Every year Black Friday sales seem to start earlier, get bigger and last longer. In fact, the National Retail Federation says that small to medium-sized retailers now take up to 40% of their annual sales in the final two months of the year. This spike in revenue doesn't come without its challenges...How do you plan for peak – when the peak period is getting longer and competition is ever more fierce?
In this article, we outline some key steps for a smooth and stress-free peak. By the end, you’ll know how to offer a consistently brilliant experience, even at the busiest of times.
Data is the Name of the Game
Retailers usually begin preparations at least 4-6 months in advance, even longer in some cases. But if you’re reading this now, it’s not too late.
Start your ‘peak planning’ strategy by analysing data from the previous year. Use your data to get an idea of popular products, profit margins and overall performance.
Your business will benefit from reviewing:
- Performance across channels: Website traffic, sales by region /channel - SEO/PPC and referral traffic.
- How did social media marketing affect the no. of interactions, follower acquisition and revenue.
- Warehouse efficiency, shipping speeds and % of returns
- What were the popular products and categories. What are this year predicted trends?
- Promotions: Will you be discounting best-sellers? Will you try to clear old stock? Can you meet demand if you launch brand-new items?
Careful planning is essential for a smooth and stress-free peak. Manufacturers are in high-demand in the run up to Q4. So, the earlier you start planning the better. It’s important you stock up well in advance. Don’t forget to consider your packaging, boxes and labels to avoid disappointing customers when it really matters.
Remember: It’s better to be overstocked than out of stock. With this information you’ll be able to create a strong product and promotional strategy, order the necessary products in advance and assess what trends are likely to take the market by storm over the festive period.
Forget Black Friday, it’s all about Alibaba’s Singles Day
Make sure you know the key peak dates in your industry - not just in the UK - but globally. If you’ve got customers in Australia, have you considered the impact of Click Frenzy (12th Nov). Research shows that even brands who don’t directly take part in retail events such as Black Friday – get a kickback in terms of traffic and sales. For China, forget Black Friday, it’s all about Alibaba’s Singles’ Day. Bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, the retail event is a celebration of Singledom, promoted as a day to splurge on gifts for yourself.
“Chinese consumers [racked] up $1 billion of purchases in just the first two minutes of Singles’ Day. For comparison, it took Amazon 30 hours to cinch that same value during its Amazon Prime Day sales the same year.” – Fortune.com. The event’s sensational growth is all down to China’s no.1 Ecommerce site, Alibaba.
For a full list of peak dates, download the full report: “Planning for Peak: Tactics for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Beyond”
Ecommerce Website Performance
New research from Episerver has found that 53% of users abandon mobile sites that take over 3 seconds to load.
When you get large spikes in traffic, is your Ecommerce website robust enough to cope with peak period traffic? We strongly recommend stress testing your platform with similar spikes in traffic to get a true sense of how your site will perform under peak load. It will also give you time to develop a fall-back plan if it fails. What’s more, you’ll get a better understanding of the pinch points on your site. It’s important to bear in mind that even small improvements to the user journey can create a smoother buying experience and make a difference to your bottom-line.
For more Ecommerce and Digital Marketing tips in the run up to peak, download the full report.
How to make your back-office operations resilient for peak
Managing peak is not an easy task for your back-office systems. You’re likely to be processing a significantly higher volume of orders than normal, everyday, for six to eight weeks. Can your warehouse cope with the increase in orders and time to fulfil expectations?
Pushing the last delivery date before Christmas to the last possible hour will drive incremental revenue but you must balance this against the costs of not meeting the customer’s expectations and potentially having to deal with a lot of returns. Not to mention dented your hard-fought reputation.
Test, test and test again
Once you have logistics and the marketing strategy ready, it’s time to do some dry runs to check if everything in place works as expected.
Flexible & Skilled Resource
Do you have enough full-time warehouse employees to manage peak? Boosting your operation at peak with additional warehouse operatives is a given. But often employing temporary staff who don’t know your operations means productivity levels can dip at a time when you need them to be at their most effective. One tactic here is to employ a flexible permanent team year-round.
- Can you apply automation in the warehouse to accommodate peak? Automation ensures orders are grouped and picked in the most efficient manner. Strategies such as using conveyor systems to drive each pick to the required area in the warehouse can help with picking efficiencies by routing orders to the required zones.
- Are there ways you could optimise the picking process? Solutions to consider include using mobile picking. The main advantage of mobile picking is productivity. Not only does it guide warehouse operatives to the right location to pick products. Products are scanned and updated at the point of picking, this means that real time information is available instantly and therefore improves stock accuracy. Operatives can move to the next task without delay. Using mobile devices also makes on-boarding of temporary staff easier and faster.
For guidelines on warehouse planning for promotions, simplifying operations and consolidating orders click here to download the full report.
Successful peak planning is often a combination of a considered strategy, clever staffing and flexible processes enabled by technology.
For retailers – big and small – for whom success depends on growing online, we provide what it takes to sell better online. We do this by delivering class-leading Ecommerce websites that drive online growth and sales fulfilment solutions that facilitate next day delivery and customer service excellence.
We are independent and technology-agnostic but with close partnerships to several leading technology companies so we can always recommend the most appropriate platform for our customers' needs.
With a 20-year heritage in technology implementations, we take pride in helping our customers achieve long term benefits from the solutions we provide. We can do this, because we've done it before, for people just like you.
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How do you plan for peak – when the peak period is getting longer, and competition ever fiercer?