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For many eCommerce stores, the final quarter of the year is big business. From the discount days of Black Friday, to the Christmas week rush and Boxing Day sales, we head into winter hoping to see that all important YOY growth.

However, this year is expected to go a little differently.

We don’t need to point out the fact that Covid-19 has caused huge disruptions to businesses everywhere. But, while physical stores, the hospitality industry and the world of travel are all struggling to survive, the scales have tipped the opposite way for many online retailers.

The World Economic Forum reported that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards eCommerce by five years with a growth of almost 20% expected in 2020.

But, if the year 2020 has taught retailers and suppliers anything, it’s that business can change in an instant. Will this peak in online spending be a flash in the pan? Is it a knee-jerk reaction to an unpredictable wave of uncertainty? Will there be another sudden change in consumer behaviour?

Or, is the eCommerce revolution here to stay?

Either way, your business needs to be prepared – especially as we head into one of the key selling periods of the year.

Depending on your business and the product you sell, you may have already seen your orders rocket through the roof or trail behind your expectations. You might have struggled to fulfil orders online, either because your warehouse couldn’t deal with them, or your courier service was overloaded.

In fact, even the most efficient and established eCommerce businesses ran into serious teething issues when faced with a sudden, drastic change in demand.

But, the ‘new normal’ isn’t going anywhere soon. With the prospect of more lockdowns looming, it is predicted that more people than ever before will go online to buy not only their essentials, but to find gifts, bargains and entertainment this quarter.

So, in order to fully make the most of 2020’s peak selling period, don’t let yourself fall into the same trap again.

Ask yourself these questions to ensure you are fully prepared…

Can You Adapt to Quick Changes In Demand?

This year, the biggest risk to any eCommerce business was exposed. A weak fulfilment chain can be the ultimate achilles heel to any retail business.

Yes, you may have experienced an avalanche of orders. But, with an overstretched warehouse, team members off sick and inventory running low, you may have ended up turning away more customers than ever before, too.

So, what can you do to avoid this happening again?

Consider outsourcing parts of your eCommerce fulfilment chain. Using a 3PL can help you better manage your capacity by offering…

  • Flexible stock storage – so, you can expand your inventory to meet demand without the costly upfront investment of an entire new warehouse
  • An expert warehouse team – if you know your warehouse isn’t operating efficiently enough, make use of the experts at a 3PL to ensure orders are fulfilled smoothly
  • Multiple courier options – don’t rely on your one courier service when demand starts surging. A 3PL will negotiate the best rates with multiple providers, so you can diversify your options and save money

With these more adaptable elements in place, you can be better positioned to not only fully make the most of what could be your biggest opportunity this year, but to scale up safely in the long term.

Find out more about the key advantages of using a third party logistics provider.

Are Your Delivery Options Good Enough?

You probably already know just how vital the right delivery options are to your customers.

More than ever, customers want to be able to choose delivery that suits them – whether they want it fast, free or both.

During the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, delivery times spiralled out of control. Customers found themselves waiting weeks for an item that they would usually expect to have in just a few days.

While the majority of customers were understanding, handling delivery disruptions successfully is key to winning over customers’ loyalty long term.

Did you display clearly on your website that next-day delivery was no longer available? Did you offer a realistic delivery time frame? Did you email customers to assure them their order was still on its way?

By outsourcing your order fulfilment, you’ve given yourself the best possible chance of ensuring your orders meet your customer’s expectations.

But, you should still prepare for the possibility that there will be more delays. Put the time in now to get your customer services refined and prepare customer communications. Make sure you keep in contact with your courier service so you know as soon as possible if delays are coming. Then, let your customers know straight away.

Is Your Website Doing It’s Job Well Enough?

Sadly, many brick-and-mortar shops have had to close down as fewer people head to the highstreet. As a result, the world of eCommerce is set to become more competitive.

Those businesses that neglected their websites will be turning their heads to see how they can adapt to this change. There may even be new businesses jumping on new opportunities to make the most of areas where demand has boomed.

So, it’s essential that you make sure your website isn’t about to be overtaken by competitors.

Make sure your key USP’s are clearly communicated on your website, including things like:

  • Returns policy
  • Delivery options
  • Minimum order value required for free delivery
  • Contact details – a phone number, email address or live chat function
  • Real customer reviews

Remember, customers aren’t just looking for the best price. They want to know they can trust a company to deliver the item as promised, to be able to return it hassle-free and to speak to a team member if something goes wrong.

All of these things help build trust, especially with new customers. Do everything you can to offer an exceptional experience – this is your chance to get not just a sale, but a customer for life.

PS, would you like some more expert advice on preparing your eCommerce business for the peak sales period? Contact 3PL for a chat about ways we can help.

More eCommerce advice from the 3PL blog

5 Ways to Improve Your Order Fulfilment Process | Here’s How to Manage Order Fulfilment in a Post Coronavirus World | How to Best Manage Returns For Your eCommerce Store