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28 Nov 2023

The Challenges of eCommerce Logistics – How do You Avoid the December Nightmare? 

The Challenges of eCommerce Logistics – How do You Avoid the December Nightmare? 

Online sales in Canada have more than doubled since 2019, from $44B to $109B (1). Not surprisingly, carriers and others in the supply chain have had to adapt very quickly. This is especially true for Q4, which is the busiest time in retail and eCommerce.

The holiday season is fast approaching and with it, the peak of logistics activity for e-retailers. If you want to limit the impact of the holiday season, this article is for you. Discover the main challenges of eCommerce logistics and how to avoid them so that the month of December goes smoothly.

For more tips on order logistics during the cyber weekend and holiday season, listen to Stéphanie Gagnon, Logistics Analyst at Novatize, on the LogistiQC Podcast [French only].

Is your logistics ecosystem ready to handle the high volume of the holidays?

Will your carrier network meet the demand?

Be sure to monitor your carriers in real-time and adjust your messaging to your customers accordingly. Clearly indicate (and in advance) the limitations of your carriers, even if it means turning it into a marketing strategy by sending out a newsletter campaign announcing that your customers have until day X to place their order and receive it in time for Christmas. For example, Purolator is already advising that the deadline for a package to be delivered on December 24th will be December 22nd (always taking into account the mild weather conditions!). It is therefore already possible to start notifying your customers.

It is also important to note that during Q4 some carriers are implementing surcharges on certain fees, such as residential delivery or handling. Even if we can’t do without our carriers during this period, we can still avoid a surprise on your January invoice!

Here are the holiday surcharge policies of some carriers: Purolator, Fedex, UPS 

Is your supply chain adapted to your product and the conditions of the territory you deliver?

Logistics is an important part of your eCommerce business, as it is what will allow your products to be delivered to customers. It is therefore important to ensure that your supply chain is adapted to your product and to the conditions of the territory in which you deliver. In Canada, it is likely that your products will freeze on the road, in December. Give yourself some flexibility and evaluate the best options for your eCommerce logistics. If your products are sensitive to frost, opt for a faster delivery service during the cold season, such as Canada Post Priority service instead of regular service. You may even decide to avoid deliveries to remote areas during this period.

If you have a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) partner, you may be able to use a more efficient service. You are probably not the only client in his portfolio who is experiencing a busier time. Be sure to get in touch with them to secure your terms and see if you can make their job easier in any way. If your 3PL notifies you that order picking times will be longer than usual, this information should be considered when communicating with customers. 

Is your customer service efficient?

E-commerce logistics is the set of activities that manage the flow of products and goods from one point of sale to another, including storage, preparation and shipping of orders. To be effective, your customer service department must be able to meet your customer’s needs and expectations for delivery, returns and order tracking.

Your customer service team will have a lot of demands and pressure during the fourth quarter, and you need to be able to manage your customers’ expectations.

Review your email flows around order placement: do they contain all the information your customers need? If not, your customer service department will be bombarded with messages and requests that could have been anticipated and answered in the emails.

Are your FAQ page, sizing guides, tips and tricks or any other informative pages up to date and ready to answer customers’ questions? If these sources of information are complete and easily accessible, they can make some customers more autonomous in their purchasing process. 

To limit the number of interactions with your customers, you can consider integrating a Chatbot system or a tool that aggregates message sources such as Gorgias. With its pre-written responses and chatbots that can answer 30% of requests, Gorgias is an undeniable ally for your team throughout the year.

Does your technological architecture allow you to facilitate your management?

The management of eCommerce logistics is a crucial element in the success of an online sales company. It is important that your technology architecture is in place to facilitate your logistics management.

A solution like Shipstation can help you optimize your shipping operations. By connecting your carriers directly to it, you will be able to print shipping labels in batches, distribute orders by team members, print pickup lists, compare rates from different carriers and much more.

There are also several types of connectors that can facilitate the management of your inventory across different sales channels (e.g. Amazon, Shopify, eBay, etc.) These connectors can save you a lot of headaches by preventing 

Have you chosen promotions that are adapted to your reality and to your customers’ needs?

Promotions are an excellent way to build customer loyalty and increase your sales. But be careful, don’t do just anything! For your promotions to be successful, it is important to prepare them well and to adapt them to your reality and to your customers’ needs.

Make sure you offer a promotion on product lines that you can deliver easily and efficiently. To spread out the rush period, some companies will offer discounts on gift cards. This way customers will be able to give gift certificates and purchases on your eCommerce will be made over a longer period of time. 

Are you ready to manage returns?

82% of consumers would see a no-charge return policy as a non-negotiable element in choosing a product. Returns management is an important part of e-commerce logistics, but it is often overlooked. Customers often have unrealistic expectations regarding delivery times and return terms, which can lead to unwanted returns. The days following the holidays are typically a time when we see returns and exchanges increase significantly. In fact, 13.3% of sales made in the 2020 holiday season were returned, that’s almost 101 billion (source). If we want to accommodate the customer, but also mitigate the return rush for the entire customer service team, one strategy that can be explored is to offer an extended return period to allow everyone to breathe.

To see all the best tips on returns, exchanges and reverse logistics, check out this article: Reverse Logistics, Everything You Need to Know (Reverse Logistics)

Want to optimize your eCommerce operations and processes? Talk to an expert at Novatize.


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1. Étude 2022 sur la vente en ligne au Canada Postes Canada, 6 octobre 2022

2. Press release, National Retail Federation, 11 janvier 2021

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