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Checklist to Prep eCommerce Business for Holiday Fulfillment

Every year, many eCommerce businesses see a huge surge of orders in the final quarter of the year. It's no wonder, too. Gift-giving is a big part of the holidays, and that shows up in sales for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and other major holidays.

new year gift box


Prepping for that surge in orders is no joke. Businesses have to prepare ahead of time to make sure that they are ready for a big influx of orders. The year 2020 promises to be even more extreme since most people are still (very reasonably) hesitant to leave their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, eCommerce sales could be as high as double what we saw last year.

Thankfully, when it comes to prepping for holiday fulfillment, no individual task is particularly difficult. There are just a lot of small tasks that need to be completed in rapid succession.

In this article, you'll find a list of everything that you need to do to prep your eCommerce business for holiday fulfillment.

And if you're in a rush? There's a simple checklist down at the bottom, which you can print and use.


How to Prep eCommerce Business for Holiday Fulfillment

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1. Learn The Holiday Shipping Deadlines in Advance

Every year, major carriers such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS post lists of holiday shipping deadlines. This tells you when packages have to be in the mail in order to be delivered by a certain time. 

2. Estimate Demand for Products and Plan Accordingly

In order to coordinate everything else, you need at least an approximate idea of how many items you can expect to ship. This means you need a solid estimate of product demand before you can complete many of the other items on this checklist.

You can read our in-depth guide on how to estimate demand to learn more. To save you a click, though, here are a few sources of information you can use to forecast demand:

  • Past sales data
  • Conversion rate and budget for pay-per-click ads
  • Publicly available market data
  • Market studies


3. Check IT Systems To Ensure Uptime

Write down a list of all the hardware and software that you use on a regular basis. Identify the things that, if they went down, would slow your business to a crawl. Before the holidays make your business really busy, invest in everything you can to increase these systems' uptime.


4. Polish Your Web Presence

If you're selling trendy items, you will probably see an increase in web traffic over the holidays. This is a good time to make sure your website looks good and converts visitors into buyers.


5. Optimize Product Descriptions and SEO.

When people are on Google searching for gift ideas, you want your store to show up more frequently. That means you will need to do some search engine optimization. Here's a good guide by Search Engine Journal on how to do that.

If you don't have time to go through a whole technical guide, though, take away one lesson: improve your product descriptions. Detailed product descriptions bring in more organic traffic and reduce the amount of returns because people know exactly what they're buying.


6. Figure out Manufacturing in Advance

If your products require manufacturing or collecting raw materials, you need to know who will be doing the manufacturing and who will be providing the raw materials. Figure this out in advance so you can reduce the chance of running out of inventory or the supplies needed to make inventory.


7. Update Inventory Policies To Not Stock Out

Similarly to the above, you need to make sure you have enough inventory to handle an increased volume of orders. It may be a good idea to start stocking extra inventory a month or two in advance of the holidays for this reason.

ship with boxes

8. Book Bulk Shipments So They Arrive on Time

It's not uncommon for bulk shipments of items to be delayed. This is especially true if shipping by sea, and even more true because of the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Book the shipments you need well in advance of when you need them. You can use Freightos to arrange freight shipping that suits your needs.


9. Coordinate Fulfillment and Warehousing in Advance

If you plan on switching from shipping your own orders to having a third-party do it for you, get started before the holidays. That way, you can establish a relationship and get into a normal rhythm before holiday shipping begins in earnest.


10. Map Returns Process

Returns are very common, especially during the holidays. Items break. Other items are unwanted entirely. You need to have a clear plan in place to handle items that are being returned to your company.


11. Test Your Company as a Customer

Sometime around October, it would be a good idea to buy a product from your own company and see how it goes. You learn a lot by being your own customer, and you can address some of the frustrations that your customers might run into once you experience them.


12. Identify Customers' Pain Points 

Using the knowledge you pick up by acting as your own customer, write down everything that was bad about your current process. Then come up with ways to fix as many of those pain points as you can before the holidays start.


