Retailers should be planning for the Christmas peak now, according to eBay Enterprise, which has come up with a timetable designed to keep the plans on track.
It said that many retailers were unable to fulfil orders and meet customer service demands following unprecedented online order volumes last Christmas, causing website crashes and delivery delays.
eBay Enterprise’s Tobias Hartmann identified internal communications, staffing levels, fulfilment infrastructure and partnerships, and IT robustness as the areas retailers need to address to prevent loss of revenue and the damage to their reputation that results from customer dissatisfaction.
Setting up a cross-departmental ‘peak planning board’ should be every retailer’s first move this summer, it said, pointing out that it was especially important for marketing and fulfilment strategy teams to be in constant conversation. Retailers should begin planning their seasonal staffing requirements in July it said.
eBay Enterprise’s research pointed to return rates being at their highest in the weeks following New Year.
“It is important to ensure you still have enough staff on hand to manage that demand.
“Managed correctly, retailers can fulfil as many as 20 to 40 per cent of online orders using a combination of click-and-collect and ship-from-store, store-based models that turn physical stores into a network of mini-distribution centres. Decentralised fulfilment models can be an effective insurance policy against unforeseen disruption such as that caused by inclement weather, but retailers should be constantly looking for ways to optimise their processes to better handle high order volumes and improve customer experience. This could involve creating clearly-signposted pick-up points for click-and-collect orders away from main payment desks to reduce queuing times, or allocating dedicated storage space for ship-from-store orders to handle additional volumes.
eBay Enterprise also highlighted the importance of finding the right delivery partners. “Last year, October was when online orders begin to pick up ahead of the festive season, so we recommend having partnerships in place at least a month before.”
Planning: June – mid-July
Recruitment: mid-July – mid-August
Training: mid-August – mid-September
“Go live”: mid-/ late September
Fulfilment robustness and returns
Fulfilment solution evaluation, selection, and design: July
Fulfilment solution testing: August
Fulfilment “go live”: September
Returns planning: August – October
Returns “go live”: October
Web site planning: July – mid-August
Web site stress-testing: mid-August – October
Web site “go live”: September
Source: eBay Enterprise