Peak season is rapidly approaching and there is no time like the present to start essential preparations. To help make this daunting task seem a little more digestible, we have put together our preparing for peak top tips - The handbook to sailing through the busiest time of year for eCommerce retailers.
What key peak dates should you consider?
Whilst you should certainly consider peak as an entire period spanning from now until the end of January, there are some dates that will cause an influx in sales. Let’s cut to the chase, these are:
- Black Friday: Friday 25th November 2022
- Cyber Monday: Monday 28th November 2022
- The last-minute buyers: W/C Monday 12th December 2022
- Boxing day sales: 26th December 2022
- January sales: 1st January 2023
What are consumers’ buying behaviours looking like in 2022?
First of all, we think it’s important to consider consumer buyer behaviour, particularly considering the volatility of the economy in the run-up to peak season in 2022. Here are some key findings:
Earlier shopping to spread out costs
According to eBay’s2022 Christmas Spend Trends report, 32% of consumers plan to start their Christmas shopping earlier this year compared to last year. This is attributed to the rise in inflation and the subsequent cost of goods. Consumers are now seeking to spread this cost out over a longer period of time.
So what does this mean?
With preparations occurring earlier, peak season won’t be such a drastic influx of sales this year compared to previous years. Instead, it is likely that there will be a longer, smoother peak in sales. This change will affect your forecasting, stock management, collections frequency and overall service provided. Therefore it’s best to start preparations now, including your marketing and promotions to ensure you capture these early buyers.
Put simply, prepare, prepare, prepare and start now.
Increased online spending
In times of economic downturn, consumers spend more time inside their homes as opposed to going out. From past experience, this has meant that consumers’ spending shifts from hospitality and experiences to home improvements and appliances.
With more time spent in the house, this also increases the number of online sales compared to in-store sales, with fewer shoppers visiting city centres and towns.
On 6th October 2022, the Office for National Statistics published its latest economic report. It found that footfall in retail stores is currently 12% less than it was in 2019, with spending on entertainment yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite economic downturn, spending has increased
UK credit and debit purchases increased at the end of September 2022 compared to the month before.
Whilst the news of an imminent recession and soaring energy bills may seem scary, it has yet to have an impact on consumer spending.
What does this mean?
Whilst consumers are keen to spend, persuade them to choose to spend their money on your products as opposed to competitors. Now is the time to market your products and discounts to receive a maximum return. It is also important to note that promotion doesn’t have to mean discounting items. Instead, you can promote popular seasonal items by displaying them on your homepage, making them more visible.
Where to start
Now we’ve hinted to a few top tips, but let's delve a little deeper into how you can optimise your eCommerce operation for peak.
This is beneficial for not just your company, but for your fulfilment provider, your delivery partner and the carriers that you use. At MHI, we typically see a 30-40% increase in volume throughout the peak period and this is something that requires additional operating hours, extra staff and extra care to be taken to ensure that efficiency doesn’t dip.
We recommend looking at your volumes from the past few years during peak, factoring incurrent volume trends to then make a prediction.
As a delivery partner, this is something that we can help our long-standing customers with. We store all data from previous years, pulling it into a report to support forecasting when necessary.
It is also key to create an open line of communication between you and your suppliers or partners. Updates and more accurate forecasts will ultimately minimise any delays for your customer.
Last shipping dates
It’s important to manage your customer’s expectations by publishing the latest recommended dates that customers can purchase an item in time for it to arrive before Christmas.
Transparency here is crucial to minimise customer queries and complaints, avoiding your team being inundated.
You can find our general list of recommended last shipping dates here. Please note that these are just a guideline and may vary per courier and country. These are also subject to change, however they give a general idea of cut-off dates which are often earlier than you’d think.
Global supply chain and delivery disruption
Factor in any planned strike action, public holidays and known disruptions, in addition to keeping an eye on current global events that may cause delays.
At MHI we provide a weekly service bulletin to our clients, informing them of the latest news that may impact delivery. This includes acts of God such as floods, Hurricanes and Earthquakes in addition to customs delays and national lockdowns.
