming season, prepare your shipping supplies and packing materials accordingly. Ensure you have an adequate amount of boxes, tape, bubble mailers, slips, inserts, labels, packing peanuts, and anything else you may need for your specific products.
Keep in mind, it’s always best to stock up sooner, rather than later, to avoid delays from third-party providers. You don’t want to accrue a backlog of overdue orders simply because the size of bubble mailers you need is out of stock.
6. Prepare Your Most Popular Items for Shipping
If you have items expected to sell in large quantities, without any variances in weight, consider pre-packing. For example, if you expect to sell hundreds of the same necklace in a bubble mailer (with no weight variables like packing peanuts or paper) you might package a few in advance.
Then, once the orders begin to come in, your employees can simply add a label and move on. However, be sure to organize the prepacked items carefully — otherwise, you could waste time and resources sending out the wrong item, or searching for the right one.
This same method works with packaging sets themselves. Do you include multiple inserts, gifts, instructions, tissue paper, or other items in each package that goes out? Consider prepping the packages in advance, varying the sizes of each to accommodate your top-selling items. Then, once an order is placed, you can simply select the right-sized package and add the item to the prepped container.
7. Evaluate Your Site
The busy commercial season is not the time you want to discover holes in your sales funnel — or worse, experience a full site crash. So, to ensure the most efficiency during high volume times, evaluate your store in advance. Carefully pressure-test for issues that may arise during peak shopping seasons. Here are some areas to consider:
- Loading speed
- Down-time history
- Third-party integrations
- Checkout flow
- Customer portal capabilities
8. Expand Shipping & Sales Options
In anticipation of the busy shopping season and unprecedentedly high shipping volumes, make sure you have alternate carrier options lined up and ready to go. By preparing a backup plan (or two), you mitigate the risk of being left with delayed shipments if and when your sole provider cannot fulfill its duty.
Plus, expand the options for your customers, too. If you can, consider instating a holiday-BOPIS offer — or, Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (or, at your warehouse location.) Especially near the end of the year, shoppers are more desperate to receive their items in time. By collecting purchases in person, you help those who may have waited a bit too long to shop and alleviate the number of orders you need to ship.
9. Automate Customer Service
An increase in traffic often comes along with an increase in customer service tickets. Whether you’re processing more returns or answering simple customer inquiries, the time adds up. To expedite service and free up your workload, consider setting up (or enhancing) your customer self-service portal. Could you implement one or more of the following?
- Automated FAQ
- Customer-initiated returns or exchanges
- Shipping/tracking information page
- Automatic email responder with links to commonly asked questions
By allowing customers to initiate some of their own demands, you relieve your workload and offer shoppers a feeling of control that helps foster strong customer loyalty.
Increase Your Efficiency During Q4
While you shouldn’t spend the entirety of Q4 stressed over your store, customers still deserve fulfilled expectations. By following these 9 methods to increase your efficiency during quarter four, you can ease your load while exceeding customers’ standards.
As a result, your store will operate seamlessly and you’ll convert more shoppers into loyal, life-long customers.