Holiday Staffing – Plan for Increased eCommerce Demand

The holidays are coming fast. While summer fades into memory, soon, we’ll be awash in Christmas songs, socially distanced Hanukkah get-togethers, and a whole lot of kids with wish lists. In the past, we’d hit the mall, wait in line for stores to open after Thanksgiving, or hit Target bright and early. 

This year is going to be different.

For generations, in-person retail dominated the shopping landscape, but clearly, we’re not in the Sears-centric, brick and mortar Kansas anymore, Toto. Online shopping accounted for 14% of retail sales in 2019, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so assuming that number could exceed 20% this holiday season isn’t far-fetched. 

The traditional times for shopping, which ultimately led to holiday staffing, aren’t standard any longer. Prime Day used to be a special moment in the summer. Now, it’s looking like we’re about to see Prime Season till Christmas, and Amazon will not be the only company playing that game. And thanks to all of those various specials, more workers will need to be on the warehouse floor to make sure packages big and small reach their final destination. If warehouse and supply chain executives aren’t ready to embrace the increase in online orders – that could spell big trouble. 

Holiday Staffing for Your eCommerce Business 

With between 12-24 million eCommerce sites around the world, the rise of eCommerce sales is only set to grow. Amazon has the lion’s share of the market; 59% of Millennials don’t even think about buying elsewhere. They know buying with the mega-retailer is simple, and in an age where we can have sushi delivered to our front door with a tap and swipe, that’s a telling number. Another Amazon stat? In 2017, they accounted for 44% of all eCommerce purchases.

Because Amazon has such a dominant market share, retailers from Walmart to Target and everyone in between are making the jump to wrangle some of those consumer dollars. During the pandemic, online sales increased by 42%, equaling an extra $107 billion in sales. According to NASDAQ, it’s predicted that by 2040, 95% of all sales will be through eCommerce. 

People are using their debit and credit cards so much right now, there’s a national coin shortage.

Given the pandemic’s impact and how eCommerce shopping is growing with each market report, all facets within the supply chain have evolved. They had to, or they’d lose ground. Every warehouse manager and supply chain mind should be preparing for the onslaught this holiday season. 

E-Commerce warehouses are humming with business while malls across America are closing at a rapid pace. Retailers need to keep this in mind as they prepare to stock up on seasonal associates with holiday staffing. Staffing for this extended peak holiday season will require a focus on filling e-Commerce fulfillment center positions (like WalMart) and catering to customer preferences around curbside or contactless pickup.

What to Expect During the Holiday Season

The holiday quarter has traditionally been the retail industry’s make-or-break period; for some retailers, it can account for over 30% of annual revenue and 40% of their profits. 

In the past, management could predict their seasonal hiring needs because the traditional holiday season was consistent. In years past, Black Friday was a state of mind for customers and retailers alike. Even last year, according to a survey by BlackFriday.com and SurveyGizmo, Black Friday was the top shopping day. 

This year, Cyber Monday is expected to dethrone Black Friday. 56% of the survey’s respondents expect to shop primarily online. Over half expect to use curbside pick up more than they did last year; buy-online-purchase-in-store (BOPIS) is a growing trend. Products are moving thanks to businesses of every kind utilizing a more omnichannel approach.

Another thing to consider is that many smaller stores and big retailers are running all kinds of specials to continually drive sales long before the traditionally expected day after Thanksgiving begins the cycle. 

In 2019, eCommerce sales were worth $135.35 billion. That number will be more significant this year. Given the pandemic and many people already using their phones and laptops to do some shopping for everyday items, the holiday rush will be a boom like the industry hasn’t experienced. It’s doubtful with the pandemic that we’ll see videos featuring hordes of shoppers racing for televisions. Instead, we’ll see many stores up the ante on Cyber Monday. 

Many companies are going to have to make adjustments for smarter pick routes and warehousing, but also for holiday staffing. Deciding to hire too late could throw a wrench in a company’s ability to make sure orders are filled with speed and accuracy. 

Man Your eCommerce Stations with More Staff 

We all know this year is wild. If there’s any salvo we can stand by, it’s to prepare. Retail, warehouses, logistics, and transportationeveryone should get ready for a holiday season unlike any other. A lot of shoppers will be clicking on products instead of swiping their credit cards in-person. If the brick and mortar stores aren’t going to be as busy, that means the supply chain will have to be robust and ready to handle a variety of situations. 