13. Identify Business's Pain Points

In the process of spelling out your customers' pain points, you'll probably find weaknesses in the business, too. Figure out what you need to improve about the business to ultimately address the customers' problems. Fix as many of those problems as you can too.


14. Increase Marketing Spending

In general, when the holidays arrive, you need to spend more on marketing. You can do this by spending more on search engine or social media advertising. Alternatively, you can work on creating content for people who are looking up what to buy. Either way, September & October are the right months to increase your spending!


15. Plan for Gift Shipping

Come up with a plan for packaging items as gifts before they go to the customer. That way, you can sell gift wrapping as a value-added service.

new year gift box unpacking


16. Create Custom Holiday Packaging

As you've probably learned from this blog, fancy custom holiday packaging can do wonders for both your branding and your conversion rate. Items with custom packaging just feel better quality, and people have fun unboxing them too. Consider rolling out some custom packaging for the holidays. You can use creative custom gift boxes for your brand!


17. Stock Up on Critical Supplies

If you're shipping your own orders, make sure you have enough boxes, padded mailers, bubble wrap, and tape. Otherwise, make sure you are stocked up on things you usually run out of, even if that means coffee for the break room.


18. Hire Seasonal Workers

Much of what we've described in this article will take a lot of work. Hire seasonal workers if you need to so that you won't be overwhelmed by demands.


19. Automate and Outsource Before You Need To

Try to free up time without adding labor if you can, too. This could range from outsourcing fulfillment to a third-party to buying expensive software to make your business more efficient.


20. Double Check Timetables

When arranging large freight shipments, it can be tough to keep track of what items will be in which warehouses and when. Because of this, double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check all your freight shipment timetables. The last thing you want on December 25 is a cargo vessel sitting in a port off the coast of Florida when you expected it to come ashore two weeks ago.

Additionally, make sure your warehouses will receive goods in time to get packages out in the mail before the holiday shipping cutoff dates. Otherwise, you’ll risk unhappy buyers who expected their items to arrive before Christmas.

If everything doesn’t line up, it’s better to catch that now! It gives you a chance to set expectations that can do wonders for your business’s reputation in the long-run.


21. Reach Out To Social Media Influencers

People are turning to social media more and more to make purchasing decisions. Sending a few samples of your product to people with a few thousand followers or more can go a long way toward spreading the word of your product. A PR box strategy can be a simple and inexpensive way to increase brand awareness and supercharge your sales.


22. Share Special Packaging on Social Media.

Speaking of social media, if you created custom packaging, take pictures of it and share it on social media! Custom packaging tends to perform well on social media. If you are looking for additional ideas, check out Arka’s Instagram.


23. Review Processes After The Holidays

In January, when all the dust has settled, it's a great time to take a breath and think about how the holidays went. Ask yourself if there's anything you would have done differently. That way, you can do even better next year!


The Checklist

Need a printable list to go? Here's a simple checklist that includes all 23 of the points mentioned above.

  • Learn the holiday shipping deadlines in advance.
  • Estimate demand for your products and plan accordingly.
  • Check your IT systems to ensure uptime.
  • Polish your web presence.
  • Optimize product descriptions and SEO.
  • Figure out manufacturing in advance.
  • Update your inventory policies so you won't stock out.
  • Book bulk shipments so they arrive on time.
  • Coordinate fulfillment and warehousing in advance.
  • Map your returns process.
  • Test your company as a customer and make sure the experience is a good one.
  • Identify your customers' pain points and fix as many as you can.
  • Identify business's pain points and fix as many as you can.
  • Increase marketing spending.
  • Plan for gift shipping.
  • Create custom holiday packaging.
  • Stock up on critical supplies.
  • Hire seasonal workers.
  • Automate and outsource before you need to.
  • Double check your timetables.
  • Reach out to social media influencers.
  • Share special packaging on social media.
  • Review processes after the holidays.


Need help fulfilling your orders? Click here to request a quote from Fulfillrite.

Brandon Rollins

Brandon Rollins is a Marketing Consultant at Fulfillrite. His main areas of expertise are online marketing and supply chain management. He also runs Pangea Marketing Agency and writes for Marketing is the Product.

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