Avoid a Black Christmas

  • Paul Doble, chief sales officer, DX Black Christmas To avoid disappointing online buyers over Black Friday and Christmas, make sure you don’t promise more than you can deliver and work with logistics partners to ensure the expected sales peaks can be handled efficiently, says Paul Doble, chief sales officer for DX

The countdown to Christmas has already begun for many retailers, who are keen to maximise the opportunities provided by this traditionally busy and greatly profitable time. However, in order to generate a high level of sales, electrical retailers need to be prepared for heightened customer demand and increased need for proficiency.

In recent years, flash sales days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, have caused mayhem for retailers, as shoppers wrestle for the latest smartphones, tablets and discounted televisions. With resources pushed to the limit, time scales shortened and customer expectations heightened, it is essential that retailers work with suppliers and logistics partners to ensure strategies are in place to manage festive sales peaks effectively.

IMRG UK Consumer Home Delivery Review 2015 figures recently revealed that 70 per cent of consumers say a good delivery experience will help keep them loyal to a particular retailer.

Christmas is a crucial time for retailers, as reputations can be easily damaged if presents do not arrive in time. Retailers must prepare for typical pitfalls experienced in previous festive countdowns. Fierce festive competition sees many retailers selling online launching extravagant advertising campaigns, often promising swift delivery – sometimes within 12 hours, giving customers heightened expectations.

The increased demand and strain on resources can make these promises hard to keep, so retailers should beware of promoting ‘business as usual’ delivery options – such as free next-day delivery – which may be tougher to execute. Businesses should be realistic and look at longer delivery windows to help manage demand, ensuring they are not being overambitious and running the risk of leaving customers disappointed.

Options

Customers need to have the different types of delivery options explained to them, spelling out what they should be opting for in order to receive the service they require for their particular package. For example, a customer that has ordered a large speaker system may be dissatisfied when couriers will not take the bulky package beyond the doorstep, adversely impacting their opinion of both carrier and retailer. To avoid disappointment at the doorstep, retailers should clearly explain the different delivery options at the online checkout, so that shoppers understand exactly what the choices involve. It is worth pointing out to customers that the cheapest option is not always best.

The annual rush can also be disrupted by unforeseen hiccups, such as heavy snowfall or flooding, driver shortages and even a customer’s failure to read the small print in the delivery details. These can all result in delays, dissatisfied shoppers and chaos for retailers and logistics teams. To limit these difficulties and efficiently respond to any that arise, clear communication strategies must be implemented, with each partner recognising their responsibilities and planning for the worst-case scenario, where possible.

Preparation and conversations need to take place across all phases of the delivery process. Warehouses and carriers will also be coping with increased volume and time pressures, so retailers should attempt to ease the load and ensure they are not overloading partners with vast quantities of parcels. One solution is to encourage customers to use convenient collection points and lockers. More than half (56 per cent) of John Lewis’s online shoppers chose in-store collection during the festive period last year. The increasingly popular Click & Collect schemes provide customers with another option for receiving their online purchases.

Introducing alternatives for shoppers, such as lockers and easily accessible collection points, means customers can choose to collect packages on their way home. Customers will enjoy the convenience and it will help alleviate the pressure on warehouses and logistics.

Just in time

To execute successful sales days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, electrical retailers will need to plan efficiently and implement strategies in plenty of time before the festive rush begins. Realistic sales forecasts should be made, based on the experiences of previous years, and each phase of the supply chain should be checked in advance for capacity and manpower.

Efficient communication, both internally and with customers, will be necessary in the run up to Christmas, allowing delivery promises to be made to customers based on reliable information. By implementing effective measures, retailers can manage sales spikes with confidence, while developing their brand and reputation. At an increasingly busy and competitive time of year, retailers should concentrate on delivering a top-quality service in order to guarantee a merry Christmas for all.