How did Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, get its name? There are two explanations: the traffic that clogs roads as shoppers flock to stores in search of a bargain, or the point when retailers begin turning a profit as the Christmas build up begins.
Either way, it’s a huge opportunity for online retailers. Black Friday 2016 was the biggest in US history with US$3.34bn spent online in just 24 hours [ADI]. The day has taken off in Europe too. In the four years to 2015, spend rocketed 124%, making it the year’s biggest single sales day (it overtook Cyber Monday in 2014).
So how can online retailers ensure their mail solutions are up to scratch and order fulfilment systems don’t become a traffic black spot? Asendia UK's Production Director Luis Barros and General Manager Carl Loader share their top tips:
Do your homework
Black Friday represents a period of high pressure. Retailers need to understand trends from previous years and the kind of products they can expect to sell more of. Are your IT platforms robust enough to withstand the extra load? Are onward supply chains able to carry the load? Is there enough truck, plane, train or boat capacity?
Learn from the past (and your rivals)
If you’ve had an unexpectedly busy period in the past, how did you cope? What did you do to ensure your orders were handled quickly? Annual sales days have been around for years, so what do you do to prepare for them? Take a look at your friendly competitors too: how do they attract more customers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Prepare your back room
Every retailer should know the absolute maximum output based on their operational process. How much stock do they have? Have they got enough stock available for their direct to consumer channels as opposed to their retail or wholesale outlets? It’s really important in terms of logistics to understand what the touchpoints are from retailers to consumers.
The last thing you want to do is run out of products that are selling well, so speak to your suppliers and make sure they can provide what you need in time. You may even be able to negotiate a further discount if your order is larger than usual. Look at stock that hasn’t sold so well. Could a big sales day like Black Friday give you a chance to shift it?
Be realistic about manpower
Labour is crucial, but success doesn’t simply rely on hiring more staff. Basic building infrastructure, security and quality considerations will come into play if you try to bring in a high volume of temporary labour.
Be mindful of the Christmas build up
Black Friday is in the middle of the spike in orders received at Christmas. So take note: if a backlog in orders takes a week or two to clear, you will find yourself further into the Christmas build up, still trying to cope with Black Friday’s spike.
Keep communication channels open
Delivery issues are more likely to occur if information is not provided in a timely way, so alert your mail and parcel providers that they can expect additional volumes from you, so they can gear up appropriately and ensure your customers orders are delivered on time. If your standard delivery time will add more pressure on your team, then extend it temporarily.
Enlist a fulfilment expert
If you don’t have the resources to guarantee a golden Black Friday, entrust a fulfilment company to look after your orders. There’ll be a charge but this will be significantly less than the cost of employing extra staff and will allow you to concentrate on what you do best: looking after your customers.
Consider a tracked goods service
Online shoppers want reassurance on Black Friday. The only thing they want more is the speedy delivery of the goods they’ve ordered. Asendia’s Tracked Goods Service utilises the expertise and unrivalled reach of national postal carriers while giving consumers and retailers the reassurance of full tracking from warehouse to destination.