The festive season accounts for such a significant part of the annual revenue for retailers that it has earned a nickname – the ‘Golden Quarter’. Retailers often start building up inventory well in advance and in some cases, preparations begin in the summer. Supermarkets, for example, have to start stockpiling alcohol in September in order to have enough supplies for the holidays.
By all accounts, 2020 has been an unusual year, so what will that mean for e-commerce?
A sustained peak
In recent years, the holiday season has become a time for price-cutting. It all started with the Black Friday flash sales, extending to a four-day weekend culminating in Cyber Monday. By 2019, many shops were holding a full fortnight of discounts to entice Christmas shoppers.
With the rise in online shopping throughout 2020, predictions abound suggesting the sales peak will last even longer. While there has been some evidence in the past that Black Friday promotions have simply shifted a proportion of purchases away from October and December into November, that seems unlikely to be the case this year. Instead, the peak in shopping activity is forecast to stretch from October all the way to the end of the year.
A new era for retailers
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt in two ways; less footfall in brick & mortar shops and more online purchases. The increase in demand for e-commerce has been rapid, putting pressure on the entire network for fulfilment, shippers and carriers. In the UK, online purchases have increased by a whopping 74% since the pandemic started.
This seems poised to continue, and not just throughout the festive season, but for the foreseeable future. With renewed, more localised lockdowns and considerable anxiety still being felt by the general public, many shoppers are likely to steer clear of physical shops. At the same time, three quarters of high street retailers in the UK have expressed concern that social distancing measures will have a severe impact on their ability to trade.
This spells a new era of boom for e-commerce. So how can e-tailers prepare?
What this means for e-commerce
With a sustained peak during the holidays, it’s more crucial than ever to keep the customer experience flawless. During the holidays, reputations are at stake – with people ordering presents for their friends and families, timing is of the essence and disappointments are likely to be felt more deeply. So make sure you’re fully stocked and customers get their orders in time.
To deliver this, online retailers should be prepared to scale. With the unusually high order volumes throughout 2020, many shops have already taken the initiative to build systems that can cope with increased traffic. If you haven’t, now’s the time – it will help prepare for unpredictable spikes in online business.
Optimising stock control, order fulfilment and delivery processes are key to managing orders. Using a fulfilment centre where experts pick and pack your orders and also offer delivery can take the pressure off you. An end-to-end logistics provider can help you increase efficiency, as fulfilment and distribution are taken care of. A third-party service will also provide you with warehousing and storage, and online stock control to give you increased capacity for the Christmas peak.
Last but not least, don’t forget the tech side. Online stores can expect heightened website traffic, so it’s crucial that you make sure you have enough server capacity to handle a surge in sales. Real-time tracking of orders is increasingly seen as a must-have and should not be overlooked by any business owner wanting to keep their customers fully satisfied.
With our ecommerce logistics solutions, we take care of your products and offer scalable services to ensure you are prepared for annual peak periods. Sprint Logistics offers everything from pick and pack warehousing to ecommerce delivery and courier services, giving you total control over planning, purchasing, pausing or cancelling orders at any time.
Our online stock management can help you get your product to market quicker. We offer 24-hour online ordering, and our electronic tracking shows dispatch progress and exactly when an order is due. Our international logistics management platform gives you clarity over your inventory with automated pre-alerts that help keep your stock levels on track.
Contact us today to find out more about the ecommerce solutions we offer.