With about two months left before we’re in the thick of the holidays, you can still get procedures in place to prepare for your holiday peak. Here, we’ll talk about five tips for readying your warehouse operations for the most wonderful time of the year.

1. Understand delivery deadlines and act accordingly

Retailers estimate last-minute customer demands and carriers’ delivery abilities when planning for delivery deadlines. Sometimes, you might experience delays due to package volume or weather, resulting in unsatisfied customers. What to do? Know your carrier contract inside-out: if there are blackout dates for next-day shipping, don’t offer it. Don’t assume that “it’ll get there in time.” Communicate hard shipping date deadlines with customers well in advance – and don’t get sucked into the ‘guaranteed delivery by Christmas’ holiday hype unless you know you can deliver.

2. Offer personalized product options

Personalized products are a hot-ticket item every holiday season. If you don’t currently offer this service, consider adding a few products that can easily be embroidered, engraved, or otherwise customized and a vendor that can handle your orders during the peak. Some fulfillment providers offer this as a part of their services. There are many benefits to providing product personalization in ecommerce.

3. Nothing will go perfectly – so plan for it

From bad weather to supply chain gaps to labor shortages, your business may have experienced many challenges that impact your business. Don’t let your guard down now. Keep planning for the unexpected so you can manage it with the right plans in place. Have a well-documented emergency plan in case of power outages, carrier/vendor issues, and even business closings due to inclement weather, and communicate it. Some companies even have disaster drills to practice how to handle problems. And let’s not forget: just because you’re located in sunny California, where snow won’t affect you, doesn’t mean that your vendors, carriers, and customers aren’t battling a hellacious winter elsewhere!

4. Learn from the ghosts of Christmas Past

Did a vendor’s mismanagement of inventory lead to an out-of-stock? Did a wave of employee illnesses mean you were running a skeleton crew in the warehouse? Did you underestimate the number of returns and fail to keep enough staff on post-holiday? Review the last couple of seasons’ performance and use labor statistics, order data, customer satisfaction scores, and inventory reporting to identify areas where you shined and struck out. Then make forecasts and decisions to correct these problems before they happen.

5. Get your returns process ready now

Ah, every retailer’s least-favorite part of the holiday peak: returns. Some returns are inevitable no matter what you do, so make them as streamlined as possible before they flood in. Communicate all policies to customer service, marketing, and operations teams: include return labels and/or packaging inside holiday orders, and use prior years’ stats to accurately forecast staffing needs for the returns department, contact center, and packaging from vendors.