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Black Friday: Three top tips to prepare for success

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As an e-commerce retailer, one of the biggest challenges is how you handle the seasonality of sales. Black Friday is the next major “peak day” in the retail calendar with UK retailers expected to take more than £1bn for the first time in 2015, up from £810m in 2014.

Ecommerce businesses of all sizes face the same Black Friday challenges – the difference is simply a question of scale. Working with them, we’ve developed packaging and despatch strategies that combat seasonal peak sales bottle-necks. Here are my top three tips.

Ensure picking and packing is efficient

Ensuring your picking and packing process is efficient is the first step to a smooth Black Friday delivery. 

Before hiring expensive agency staff to help meet increased despatch demand, consider using cleverly-designed time saving postal packaging products, such as integrated labels and instant bottom boxes. They can save a lot of time and reduce the amount of extra staff you require, making significant savings overall. Just make sure you order enough stock to cover all potential sales!

Instant bottom boxes have been proven to be at least four times quicker when compared to the time it takes to build a traditional flat-pack, tape-sealed box. 

Whether you are a multi-national business or a one person operation, this means your existing business could potentially be processing four times more orders per hour, that’s 10 people doing the work of 40. 

Prepare to scale up when you need to

Increases in despatch efficiency can also allow businesses to use existing staff resources and become scalable on demand i.e. during peak times, while ensuring that service levels don’t suffer.

Optimising your packaging processes makes it more likely you will cope during peak sales periods using only your existing staff. This is a huge advantage, they’re trusted and trained – better for maintaining service quality. The use of integrated labels will increase efficiency – they enable you to print the address label, picking note and invoice on one sheet, substantially reducing mispicks.

Instant bottom or pop-up packaging can also be postage optimised, allowing businesses to increase margins by conforming to postage and carriage constraints wherever possible and therefore lowering postal costs – reducing the overall volume sent for the same number of despatches or “reducing your cube” as it’s known in the industry.

Offer slower delivery for those who don’t mind

According to consumer research from IMRG, expectation management is the key to delivery. So why not consider incentivising slower delivery options that are still guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas, by offering them at a lower cost? 

It is the low price of goods that attracts consumers to Black Friday, rather than fast delivery, and by giving them a reason to use a slower delivery option you can reduce the pressure both on warehouse staff and couriers, as well as helping to smooth out sharp despatch peaks by keeping operations flowing well. 

You may find that your hand is forced; delivery service Yodel has already announced plans to cap its next day deliveries – others may follow suit.

However, regardless of how efficient your internal processes are, there is a finite number of couriers and this creates the bottle neck experienced by businesses on previous Black Fridays. 

Work with your couriers to find the best solution by asking for their advice and suggestions – use their expertise. Inform your couriers of your expected increase in despatches to ensure they are ready and prepared to cater for the influx.

Peak order periods such as Black Friday present exciting opportunities for e-commerce businesses. With despatch optimisation products and strategies in place, large increases in orders can be managed without huge increases in operating costs, making them highly profitable too.

Josh Pitman is marketing manager at PrioryDirect.co.uk.

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