Black Friday Lockdown Trading Peaks

It’s not long until that crazy time when people buy the online bargains they’ve been dreaming about for months.   Or, they buy those bargains they’d never thought about before –  nor really need!  Yes, Black Friday, the last Friday in November, is looming.  But, of course, it’s not just the Friday, it’s not even just the weekend or the week – it’s now termed as the ‘Black Friday period’ which can last a few weeks.  Then there’s a slight drop in online purchasing followed by another massive increase leading up to Christmas.  These trading peaks often present a massive order management challenge to online retailers who have to cope with the scalability and flexibility required to keep up with demand for their goods.   Does this sound familiar?

You may recall that the concept of Black Friday arrived here in the UK back in 2014.  Do you remember those scenes in Asda where people were fighting over televisions?  Last year’s Black Friday sales were the highest on record in the UK. Senior content strategist at Trustpilot, Flora Frichou, noted in a consumer review that “In 2019, Trustpilot saw a 44% increase in users reading reviews on Black Friday alone … It’s safe to say that once again, Black Friday wins the “biggest shopping event of the year” award. However, in the past few years, Black Friday has become more than just a full day of big discounts. It’s become a month-long sale, pushing consumers to buy all of their Christmas gifts early, as well more expensive items such as electronics or furniture.”

An etailer doing Very well

Top UK etailers such as Very are gearing up to what will be a very busy period ahead.  They’ve recently confirmed that they’ve returned to profit and broke the £2bn sales barrier this financial year. The forecasted strong trading ahead is said to be driven by a 14.1% surge in new customers which reached 3.4 million during its financial year.  The chief executive, Henry Birch said: “Our model has really chimed with consumers and has met the challenges that Covid-19 has presented in a number of ways – we are multi-category, we have top brands alongside a strong own-brand offering and we offer flexible ways to pay with credit.”  He added, “Black Friday is a really important time of year, not just in terms of the event itself but customer acquisition, and we’ve been able to make it profitable historically,”

2020 online retail sales forecasts

According to research by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics, the value of online retail sales in the UK is estimated to increase by an additional £4.5bn by the end of 2020. 

Furthermore,more, there’s far fewer shoppers hitting the high streets because of the current social distancing and local lockdowns.  Consumers are looking for a shopping experience that is better, faster and safer.   Could online shopping over the Black Friday period and Christmas hit an all-time high this year? 

Research from Klarna and Retail Economics has found 71% of British consumers are reluctant to shop in-store in the lead up to Christmas, which will likely increase the amount they spend online even further over the coming months. Indeed, 56% say they expect to do more online shopping this year than then have in previous years.

Why you must prepare

There has been ongoing evidence, that with so many people shopping online this year, many of the best deals are going out of stock quicker than usual and popular products are frequently unavailable.  As with Very, Black Friday presents a tremendous opportunity for retailers to boost sales and attract new customers.  Failure to adequately prepare for this could be catastrophic, meaning big losses of potential earnings and customer confidence.

So, are you prepared for the upcoming peaks in online shopping?

Of course, the retailers and pure-play etailers that manage to nail peak season have already prepared for it well in advance.  The challenge for those that aren’t prepared is … where do they start?

One thing is for certain, they must prepare to scale. To thrive in today’s retail climate, investments need to be made in scalable technologies to help them prepare for both predictable and unpredictable spikes in online business. This strategy most likely includes upgrading to a flexible ecommerce platform that’s ready to scale with fast-changing traffic demands and, to back it up, investment needs to be made in robust order management software to ensure the deliveries continuously flow.  There’s no doubt that with such demand being placed on retailers to address these peaks, the successful ones are modernising their order management systems to ensure smooth and optimal service. 

Manage peak complexities with an order management solution

Amid all the increased competitive pressure and the increasing customer demand of trading peaks, fulfilling orders has become increasingly complex – whether in a pure-play etail or omnichannel environment.  It’s therefore imperative that you find an order management solution that can help you manage these complexities.  Essentially, this will allow your organisation to improve supply chain efficiencies and business responsiveness by cost-effectively orchestrating product and service fulfilment across the whole of your extended enterprise. 

Get a multi-channel view of your inventory

To achieve this, the order management functionality must be able to intelligently broker orders across many disparate systems, provide a complete view of inventory (maybe global) across the supply chain and help you make changes to business processes on the fly.  Through the use of an intelligent sourcing engine, a central order repository, and the aggregation of global inventory you can ensure that you can keep up with peak demand and, therefore, rapidly increase your revenue.

As orders are fulfilled across multiple internal entities as well as external partners, it becomes very difficult to efficiently manage all the processes needed to provide a uniform customer experience. Many organisations rely on inefficient manual processes to complete transactions that cross channels.  Simultaneously, a lack of inventory visibility across all locations can result in exceptionally high stock-outs, as well as inefficient inventory utilisation.  A robust order management system can address the multi-channel complexities of order fulfilment across the extended enterprise.  An intelligent sourcing engine looks across all locations, including external partners, to determine the best location to fulfil each line on the order. The applicable fulfilment process for each order can then be identified, and order lines can be seamlessly split and/or consolidated.

Increase revenue with associated services

Associated services can also be scheduled at the same time as the order, increasing the amount of revenue from each sale. If your company provides delivery services, on-site set up, or after-sales service, it can be scheduled at the same time the order is being placed.

With delivery and service scheduling, a range of value-added services (provided internally or from a third party) can be sold to the customer and scheduled along with the products.

Manage returns and reduce inventory costs

Your order management solution should also be able to efficiently manage the returns process during these peak periods.  Pre-defined business process flows should help ensure that returned products are consistently handled in the proper manner and no items are lost or forgotten in the process. This enables you to efficiently utilise all inventory which means you can reduce your overall inventory costs – even at this busy trading time.

Efficiently utilise your inventory

It’s essential that your order management solution gives you a single, comprehensive view of inventory information by aggregating inventory from all locations – that is, providing a view of what is available internally as well as at partner locations, what is being supplied, what is in transit, and what the current demand is. This extensive visibility helps ensure that you’re giving your customers a more accurate promise date for their orders, and your inventory is being utilised in the most efficient way.

Don’t lose your customers to your competitors

The fact is that, whatever time of the year it may be, the customer wants the correct order to be delivered at the right time.  They won’t excuse poor service even if they’ve purchased goods during a peak trading time.  What’s worse, they could move over to your competitor.   Make sure you’re prepared for the peaks with a robust, scalable order management system – keep your customers happy and your revenue increasing!