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  February 14th, 2017 | Written by

Top Fulfillment Lessons From the 2016 Peak Season

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  • Online holiday shopping reached $91.7 billion last year.
  • The rate of online shopping is expected to climb.
  • Hiring managers shouldn’t wait until the holiday season to build their talent pools.

The final holiday shopping numbers are in with total ecommerce sales reaching a staggering $91.7 billion at 11 percent growth year over year. In fact, the rate of online shopping is expected to continue climbing as more transactions are made online.

With ecommerce’s tremendous growth, fulfillment centers will need to step up their game to ensure products are put in the hands of consumers when promised. Lessons learned from 2016 peak season should quickly be turned into actionable improvements to operations. The top areas of focus for improvement should include: managing inventory in an omnichannel world, placing products in the hands of customers faster and cheaper, and hiring and retaining the best talent.

Get a handle on your inventory in an omnichannel environment
Omnichannel is synonymous with the idea of “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere,” but managing inventory in an omnichannel world can be challenging. Siloed data is often a roadblock to implementing an omnichannel solution.  As you increase the number of channels you sell through, the more difficult it becomes to see the big picture of overall inventory and sales.

Putting the right order management system in place is key to seeing the big picture, while managing operations by location. Selecting an omnichannel order management system is essential to provide visibility of inventory across all channels while optimizing the fulfillment process across multiple distribution center locations.

Make sure to account for all of your data and create an overarching plan. This includes features that account for brick and mortar as well as online and mobile sales – allowing you to maintain visibility into the business while planning for growth.

Deliver products to customers in a quick and affordable fashion
According to a Walker Sands Future of Retail study, nine out of ten consumers say free shipping is the top incentive to shop online. With that in mind, retailers seek new ways to get their products into the hands of customers faster, and for less.

Taking a cue from Amazon, distribution and fulfillment centers should reshape their geographic footprint by opening smaller, regional operations to get their products closer to the customers. This strategy not only reduces delivery time, but also lowers shipping costs.

Hire and retain top talent from 2016 peak season
Peak season hiring always creates challenges. This year even more than in the past, fulfillment and distribution centers located in geographic clusters faced stiff competition for seasonal workers. To get the temporary employees needed, many employers offered hiring bonuses, higher pay, flexible work schedules, and even raffled off expensive items.

In 2017, hiring managers shouldn’t wait until the holiday season to build their talent pools. To start, you should retain the best temporary talent from 2016 peak by offering seasonal staff permanent positions. If permanent positions are not available, keep your best talent in an active recruitment process to ensure they are the first to know about new full-time or temporary work. Look at positions critical to managing the influx of orders and evaluate if you have the best talent in place. Finally, focus on improving training programs to get seasonal workers on-boarded quickly.

Ecommerce is on a steady growth trajectory with online sales in the US alone expected to reach $523 billion in the next five years. Turning lessons learned into actionable improvement strategies will provide distribution and fulfillment centers the edge needed to keep up with consumer demands.

Spencer Moore is the EVP of Sales at Speed Commerce, a leading provider of fulfillment solutions, customer engagement services, and ecommerce order management technology for retailers and manufacturers.