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Your Post-Peak Season Guide: What To Do Next

By Katie McCann

You did it! 

You survived (what feels like) millions of holiday orders, kept your team motivated, and sorted through all of the post-holiday returns. And while it isn’t always easy, you made it through. So take a breather!

And then start planning for the holiday season in 2022. 

Seriously! Now is actually the best time to start preparing because you’re fresh out of the peak season pain points. When you’re not feeling that pain (like an inefficient 3PL making shipping hard, a marketing campaign that flopped, or staffing issues), it’s easy to forget it. So it’s the best time to make changes because the pain is fresh – you know exactly what went wrong.

So make yourself a hot chocolate, sit down, and take a deep breath. Then prepare to get to work – here’s what you need to do as peak season wraps up.

Step One: Take a Minute to Breathe

Seriously. 

Make yourself that hot chocolate (or something harder, no judgement here), kick up your feet, and take a breath. You got through the busiest time of the year (relatively) unscathed, and deserve to give yourself a moment to relax. 

This is also the perfect time to give yourself a break. The slowest season for ecommerce is statistically right after the holidays – no surprise – so you can afford to take some time or have less people working. 

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 giving yourself a break. 

And, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself to take care of your team! Which leads nicely into the second point…

Step Two: Take Care of Your Team

Just like you, your team works hard to help your business succeed, even during the busiest times. What can you do to help them recover?

This looks different between every business, but it’s actually a common practice for businesses big and small to work on plans to decompress after the holidays. 

You may think this is only possible for small mom-and-pop operations – think of all your local bakeries that close down for a few weeks after the holiday madness! However, this is becoming more common practice even for multi-national corporations with huge ecommerce and brick-and-mortar presence. 

Patagonia, an American retailer that sells and produces outdoor clothing, is closing their stores, warehouses, and offices for an entire week after the holidays. In a comment about this choice, Patagonia said that it wants to “do its best to not be bound by convention and to look out for people and the planet. We’re giving employees a break this holiday season with some paid time off.”

This doesn’t mean you have to shut down operations for the entire week. It just means that doing something is attainable! See what works for you, but make sure the team feels cared for.

Step Three: Talk to Customers and Evaluate Reviews

Let’s face it. During the holiday season, impressing customers can feel like an impossible task. People are ordering at the last minute (and still expecting packages to arrive by Christmas) at a volume that increases 32% from normal order volume over the year. 

So once the dust has settled from peak season, see about getting in contact with those that purchased from you during this time. You can simply send out an email survey that’s a few questions long – even that can give you some valuable information!

If you aren’t sure what questions to include, here are some ideas: 

  • Can you give your overall purchasing experience a ranking out of five stars?
  • How was your checkout experience?
  • How was the experience on our website?
  • Were you satisfied with your purchase?
  • Did shipping expectations meet your expectations?
  • Was your order what you expected?
  • Would you purchase with us again? 
  • What would you change about your experience?
  • Is there any other feedback you can share with us?

Pro tip: See if it’s possible to set up a survey that automatically sends after an order ships or is delivered! This is a great time to get feedback since you’ll be fresh in your customers minds. It’s valuable to ask at all times, but people are slammed with orders over the holidays. They may struggle to remember details from an order they made months ago!

Step Four: Critically Look at Your Peak Season Performance

Now that you and the team are rested, it’s time to dive in. Look at everything: the good, the bad, and the straight up disappointing. 

Here is a list of just some of the things you’ll want to look at, but these are the must-haves:

1. Revenue

A classic, but the amount of revenue you bring in is arguably the metric to look at when gauging your seasonal performance. If revenue was up, that’s a great sign for how things went! 

Remember to look at this even if you feel it was a rough year and revenue is down or unchanged. There are still valuable insights to gather, even if performance was the same or lower than last year.

Why didn’t things change? Where can you make changes that will have the biggest impact on next year’s revenue?

2. Customer Feedback

You want to take time and go through all the results when your customers respond. After all, insights aren’t valuable if you don’t learn anything from them!

Take the customer feedback and sort it into different categories: product, marketing, internal operations, and shipping and fulfillment are great places to start. You can start pulling out action items once you have your insights sorted!

So, how do you pull the action items from customer feedback? Here’s what it would look like. 

  1. Customer Feedback: My order arrived three days late and nobody sent me any updates! I thought my order was lost
  2. Feedback Category: Shipping and Fulfillment
  3. Actionable Insight: Look into ways to improve shipping or the customer experience when orders face delays (work with a 3PL? Communicate order delays more with customers?) 

And there’s your first actionable customer feedback insight! There really is a lot to be learned from customer feedback – yes, even the bad stuff. 

3. Shipping Experience

If purchases are getting sent out quickly and you have the product to support more orders, shipping time can be a breaking point for customers. With the shipping expectations constantly increasing, and 44% of Americans considering two days “fast shipping”, not being able to meet that expectation can deter customers. 

What was the average time it took to get orders to customers? How many times did customers receive the wrong order? Is there a high amount of mispicks? 

And arguably the most important question: is there room to improve?

Step Five: Take Action

The answer to the above question is almost always yes. There’s always room for improvement in your operation! 

It’s important to go through the other four steps before you get here, because now you and your team are rested enough to tackle these changes! You also have the insights required to know the action to take. 

At this point, you may be overwhelmed with how much feedback you have and how much there is to work through. How do you sort through all the ideas? 

Start by grouping your ideas into categories that make sense and help you choose where to start. You can use the below table to help organize your thoughts:

High Effort, High Return
– Idea one
– Idea two
– Idea three
High Effort, Low Return
– Idea one
– Idea two
– Idea three
Low Effort, High Return
– Idea one
– Idea two
– Idea three
Low Effort, Low Return
– Idea one
– Idea two
– Idea three

It’s easy to decide what ideas to execute on first from here! Anything that’s low return you’ll want to deprioritize and give yourself time to focus on high return initiatives. You’re already narrowing down the to-do list! 

For example, did a lot of customers comment on getting the wrong order, leading to upset consumers? Fixing mispicked orders 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. You have a little extra time on your hands right now!

Final Thoughts on Post-Peak Season

There’s no doubt that peak season is the most intense time of the year for businesses. 

And now that you got through it, you can start planning for next year!

Katie McCann
By Katie McCann

Katie is the Content Marketing Manager at Bolt, creating resources to help ecommerce businesses of all size thrive. When she's not tracking her online orders right to her doorstep, she's obsessing over her pandemic puppy and learning TikTok dances.