It’s that time again when the online retail world looks forward to the promise of a profitable, and hassle-free peak season. Getting it right, and capitalising on these big annual sales events is pretty much essential for most online retailers. Trouble is, it’s easier said than done.
Competition during peak is fierce, ecommerce systems are often strained to capacity; business models are severely tested, and logistics processes are under pressure. Consider the stagnation of the UK’s eCommerce market through the first half of the year, and peak season 2022 takes on greater significance.
A survey conducted last year by Scurri found that 93% of UK online retailers were concerned about labour shortages and supply chain issues in the run-up to the Christmas season. With persistent macro issues like global supply disruption, economic slowdown, and the rising cost of living, what should retailers expect this year?
Many customers will have less disposable income. Last month, UK inflation reached its highest point in four decades. With a reported 54% spike in the cost of gas and electricity, buyers are likely to be cautious. And with the pent-up demand and surplus spending power of the pandemic now a memory, consumers are prioritising practicality over pleasure.
As more buyers return to brick-and-mortar shopping, the unpredictable nature of the current online market requires retailers to react early, and get campaigns out well in advance. To manage early demand, and be ready for a surge in orders, stocking up on inventory ahead of November is advised.
As usual, the role of promotions, loyalty rewards, and fair pricing will be significant. That said, peak pricing strategies should also reflect the need to protect margins, particularly with persistent supply chain problems, and the resulting rise in the cost of supply.
One way to offset price competition is to focus on customer experience, a key differentiator for any brand. Buyers now have greater expectations of the quality of customer experience, from checkout to front door.
Peak season or not, producing customers who come back, gives you the chance to grow basket size, and tailor offers long after Black Friday. As is the case all year, and particularly during peak season, getting delivery right is pivotal.
The post-purchase experience, or everything that happens when a customer clicks pay, is increasingly what online retailers are judged on. Being able to offer expedited shipping, click and collect, and collection point pickup to manage a surge in orders is a win-win. Having flexible and personalised delivery options at checkout converts more buyers, especially with the popularity of timed delivery, and greener delivery options. That’s why increasing carrier selection, and being able to offer different kinds of delivery options is more important than ever.
Effective communication is also key during peak. Things like real-time parcel tracking, and regular status updates, can help to soothe the heightened concerns of those waiting for holiday season gifts. If a customer feels heard post-purchase and receives the support they need, it builds trust.
One interesting feature of peak season this year is that Black Friday occurs on the same day as the Fifa World Cup. It’s estimated that half of the world’s population watched some part of the football showpiece in 2018, with 1.12 billion viewing the final. Depending on how the home nations fare in the tournament, it’s safe to say that online shopping could take a back seat.
So prepare early, and consider how you will rise above the competition this year. Optimising your delivery process to cope with an increase in orders, before peak season kicks off, could be a game changer.
Fergal O’Carroll is the chief revenue officer at delivery management company, Scurri, with responsibility for sales strategy and execution.
His prior roles include EMEA vice-president for commercial sales with Teradata for eight years; prior to that, he was managing director of business intelligence solutions with Avnet Client Solutions for 13 years.
Fergal holds a BA in Business Studies from the University of West London and is a native of Dublin, Ireland.