From the continued impact of the pandemic to ongoing Brexit fall-out, 2020 has been a year unlike any other for retail. The second lockdown has continued to dissolve the already struggling high street, with most brick-and-mortar retailers closed for all of November.
This year, peak season is expected to be one of the toughest yet. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are taking place almost entirely online and continued coronavirus restrictions are likely to turn many towards online shopping even once shops are allowed to reopen on the second of December.
Increased online demand generated through large-scale promotions can be daunting at the best of times, but without careful planning, this surge towards eCommerce can and will present a logistical nightmare for brands. To be successful this peak season, resilience will be essential.
Black Friday: what’s new?
In a bid to outmanoeuvre the competition, brands have been starting Black Friday deals earlier and earlier each year – many holding promotions for the entire month of November in an attempt to stay ahead in the promotions game. However, in 2020 it’s not just been about beating the competition. Many of the early deals have been an attempt to flatten the demand curve and better manage increased volumes. For many brands, a sudden influx of orders could cause utter chaos leading to dissatisfied customers as the end result.
Online brands such as SHEIN, which has grown in popularity in the UK recently, began its #OneMillionSHEINBucks campaign before Halloween. This flash sale had a clear emphasis on ‘buy more save more’ and offered add-ons on each page to encourage “on the fly” bundling. This sort of stamina is manageable when a retailer is selling online only.
Overcoming supply chain risks
In today’s increasingly turbulent retail landscape, staying one step ahead just won’t cut it anymore. Especially for brands that maintain storefronts as well as online shopping, having more than one plan to deal with the increased demand is crucial.
Brands should consider the following:
- Pop-up distribution centres: Temporary facilities can help to spread inventory and avoid delays in the supply chain during peak. By shortening the supply chain brands can reduce the transit time for goods and remove any uncertainty involved in last-mile delivery. This will reduce ship delays and avoid increasing transportation costs.
- Hybrid store models: By utilising closed stores, retailers will be able to keep up with online demand with fast delivery. By reallocating in-store retail staff, to picking, packing and shipping online orders, brands can make the most of their space.
A healthy fulfilment chain is key to success
Throughout the peak season, the fulfilment chain must remain healthy – if one component is underperforming due to the pandemic, the entire chain could be impacted. Carriers, for example, will face huge pressure as this year they are going to have to cope with everyone doing their Christmas shopping online, not only in terms of initial delivery but also managing a potential influx of returns. Staff shortages, due to illness and self-isolation requirements, is also likely to prove challenging over the coming months. Having back-up resources in place in these instances, and an alternative plan of action will be imperative to overcome such scenarios.
A new level of customer service is required
There is a huge opportunity for contact centre agents to enhance the customer experience during peak season, and this will be crucial to maintaining loyalty far beyond the festive season. You could use your agents to provide tailored and unique recommendations and detailed purchase information. This level of personalisation can make all the difference when it comes to impressing your customers, no matter their level of loyalty.
As well as providing a tailored experience, you must be able to address complaints quickly during peak times. Brands must also ensure they have social monitoring in place so that they can quickly respond to any complaints on social platforms. Speed of response will be essential to saving the relationship between brand and customer.
Though rising contacts during peak times can be challenging, an outsourced operation can be a simple and more cost-effective option. A flexible partner can provide the agility required to support a cost-effective operation.
Opportunity is the name of the game
Having the appropriate infrastructure and technologies in place now will be a gamechanger – allowing brands to capitalise on the opportunities this peak season has to offer. Flexibility will also be critical this year. Being able to pivot and flex to consumer needs will instil customer confidence and ensure online retailers and brands can maintain long-term customer loyalty. Whilst we do not know exactly what the next couple of months have in store, we do know that being prepared to navigate increased online demand throughout peak will be pivotal for survival.