Peak season in 2021 is set to present e-retailers with real challenges - but also opportunities. With fewer shoppers willing to visit shops, and many unable to, more people than ever before are expected to make all their Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas purchases entirely online.
Black Friday traditionally signals the start of the peak season and e-commerce retailers are familiar with the rush of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and subsequent sales. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftershocks contributed to a 25.7% growth in online shopping in 2020. The world adapting our daily lives to continue as best as possible despite the continuing pandemic has caused this development to slightly flatten. Regardless we still expect global e-commerce to have grown 16.8% by the end of 2021 (eMarketer).
To ensure the best customer service, on-time deliveries, and to make the most of rising demand, how can online retailers prepare for this year's peak season?
Coping with demand
Communication with supply chain and logistics partners and forward planning is essential for a successful Black Friday (and beyond). You can ask your e-commerce logistics provider about their overflow warehousing and pre-packaging solutions to ensure items are ready to go; or, consider expanding sales periods by starting peak season sales (Singles Day, Black Friday etc.) earlier to prevent a sudden surge of orders.
Encouraging customers to take their time can give your e-commerce business breathing space, too. Lengthening your returns window and offering less expensive, slower shipping are easy and effective ways to spread out busy periods and take the pressure off fulfilment centres and warehouse workers. For example, you could offer shoppers a discount when opting for 10-day shipping, or allow customers to return their Black Friday purchases after the Christmas rush.
A surge in orders can result in backlogs; the peak season is already a busy time for national postal providers and independent couriers, with longer shipping times and delays to delivery - the supply chain strain that was kick-started by the outbreak of COVID-19 in spring 2020 has caused consumers to begin their holiday season shopping earlier this year - something retailers were not prepared for (ROIRevolution).
It’s essential to be transparent with shoppers about unavoidable longer shipping times and offer effective solutions. In so doing, you can manage your customers’ expectations which will, in turn, minimise customer service inquiries. This can greatly limit the demands on your already stretched departments and resources. Another thing that can help keep your shoppers happy is to offer a variety of delivery options at the checkout. This way, people can opt to pay more or less depending on how urgently they need to receive their goods.
Enlist an expert
To take the stress out of busy periods and allow you to concentrate on providing the best service to your customers, ensure your e-commerce logistics partner can fully support your business needs. Experts like Asendia can offer an end-to-end service that takes care of everything from packaging to distribution, with a range of shipping methods that allow you to offer shoppers a choice. For international shipments, partners like Asendia can provide DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) solutions that allow for duties to be paid at checkout, minimizing further delays in shipment and simplifying the process for the shopper.
For spikes in sales like during Black Friday, your e-commerce logistics provider should offer expansive international links and trusted local couriers to support your operations worldwide. Experienced partners like Asendia will ensure any surge in sales is easily managed, taking care of every detail from hiring additional trained warehouse staff to helping with the availability of resources such as boxes and packing materials.
Make your Peak Season greener
Many shoppers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of e-commerce and increasingly expect companies they buy from to reflect those values. To meet this demand, ask your e-commerce logistics provider how they are minimising their carbon footprint and working to make e-commerce more sustainable.
For example, here at Asendia, we’re committed to voluntary carbon offsetting and offer our European customers a sustainable logistics programme at no extra cost. Many of our warehouses now use energy-efficient LED lighting and, in partnership with the UK’s Woodland Trust, we’ve planted 62,000 trees across Britain.
Overall, Asendia is currently offsetting its CO2 emissions for all international transports. And we're working hard all over the world to do even better, committed to measuring, reducing, offsetting, and advising.
Local knowledge, international expertise
Possible further COVID-19-related restrictions, supply chain strains, and brick-and-mortar retailers offloading stock means e-retailers will not only see a peak in sales over peak season but may also be likely to retain high sales volumes over the next few months. With two-thirds of consumers saying they will continue their levels of spend (66%) and the frequency they shop online (68%) after lockdown, it’s clear e-tailers must prepare for a longer-term increase in demand.
Above all, be open with customers and communicate clearly to manage their expectations, ensuring you prioritise the health and safety of consumers and staff to make the most of the festive season.
To find out more about Asendia’s expert logistics services, contact us today.