If a warehouse or eCommerce business doesn’t prepare with well planned holiday staffing, the results could be disastrous. The holiday season is getting ready to kick off in just a few short months. This is the time that supply chains and warehouse management should be making tweaks for maximum efficiency. But guess what? The place you’re thinking of may not be the most obvious. We all know items will need to be picked and scanned, but that’s just the beginning of the web of jobs that will need to be filled this holiday season.

Think about your warehouse holistically, from top to bottom. 

COVID-19 Precautions

If someone wants to go into a brick and mortar, there will be constraints on shoppers in the store. With the addition of curbside delivery, this creates a need for even more workers. Prior to COVID-19, this option wasn’t as popular, but now, consumers all over are embracing the option. Companies from Best Buy to Apple all have pick up options, and all of these factors will definitely play into how shoppers spend their time, but more importantly, their money.

While crews will zip by with carts full of products, make sure your shipping and logistics departments are ramped up because those orders will need to be shipped. Trucks will need to be loaded, pallets will get stacked, and shipping orders will need to be checked—all with social distancing measures in place. During the holiday season, accuracy will be the name of the game, because you’ll need warehouse workers for loading and unloading, just like material handlers that will check and pack orders.

But that leads to an entirely different point: what about returns? 

Customer Service

Because people are shopping without trying a new coat on, or picking out specific items that may be size, color, or lifestyle-related, there will be many returns. Even if orders are accurate, there’s the possibility of a missed detail. Some companies have sizing algorithms, but even still, those aren’t foolproof. 

E-Commerce businesses need a revenue model built around customer service, but more importantly, maintaining an excellent service culture, too.

A few years back, the eCommerce sector created almost 400K new jobs from 2007-2017. Many of those jobs were for all facets of the industry, but one of the biggest was customer service. There are no surprises there, considering that the customer service bar has been elevated so high. In most cases, bad customer service can sink a company. 

According to a study conducted by Reamaze, eCommerce businesses accrue more than FIVE TIMES the conversational volume during the holiday season, depending on the comparable industry. That’s a lot of talking. Excellent service is the backbone of the business model.

During the holidays, everything will be amplified. There will be more phone calls for returns, people checking on order statuses, product availability, etc. While some people are okay with talking to AI-driven chatbots and looking for self-service options, many still want to speak to a live person. If customers are left waiting on hold forever, that leads to churn, and churn equals less revenue. Plus, because people are so fickle about excellent customer service options, a bad interaction can leave a lasting impression.

Bad customer service can linger for a long, long time. Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” And this adage is still true. People remember reputations and interactions, even if they’re proven wrong with better service at a different time. 

Distribution Center

The distribution centeror depending on the company, a fulfillment center—is the central nervous system for eCommerce, and their hiring processes will be paramount to the success of any company during the holiday season. A well-oiled distribution center has so many moving parts, including: processing products, creating SKU assortments, assembling shipments, handling materials, and storing products. If these jobs aren’t humming along or backlogged, this could be problematic for the company given holiday demand. 

Last holiday season, shoppers spent more than $730 million, according to the National Retail Federation. L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works, has almost 5,000 workers, and the Giant company hired 4,000 workers for their distribution centers. 

Michaels, the arts and crafts giant, is stocking up with over 16,000 workers to focus on their warehouses specifically to fortify the company’s BOPIS team.

The software company, ShipMatrix, expects record delivery volume for both FedEx and UPS. Both announced hiring plans for seasonal workers, with FedEx hiring 70,000 seasonal workers, 27% more than last year. UPS is going even more prominent, looking to hire over 100,000 workers to handle the package surge. With almost 200,000 jobs coming online for this holiday season, the distribution center has never been more important. Workers will need to move those products, fill the trucks, and make sure the supply chain moves as smoothly as possible. 

Staffing is Easy with Adia

If your company is looking to prepare for the seasonal rush holiday staffing, Adia can help. We’re not a traditional staffing company, but a digital staffing platform that helps warehousing operations of every size. Working with Adia is easy and effective. Our worker pool is 10x that of a traditional staffing agency, plus the Adia community is verified and vetted, because we check for on the job experience that can help a warehouse executive get more jobs done in a shorter period of time. 

We hire our workers as W-2 employees, and Adia can be written off as a business expense because we’re a technology platform. Everything can be accessed through your phone, tablet, or laptop – it’s simple. An eCommerce company in need can set the hourly wage and the hours needed, and we’ll get the jobs filled in real-time, and all before the holiday rush. Sound good? Check us out here to learn how we can help your warehouse do more.

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