This Black Friday and peak-season prep blog is authored by Lisa Hargrave, co-founder of successful racket retailer pdhsports.com.
After a hyperbolic 2018, the volume of online transactions around the Black Friday weekend and beyond is predicted to be even bigger this year. Are you ready to get your share of online sales?
Smart e-tailers know their markets – you’ve spent months watching the trends and even getting orders in early for the most-wanted lines that will fly off the warehouse shelves. That’s the fun stuff. But you need more than the latest and greatest products to be a seasonal winner. Behind the scenes, it’s the nuts and bolts of a good retail operation that will underpin your success.
Autumn is the time to drill down into the nitty gritty of preparation. Here are our five top tips to prepare for a successful peak season online.
Make the most of the calm before the storm and get ready for the busier period. Use early autumn to review your processes, update your website, reorganise stockrooms and negotiate the detail of seasonal deals with suppliers. Do the things that there’s never enough time to do once order volumes increase.
Look at your infrastructure. Does it need reinforcing for peak season to ensure you can get your deals out of the door efficiently? Make sure you have the right people and processes in place to cope with high demand; the right quality and quantity of staff, secure and reliable website hosting, pre-planned pay-per-click campaigns, courier service levels, and stocks of packaging and tape. Plan contingencies; an alternative courier, temporary staff you can call in at short notice and backup servers.
Agree a pricing plan for key dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday where there will be the most potential for an uplift in sales.
Just because the big retailers are promising huge price cuts, this isn’t the only approach that customers value. Hold your nerve if a different strategy suits your business better – you know your market.
How about introducing short-term lines for the busy season to stimulate sales, whilst still managing margins? Or offer unique bundles, free gifts with selected purchases, VIP early access to discounts, exclusive products or ranges, or a series of clearly communicated promotions over a longer period. Differentiate yourself on something more than price.
Potential customers are increasingly well-informed and now spend more and more time researching special offers and prices, especially when it comes to online purchases. Put together genuine deals that offer value and differentiation, to reduce the chances of buyers’ remorse once the Black Friday hype has passed. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself managing a lot of returns and compromising your reputation for value.
Be imaginative! How are you going to stand out in someone’s overflowing inbox or letterbox? Can you use social media more effectively or send something memorable out with your orders which will win customers’ attention in this bargain-hunting frenzy?
In particular, headlines matter more than ever in peak season. But planning ahead is key here. You’re unlikely to come up with the best email subject lines under pressure in the thick of your busiest sales period. Think now about what customers will want from you and try to anticipate their needs with your email subjects. Research and test to see what works best before the busy period starts.
Above all, keep customer service standards high, no matter how much pressure you’re under. Train and prepare staff in advance to deal with the most likely peak season flashpoints calmly and efficiently.
Great service will stick in customers’ minds long after peak season is over. Things will almost certainly go wrong as your operation nears peak capacity, and problems may be out of your control once orders leave your warehouse. But try to respond quickly and directly to all queries and resolve any delivery issues promptly. The way you handle these situations creates the anecdotes people share about your brand into the new year.
One last thing you can plan now is your post-Christmas celebration. If you’re relying on staff to work harder and longer during peak periods, make sure they know how much you value them during the crazy season. Reward them for their loyalty and flexibility with a bonus or treat when it’s all over.
Have a brilliant peak season!
Hear more from Lisa and a panel of eCommerce experts in our FREE on-demand Peak Season Prep webinar now!