In retail sales, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the equivalents to the sports world’s World Series and Super Bowl. They have become huge drivers for holiday shopping, with some companies seeing as much as 40% of their holiday sales on those days and the weekend between them, a period that’s become known as Cyber Week. In 2019 Black Friday is November 29 and Cyber Monday is December 2.
Retailers tend to focus on sales and marketing strategies for BFCM, but it is just as important to evaluate and make adjustments to fulfillment processes. Many BFCM shoppers are bargain hunters and impulse buyers who have never shopped with you before. To make sure they return, it’s essential that the experience be easy, pleasant and trouble-free–from placing the order to opening the box to returning an item if they have to.
Here are some guidelines and best practices from our third-party logistics (3PL) team:
The sophisticated inventory management software we use allows clients to dig deep into their sales data, so months before this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday they can review their past performances. The system we use can create 150 different reports. Studying sales results from last year’s Cyber Week can provide clues about changes that could be made this year to improve sales. For example, after identifying last year’s bestsellers, a retailer might want to choose items for this year that would have a similar appeal. Also, review inventory to find items that have been on the shelves too long and create attractive Cyber Week promos to move out these overstocked items.
After determining sales and specials for Cyber Week, make sure inventory is sufficient to fill expected orders. Many of these shoppers are impulsive, and they won’t want to wait days or weeks to receive their order. Prepare sales forecasts by studying sales for past Cyber Weeks then use Cyber Week sales predictions for this year from reliable sources like the National Retail Federation to increase the inventory of items. At best this is guesswork, but using sales pattern data and sales projections at least make it an educated guess. If the supply chain involves overseas suppliers, make sure orders are placed early enough so there is time to allow for production problems and shipping slowdowns.
A fulfillment partner can be incredibly valuable during Cyber Week so include the logistics team in your discussions. Filling orders quickly and efficiently is their strength; ask for their ideas and solicit advice. Provide details of your Cyber Week sales and marketing strategy. Notify your fulfillment partner if your company will need to lease additional warehouse space from them during the lead up to Christmas. Remember that other clients will likely need more space too. Make sure they will have sufficient staff to expedite orders during Cyber Week. Review packaging, decide if changes are needed and make sure that sufficient packaging supplies will be stocked to meet a surge in orders.
Way before Thanksgiving, talk to tech staff about your shopping cart and web site. Are both operating smoothly? Are any upgrades needed to ensure they can handle the flood of Cyber Week shoppers? Nothing discourages a shopper like a slow web site or a shopping cart system that is complex and cranky. Remember that three of the top 8 reasons shopping carts are abandoned involve poorly designed or inefficient online purchase systems.
The holidays are a natural for sparkle and glitter. Talk to your fulfillment partner about how you can dress up your shipments. It might be as simple as some holiday-themed tissue paper or a holiday card wishing customers the best of the season and inviting them to use a special discount code for shopping in the new year. It can also be a time to include promotional flyers or brochures. Choose a half dozen under $20 items and promote them as stocking stuffers with a colorful one-sheet flyer tucked into orders by fulfillment staff or have staff include a brochure promoting post-holiday sales.
Unexpected shipping costs are the biggest reason shoppers exit without completing an online purchase. If data indicates a significant percentage of sales are lost due to shopping cart abandonment, it is time to reevaluate shipping policies. Talk to your fulfillment partner about ways to tweak shipping costs without losing profits. Many companies find it is wiser to raise prices slightly and offer free shipping on orders that reach a certain level–usually $50. Likewise, go through the return system and find ways to simplify the process for customers. Including return shipping labels and forms are simple ideas that improve a shopper’s experience.
Make sure your company is ready for retailing’s biggest days. Give our fulfillment division a call.
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