The halfway point of every vacation period is a very quiet time for many companies; customers are on holiday and the number of orders decreases. It is also more time to address those areas usually pushed to the background. Even if the summer vacation is almost over, there are still a few things you can look into and improve before returning to normalcy.
Amidst the day to day bustle and the rush of order fulfillment, there is often a shortage of time and processing capacity with which to improve the store and test new solutions. Therefore, the holiday period is a good time to organize the warehouse or introduce solutions that, in brisker seasons, will yield added value and allow you to stay ahead of the competition.
Control the chaos – put your warehouse in order
It’s difficult to maintain impeccable order in the warehouse, but it’s crucial for the proper functioning of the store. Any time of slower sales is a good moment for large scale tidying and reorganisation. During an average period of activity, when we fully utilise 100 – 200 sq m of storage, proper organization makes the work more efficient and its results are measurable. One thing to think about when carrying out an inventory process is to sell products that have stuck around for way too long.
#1 – Five quick tips to keep the warehouse running smoothly
Transparency is the key to any properly organized warehouse. It’s not about aesthetics but about effective and safe use of the entire available space. The following 5 tips may be useful, namely:
- Sorting – group products according to: storage method and special requirements, dimensions, completed sets, and “popularity” (items ordered more often should be easily accessible).
- Classify – define product storage areas, taking into account various categories, and allocate them accordingly. When planning, consider the building’s size and walkways to maximize the acceptance and delivery of goods.
- Cleaning – dispose of all unnecessary items or old products that will no longer be sold.
- Standardization – label the product storage areas and the products themselves. Make sure that each one has its own individual code assigned to a specific location.
- Self-discipline – to put everything in order is one thing, but to keep it neat is much more difficult. Remember that every item in the warehouse has its designated place, and things must always be put away.
#2 Inventory of packaging materials
Packaging materials are essential in any mail order store, but their costs can be optimized. Check what you have: look at cartons, envelopes, fillers and tapes and decide whether their types and sizes are suitable for the products you send. Maybe it’s worth considering their standardization. Here you will find a list of the most useful standard packaging sizes >> By discarding those you do not need, you will also save on storage space. And with wholesale orders, e.g. boxes of one size, you have a better chance of negotiating discounts.
Next take a look at the packaging station and consider its organization. In developing stores, there is often a shortage of time and capacity as they are in the process of growth. In addition to increasing your employment, think about improving the process itself.
You should be able to determine if:
- all the necessary materials and tools are on hand;
- you properly monitor your inventory to replenish depleted resources in advance;
- the packaging you use is easy to use, e.g. are the cartons easy to fold; and
- whether employees have easy access to instructions for packing custom packages.
Also consider installing monitoring at the packing station – not only for security purposes, but also to thoroughly analyze any errors in the preparation of shipments. Follow up on this by conducting training that will eliminate mistakes. This will not only save on the amount of materials used but also stop wasting the time and energy of employees. What’s more, such recordings are evidence when customers report incomplete shipments.
Although health and safety should always be an important consideration, do not waste this lull in activity. Use this time to thoroughly check: whether the materials are properly stored, whether there is a risk of spontaneous ignition or fire. Take all the time needed to properly install any necessary equipment, e.g. fire extinguishers. Ensure that there is free access to the fire hydrant. Conduct a solid review of the technical condition of all devices and equipment used for current work. Of course, matters related to insurance documentation, qualifications, validity of legalization, etc. should be monitored on an ongoing basis. But additional verification is most advisable. Consider additional security measures such as alarm systems, internal and external monitorings, and security company services.
Investigate new services
This extra space in your calendar also gives you time for research and inspiration, and make possible new solutions that were previously pushed to the back burner or jotted down on that never-ending list titled “Ideas”. This is the perfect time to try them out – even if something goes awry, it will not affect business as much as if you introduced this new option during a busy time in the store. Here are some suggestions:
#4 New in delivery
- Same-day delivery – during the holiday season we can test same-day delivery service and determine if it’s what our customers expect. Although same-day delivery is a popular option, customers in many industries are not willing to pay extra for this type of service.
- Evening courier – in some Polish cities, and certainly in Warsaw, courier companies offer the option of an evening courier. It’s also an option that we can test out.
#5 New services or design
- Service – if we sell products that we produce ourselves or that do not require specialized service (e.g. electronics), we can consider creating our own workshop. See how we did it for the Gepetto glasses brand >>
- Home fitting room – is an interesting idea for fashion stores. It consists of a trial shipment of several pieces from the brand’s range from which the customer is able to choose those items that suit them best.
- Branding packaging – summer is a good time to implement or refresh the appearance of shipments. We can think about brand boxes, tapes or the transition to ecological solutions.
#6 Communication with the client – extension of logistics
- Chat or call-back widget – automated, quick ways to contact customers are a great solution for vacation time – this helps us pre-solve customer problems before they need to be dealt with by the depleted service team. Of course, the solution can stay in use for longer – it will definitely be useful during Black Friday and Christmas shopping.
- Satisfaction survey – with the extra time we now have, we can conduct a simple satisfaction survey of our services, asking about available forms and delivery time, satisfaction with couriers, payment methods, and desired additional services, etc.
Thinking on a larger scale
Almost every online store goes through a phase our team calls Death Valley. This is a period of store development during which sales and a group of customers begin to grow systematically and significantly, so we need to step up our efforts to fight competition and survive on the market. Logistics is a barometer of a company’s development – it gains momentum with the increase of turnover, but it can drop when processes are ineffective and can cause a slowdown in development. Holidays are a great time to turn processes related to the storage of goods, handling deliveries and returns into a growth trampoline for the store.
#7 Process automation
Take a look at process automation tools – you can invest, for example, in a Warehouse Management System (WMS). The program supports storage and location management, and helps confirm inventory. However, such a system is quite a large investment (both on your budget and your time) and one should independently assess whether at this stage, the implementation of the system and the cost of its operation will not complicate the daily work.
For larger warehouses, it can be tempting to fully automate and install mobile terminals (or applications for smartphones), on smaller areas a desktop computer and printouts from the system are sufficient. More modest warehouses use files in the form of a table containing information about the product, the barcode and EAN, and location.
#8 Choice of external partners
A huge, modern warehouse filled to the brim with goods is the dream of many e-commerce owners. However, very often investing in larger space, infrastructure and paying additional employees is a freeze on a large portion of cash, and we have no guarantee of return on this investment. More and more stores give up independent storage, packaging and sending of parcels, and outsource this area of activity. Fulfillment is not only the possible outsourcing of the most time-consuming work, it also encompasses the scalability of business, by converting fixed costs into variable ones.
Summer is a good time to consider choosing a logistics operator and analyze the offers available on the market. What’s more, when we decide to cooperate at that time, we still have enough time for onboarding, system integration and testing before any sales peak. Here you will find a detailed checklist on how to compare the offers of logistics operators >>
Although the to-do list above is not long, it may turn out that to implement them you will a time frame at least twice as long as the holidays. Before you push your sleeves up and get to work, analyze your situation and start with the areas that you think are the weakest and that will bring the fastest sales growth. When implementing plans, portion out the list of tasks to colleagues or find professional partners to help you. And fully charged batteries will definitely be useful in the upcoming season.