Something to consider for UK postage is the upcoming Royal Mail strikes which will cause delays. You can find a full list of proposed dates here and tips for minimising disruption.
A strike is scheduled to occur on Black Friday for delivery drivers and on Cyber Monday for all Royal Mail workers.
This will cause significant congestion in the collection, sorting and delivery of parcels where Royal Mail is the carrier for the week commencing the 28th November 2022.
If you’d like to explore alternative routes to avoid as much disruption as possible, feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing campaigns and promotions
Maximise your search visibility
· Update your product pages with the most up-to-date information to keep content fresh. Search engines reward new content, therefore it is also a good idea to upload new and multiple images to show every angle of your product. In addition this will minimise the number of returns and customer queries if they know exactly what to expect when they order.
· Update your keywords, do some more research and ensure your pages include the right keywords to be found. We use SEMrush for our keyword research but there are plenty of other tools and lots offer a 30-day free trial. Google Search Console is a good tool to use to help you optimize your website.
Explore additional marketplaces
Increase the places where you sell by having your products appear on Google and Amazon listings in addition to appearing on multiple marketplaces.
Amazon Marketplace is a great platform to start on, providing access to Amazon’s vast audience -You’re almost guaranteed to boost sales!
Did you know: MHI is an official carrier for Amazon Marketplace, having integrated with ShipTrack, the system used by Amazon Marketplace sellers to distribute goods.
In order to obtain this status we have had to undergo rigorous testing and maintain high KPI’s to meet Amazon’s criteria.
In a world where we are bombarded with adverts on a daily basis, it’s important to target your audience via more than one channel. This can include social media, email marketing, paid search and direct mail.
With our own campaigns, we have seen great success in our print element, as it cuts through the digital noise. Why not also take advantage of this?
We can produce direct mail campaigns in-house and ship them internationally using our vast network.
Similarly, we have developed an online platform where you can create and send promotional postcards direct to your audience anywhere in the world. Discover SendVia today and effectively promote your seasonal offers.
It’s important to optimise your delivery collections and remain agile to fluctuations in volumes.
At MHI we love to offer flexibility to our clients. When paying per pallet for collections, we understand the need to be as efficient as possible to obtain cost benefits. Why send a half-full pallet when you can send a full one for the same price?
Remaining agile with collections is key, however, when changing collection times, ensure that your packing and fulfilment timings are also altered to sync harmoniously with collection times.
Switch to tracked services
Increase transparency, reduce queries and improve customer experience by switching services to tracked for the peak season.
If there is anytime to switch to tracked its peak. With 90% of consumers wanting to track their orders, it’s key to meet their expectations, particularly when a deadline such as Christmas is involved. This is especially key for those last-minute gift-buyers and December shoppers.
We offer the flexibility for our clients to switch whenever they like to tracked services and back again when it suits them. You can switch for peak, just for Black Friday, the week before Christmas, or, just for the January sales.
Our dedicated client services team is also on hand to consult and support you through the peak season; they’ll be great at informing you what is the most cost-effective solution for the level of service you require. With no need to commit to minimum time-frames or requirements, we can mould to be as agile as you.
Monitor and control
We love data and analysis. As firm believers in monitoring for continuous improvement, we couldn’t finish our top tips off without mentioning reporting.
We offer our clients full visibility of items processed each day, in addition to tracking, daily scan reports and missing data reports. These enable the process to be as efficient as possible.
Should we require extra data, it is flagged immediately. If we notice certain days are busier, then we organize for more staff to work, it is this data that allows us to be seamlessly agile.
Whilst real-time data is great to make instant changes, it also helps with next year’s forecasting, getting you ahead of the game before anyone else.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the festivities and the rush that this busy season offers. By following our top tips you should be well on your way to a stress-free peak, so grab a mince pie and some mulled wine and relax (sort of).
Not feeling zen? Pop us an email, we’d be more than happy to help with direct mail promotions, collections, and delivery solutions for your business.