3 Things Every Online Retailer MUST Automate Before Peak Season Hits

Laptop with charts

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year – but if you’re an e-commerce retailer, it’s more like the most stressful. 

From organizing staff rotas and planning promotions through to ordering inventory and managing suppliers, the average merchant’s to-do list for peak season is longer than Santa’s – without any magic elves to help out.

This year will be especially challenging, with rising costs, ongoing supply issues, unpredictable consumer behavior and market fluctuations all taking their toll. 

However, the world’s most successful retailers have a trick up their sleeve that helps them navigate their busiest and most challenging periods without breaking a sweat – automation

By automating key post-purchase workflows, merchants can eliminate the most draining and time-consuming manual tasks and save valuable time, which can then be reinvested in more important things, like boosting customer loyalty or adding new sales channels. 

Why automate?

The benefits of automation are clear: brands that use Brightpearl’s Automation Engine… 

  • save two months every year, on average
  • cut labor costs in half
  • reduce human errors by 60%

However, while around four in 10 brands already use automation, some have yet to realize what a game changer it can be at peak season (and all year round). 

Our research shows despite 54% of retailers struggling with festive demand, almost half (45%) don’t use automation to process orders. And last peak season (2021), most businesses focussed their budget and time on increasing their workforce and extending delivery timescales but just 12% in the UK and 13% in the US thought to automate their order fulfillment workflows. 

To succeed this year, that has to change – the opportunity to automate has to be grabbed with both hands.

Like the sound of offloading tedious tasks but unsure where to start? Let us make it easy for you.

Here are the top three things you should automate ahead of this peak season: 

1. Order fulfillment

When you get an influx of orders during peak season, getting them out of the door in a timely way can require an all hands on deck approach. But what if there simply aren’t enough hands to go on the deck!? 

According to Brightpearl’s research, labor shortages were one of the top 10 challenges faced by retailers last busy season – and experts predict similar staffing struggles this year. 

Retailers must reduce their reliance on humans in large parts of the warehouse, while still ensuring that orders are picked and packed efficiently, safely and productively. How? Using automation

With automated order fulfillment workflows, you can get more orders out faster during peak season. Conditions can be set based on a huge range of factors so that orders are processed in the best way – including an order’s stock allocation status, payment status, sales channel and product type.

Dispatch notes can be automatically printed, customer emails can be automatically sent and stock levels can be automatically updated. Even complex orders can be easily automated with options to enable partial fulfillment, trigger order splitting and use alternative warehouses depending on inventory availability.

If you have inventory across multiple warehouses. boost efficiency by routing orders to the best warehouse depending on factors including destination and content – reducing delivery costs and boosting delivery timescales.

The automation impact: 

  • Less reliance on human resources
  • More orders processed in less time
  • Major cost savings

The retailer view: 

Appliance parts specialist Snap Supply saves 60 hours per week on order entry alone and the business is 3x more profitable since using Brightpearl’s Automation Engine.

Nick Ernst, the brand’s Co-founder, says: “It previously took about 10 minutes to manually process an order. Now, we can process 50 orders in that time. And because we’ve saved so much time, we’ve been able to improve our customer service.”

2. Shipping 

Speedy shipping is a top priority for customers – especially during peak season. The number one reason consumers choose to shop on Amazon is for fast, free shipping.

That means retailers that want to stand a chance against giants like Amazon have to streamline and speed up their shipping processes as much as possible. The best and easiest way to do that is by using automation. 

With a powerful Automation Engine, merchants can automatically select a shipping carrier depending on the price, weight, or quantity of products – ensuring the most cost-effective shipping method is always used. 

Custom automation rules can be set up to ship items in different ways depending on the sales channel they were bought on. Automated, channel-specific templates for packing notes can be set up and international orders can be flagged for additional attention or customization. 

Automation can ensure dropshipping and back ordering run like clockwork – you can automatically create and send POs to dropshippers, or ship goods to your warehouse if it’s a back order.

Automation workflows can even be configured to send orders using FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon), ensuring accurate requests are sent to avoid errors and fees.

The automation impact: 

  • Faster shipping
  • Cheaper shipping
  • More reliable shipping

The retailer view: 

Cable and connector supplier trueCABLE saves 40 hours every month since automating its workflows.

Jessica Floyd, the brand’s VP of Marketing & Business Development, says: “Automation really is magic! There are so many areas of the business we no longer need to think about or touch. It means we can remain lean as an organization, despite our growth.”

3. Customer comms

The secret to turning first-time festive customers into all-year-round fans of your brand is to provide outstanding customer service – and that means nailing your communications.

Modern consumers want to be kept in the loop at every stage of their buying journey. They want to know their order has been placed, they want to know when it’s on its way and they certainly want to know if there’s any kind of issue or delay. 

Without automation, maintaining such high levels of communication at the busiest time of the year is virtually impossible. Even employing a team of customer service agents to provide comms isn’t foolproof – human errors get made, training is required to keep comms quality high and sickness or absence inevitably throws a spanner in the works. 

Automating your post-purchase comms is the solution. With a powerful Automation Engine on your side, you can keep customers informed based on real-time sales data. 

Need to send an invoice for a new order? Do it automatically.  Want to let a customer know their back order is on its way? Do it automatically. Need to apologize to customers about a delay? Do it automatically.

Simply set bespoke rules (don’t worry, you don’t need to do any coding) to automate the communications that matter most to your business – and your customers. 

The automation impact: 

  • Happier, more loyal customers
  • Time saved
  • Errors avoided

The retailer view: 

Fetish clothing brand Honour saves more than 100 hours every month thanks to Brightpearl’s automation functionality.

Joe Xuereb, Director at Honour, says: “We now automate all of our invoices, orders and shipping processes and we’ve seen a major impact on the speed and efficiency of our operation, while transforming our customer service. We’re really, really pleased!”Conclusion: Automate to accumulate this peak season

Automating retail workflows allows merchants to take a ‘hands-off’ approach to everything from order processing to shipping and customer comms – all of which play a pivotal role in ensuring peak season success.

It allows retailers to add speed to their fulfillment, so items can get out of the door quickly, even during the holiday rush. It can save money, eliminate frustrating and costly errors and boost customer satisfaction. It’s a massive time saver and reduces the reliance on manual, human-led processes. 

During a peak season plagued by market uncertainty, retailers will need to automate if they want to accumulate. 

Learn more about Brightpearl’s powerful Automation Engine (and book a free demo) here