BlogRSS Feed

Lori Boyer

A Shipper’s Guide to Black Friday & Cyber Monday

by Lori Boyer
Fall, ecommerce, online shopping, computer, leaves

As the countdown to Black Friday and Cyber Monday begins, the shipping industry is revving up its engines. Whether you're a powerhouse in ecommerce, a 3PL aficionado, or the carrier everyone relies on, these days are your Olympics, Oscars, and Nobel Prizes all rolled into one. Ready to snatch that gold medal? Here’s a guide for each of you.

Tips for online retailers

1. Stock up early

The early bird catches the worm—and avoids shipping delays. Analyze previous years' data to forecast which products will be hot sellers. Once identified, stock up generously and consider backup suppliers.

2. Optimize your website for mobile

It's 2023—your site should not just be mobile-friendly, but mobile-optimized. Quick load times and easy navigation can make or break a sale. Consider introducing a mobile app for an even smoother customer experience. Take a few minutes and test out your mobile experience. One good idea? Have your grandmother give it a try. You may be surprised at the areas it is lacking. 

3. Returns policy in the spotlight

Prominently display your returns policy. The more straightforward and generous it is, the more likely a hesitant shopper will pull the trigger on a purchase.

4. Real-time inventory updates

Incorporate real-time inventory management software. When shoppers see that only a few items are left, it triggers a sense of urgency and reduces cart abandonment.

5. Leverage flash sales

Hold flash sales for short periods to drive traffic and generate buzz. Make sure you have enough bandwidth and customer service reps to handle the surge.

Last-minute ideas for 3PLs

1. Seasonal staffing

Overwhelmed by an influx of orders? Seasonal staff can be life-savers. Make sure to train them well and early to avoid hiccups during crunch time. Consider using a specialized training program or guide that can quickly bring them up to speed. Create a buddy system where new hires are paired with seasoned employees to learn the ropes faster and integrate smoothly into your team dynamics.

2. Diverse carrier partnerships

Multi-carrier strategies can be a saving grace. If one carrier faces delays, having another on standby can keep your operations running smoothly. Research and establish partnerships with multiple carriers before peak season kicks in. Negotiate terms and test out their services in advance so that you can easily switch over when the need arises.

3. Technology is your friend

From radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to advanced warehouse management systems, the right tech can streamline almost every aspect of your logistics. Take some time to research what tools best fit your operation's scale and needs. Once you've selected your technology, invest in employee training sessions to ensure everyone knows how to use the new tools efficiently.

4. Security measures

Security is paramount. Install surveillance cameras, employ security personnel, and incorporate stringent access controls to deter theft. Work with a security consultant to identify potential weak spots in your current setup and address them proactively. Regularly update your security protocols and conduct random audits to ensure their effectiveness.

5. Warehouse layout

Efficiency starts at home—meaning your warehouse. Ensure that your layout is optimized for speed and accuracy. Invest in mapping out your warehouse and maybe even 3D modeling it. Place fast-moving items closer to packing areas and organize products in a way that minimizes unnecessary movement.

Carriers—how to deliver the holiday cheer

1. Pre-holiday maintenance

From tires to wiper blades, make sure every inch of your fleet is ready for the holiday grind. Schedule a thorough inspection of your fleet at least a month before the holidays, and address any issues immediately. Create a checklist for drivers to review before each journey, focusing on the vehicle's vital components.

2. Weather-proof your deliveries

Rain, hail, or snow, your packages should arrive in mint condition. Weather-proof materials and packaging can help you achieve just that. Opt for water-resistant or waterproof boxes and packaging, and maybe even double-bag items. A quick test run in varying weather conditions can validate your choices.

3. Dynamic route planning

Adopt intelligent route planning software that accounts for real-time traffic conditions. The more efficiently you can navigate the roads, the more parcels you can deliver. Take the time to train your drivers on the software, and schedule weekly catch-ups to discuss any route-related challenges and iterate on your current plan.

4. Transparency is key

Automated customer notifications for every delivery stage can go a long way in building trust and reducing customer service inquiries. Enable automated texting or email updates through your management system, and make sure the notifications are clear and easy to understand. Test the entire notification flow to ensure its accuracy and timeliness.

5. Staff morale

Happy drivers are efficient drivers. Offer performance incentives to keep your staff motivated during this stressful time. Consider implementing a points system where drivers earn rewards for things like punctuality, customer feedback, or even fuel efficiency. Regularly acknowledge and celebrate these achievements to foster a positive work environment.

Marketplaces and other platforms

1. Promotions and deals

Who doesn't love a good deal? Collaborate with sellers to offer exclusive discounts that will make your platform the go-to shopping destination. Start planning at least one month in advance, and ensure all promotional materials are ready and scheduled. Use analytics to determine which types of deals resonate most with your audience—be it flash sales, bundle deals, or percentage discounts.

2. Enhanced customer support

Long waiting times can deter customers. Having a robust customer support team can keep things moving and answer any questions or concerns. Consider temporarily increasing your support staff and offering extended hours during the holiday season. Utilize chatbots for common questions to free up human agents for more complex queries.

3. Quality assurance

Quality control should be a year-round effort, but even more so during the holiday rush. Ensure that all products meet quality standards to avoid post-holiday returns. Set up additional checks or audits during this time, and work closely with suppliers to ensure consistency. Any issues identified should be addressed immediately to prevent a backlog of problematic stock.

4. Efficient onboarding

Streamline your onboarding process. If you can make it quicker for new sellers to join, you expand your product offerings and attract more customers. Use video tutorials, clear written guides, and even one-on-one onboarding sessions to help new sellers get up to speed quickly. Make sure to have a support team ready to answer any onboarding-related questions to minimize delays.

The stage is set, the countdown has begun, and now you're armed with the ultimate playbook. So go forth, and may your Black Friday and Cyber Monday be nothing short of legendary!