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Your Post-Peak Season Guide: What To Do Next

You did it! You survived (what may feel like) millions of holiday orders, kept your team motivated, and navigated any post-holiday returns. And while it may have been a bit of a roller coaster, the 2022 peak season ride is coming to an end (fewf!).

Up next: planning for your 2023 peak season. 

We know this may feel too soon, having just wrapped up the busiest time of the year. But now is actually the best time to start preparing for this coming year’s seasonal rush. Why now? Because you’re fresh out of peak season, pain points and all. This is the best time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong, and make a plan for how to challenge and improve the pain points.

Here’s what you can do as peak season wraps up.

Step 1: Take a minute 

You and your team got through the busiest time of the year and deserve to take a moment to relax. And it may be one of the most optimal times to do so. The slowest season for ecommerce is statistically right after the holidays – no surprise – so your team can afford a little down time. 

If you don’t give yourself a second to breathe after such an intense time, you risk burnout. It’s impossible to keep going at that pace without even a small break. This looks different for every business, but it’s becoming more common for brands to priotize down time for their teams after the holidays. 

Patagonia, an American retailer that sells and produces sustainable outdoor clothing, closed their stores, offices and warehouses for a week after the holidays, giving employees a paid week off. This is the second year in a row that the company has made this decision. In a comment about the move, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert said that they’re doing it “because we believe in providing quality of life for our people.”

This doesn’t mean that your brand needs to shut down operations for an entire week if that’s not feasible. Perhaps one small step, like offering a wellness workshop, will provide your employees with a similar feeling of being cared for. According to the data, 88% of workers see great value in workplace wellness programs.

Step 2: Evaluate reviews and shopper feedback

Once the dust has settled from peak season, there’s huge value in taking a deep dive into your reviews and shopper feedback. If your peak season didn’t go as planned, this might be a tough process. But there’s a lot of value in the learnings, so don’t be afraid to lean into any comments that may challenge your current processes.

Ways to Gather Customer Feedback

Understanding your shopper’s highlights and pain points of their purchasing journey can deliver extraordinary insights for your brand. Here are five ways you can gather feedback from your shoppers:

  1. Industry benchmarks such as CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score), NPS (Net Promoter Score), and CES (Customer Effort Score)
  2. Google reviews
  3. Social media comments
  4. Email surveys
  5. Focus groups, round tables, and interviews

Pro tip: Set up a survey that automatically sends after an order is delivered. This is a great way to evaluate feedback on an ongoing basis, and allows you to keep your eye on your processes throughout the year.

Step 3: Critically look at your peak season performance

When all is said and done, how did your peak season perform? You’ll want to look at YOY data, industry benchmarks, shopper satisfaction, and your own experience when it comes to business operations. 

Here is a list of just some of the things you’ll want to look at:

1. Revenue

The amount of revenue you bring in is arguably the metric to look at when gauging your seasonal performance. It can be tricky in today’s retail and ecommerce climates, where shoppers are potentially not spending quite as much as in previous years. A great first step is to benchmark your sales against what the industry is reporting. For example, 2022 holiday season spending grew almost 7% from last year. So if your sales increased in and around the 7% mark, that would be considered on track for this year.

Reminder: even if you feel it was a rough year and revenue is down or unchanged, there are still valuable insights to gather. 

When it comes to evaluating your revenue, there are a few key questions to ask:

  • Why did (or didn’t) revenue change? 
  • Did you try any new promotions to helped or hindered your performance?
  • What percentage of your revneue came from repeat business vs new business?
  • Where can you make changes that will have the biggest impact on next year’s revenue?

2. Fulfillment experience

There are a few back-end processes you’ll want to evaluate once peak season has wrapped up. This includes your and your shoppers’ experience with order fulfillment. If you’re working with a fulfillment center or third-party logistics provider (3PL), they’ll be able to provide you with some key stats, and together you can analyse the numbers. 

Here are a few data points to pay special attention to in order to evaluate the success of your fulfillment: 

  • Pick accuracy – how often were the right (or wrong) items picked and sent out to your shoppers? A low pick accuracy rate can negatively affect your shoppers’ experience.
  • Fulfillment timelines – did it take days for your orders to be fulfilled, or was your 3PL able to manage your order volume?

When all is said and done, 3PL providers can greatly impact your shoppers’ overall experience. So once you’ve gathered this data, make an action plan to improve any pain points that you, or your shoppers’, may have experienced when it comes to fulfillment.

3. Shipping and delivery experience

The delivery of an order can be one of the most anticipated parts of a shopper’s order. So it’s an important process to keep your eye on to ensure your shopper’s ultimate satisfaction. 

Whether you’re working with a third-party logistics partner or a last mile carrier, your provider can help you with valuable insights to gain a better understanding of how the shipping and delivery processes unfolded. 

Here are a few notable points that are worthy of discussion:

  • On-time delivery – when it comes to last mile delivery, shoppers have high expectations around timely delivery. If your orders are constantly arriving late, this can lead to a lot of frustration for your shoppers.
  • Communication: understanding how your shoppers’ receive notifications of their order’s journey is critically important. Shoppers want to access to insights on their order, including last mile delivery tracking. You’ll want to ensure your shoppers received this valuable, and transparent communication regarding their orders.

To ensure you’re getting the most value from your 3PL shipping and last mile partner, it’s important to dig into these questions and work together to challenge any pain points.

Step 4: Take action

Perhaps one of the most important steps in the post-peak performance evaluation is putting together your action plan. How will you take the above learnings and put them into motion? 

Begin by identifying where you think you can make the most impact. For anything that’s low return you’ll want to deprioritize and give yourself time to focus on high-return initiatives. 

For example: did a lot of shoppers comment on getting the wrong order? Working on fixing mispicks is a high-effort initiative, but there’s also a high reward! 

Pro tip: It’s easy to jump right into the low effort, high-return ideas. However, keep in mind that right now is going to be a slower season. It may be the best time to tackle ideas with higher returns that are going to take more effort.

Final thoughts on post-peak season

There’s no doubt that peak season is the most intense time of the year for almost every brand. And there’s nothing easy about facing challenges or negative reviews. But ignoring them won’t make your 2023 any more successful. In fact, ignoring them could be detrimental to your success. So now is the time to lean in, uncover the good, the bad, the ugly, and turn the challenges into progress. Happy planning!