With businesses across the nation preparing for the busier shopping period, now is the perfect time to refine your peak season planning. Regardless of the economic climate, Q4 is far and away the busiest shopping period of the year, and 2022 is sure to be no exception. Even when customer behaviour is hard to predict, there are steps you can take to ensure your order fulfilment goes smoothly.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of tips for businesses looking to maximise success during peak season.
How to Make Peak Trading More Successful
Q4 presents a great opportunity for many businesses to make the majority of their annual profit. For that reason, getting ahead of the competition is of the essence.
Below are our 7 top tips for ensuring your business is at its most competitive during the peak season.
1. Plan Your Promotions Well in Advance
Robust strategising is vital for every aspect of your Q4 plans. From campaign ideation to marketing, warehouse handling to delivery, the peak season demands a comprehensive, strategic approach.
Plan ahead, a few months in advance if possible, to structure your promotional offers in a way that meets the demands of the competitive landscape and the situations of your customers.
For example, think about first-time customers – how might you turn new audiences into loyal customers? Adding free samples, personalised welcome messages and offer codes to entice them in the future are all good options, so consider how your business might embrace such promotions.
2. Extend Your Offer Periods Where Possible
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may only run for a long weekend, but consider how you might capture the surrounding buzz with extended offer periods.
By ‘flattening the curve’, you can capitalise on protracted Black Friday spending, starting promotions as early as late October in some instances. This can serve to set your brand apart from the competition – after all, Black Friday is the Peak of peaks, so why not take advantage of demand during the days and weeks surrounding the Black Friday weekend?
3. Give Plenty of Notice of Upcoming Promotions
On that note, it’s vital that you keep your audience in the know about your upcoming plans. Let them know well in advance what they can expect from your brand to build anticipation, and avoid deviating from your plans – this can not only unsettle potential customers but also put your logistics team on the back foot. More on that in tip #7.
4. Prepare Your Product Packaging
For the modern retail business, product packaging is everything. This goes for any e-commerce brand regardless of industry; the packaging is, for many customers, the first physical encounter they have with your brand.
To ensure your packaging meets your specifications during the peak season, let your fulfilment provider know ahead of time what packaging you want to use, and how much of it you anticipate needing. The closer your estimates are to the eventual reality, the more reliably your orders will ultimately be shipped.
If you’re running a promotion that incorporates uniquely packaged gift sets, letting your fulfilment partner know will allow them to pre-assemble these in advance, keeping things flowing when it’s time to ship orders. For fast-moving goods, quick processing is paramount.
5. Pour More Resources into Customer Support
It’s no secret that retail businesses have more customer queries to sort through during the peak season. With a potential influx of first-time customers, you’ll want to ensure you’re adequately equipped to answer questions and provide support in a timely manner. Even if a customer has a complaint, they’re far more likely to be a repeat customer if that complaint is addressed promptly, so ensure your team is equipped to handle queries.
You might also want to streamline the support process to make it easier for users who need help with their purchases. On every channel your brand is visible – from your website to your social media platforms to the customer emails you send out – make your support options as easy to find as possible.
A note on handling returns
With any large shopping event, customer returns are inevitable. Apply an equal amount of thought to returns as you do to order shipping themselves; poorly structured returns processes can severely dent your profit margins, so ensure your policy aligns with your targets while remaining accessible for users. You might consider withdrawing a free returns policy during peak season, for example, to ensure the larger volume of returned products doesn’t adversely dent your profits too greatly.
6. Ensure a Frictionless Checkout Process
Today’s e-commerce businesses live and die by the strength of their checkout processes. This goes not just for Q4, but year-round: ensure the user experience and functionality of your website’s checkout process are as frictionless as possible.
Ensure the ‘cart’ is visible in your site’s top navigation, and consider streamlining the process if there are too many steps between adding to cart and hitting ‘Pay’. Consider implementing a progress bar in the checkout process if you haven’t already, and double check your available payment methods align with what your competitors are offering.
‘Buy Now Pay Later’ has become an essential component of the modern checkout process, so investigate implementing one ahead of your Black Friday promotions to speed up the checkout process further.
7. Keep Your Teams Updated About Promotions
Of course, even well-laid plans may fall apart without total communication between all your teams. From your marketing department to your fulfilment experts, it’s important to appraise them of your peak season strategy to ensure things tick along as planned.
To help prepare your fulfilment team, keep them in the know about any special packaging and personalisation requirements, and ensure your marketing team is poised to shout about the great offers you’re running. Communication is vital during the peak season, so share your plans as far in advance as possible to ensure optimal staff and resource allocation.
Outsource Your Fulfilment During Peak Season
If you’re looking to make your order fulfilment more reliable, personalised, sustainable and streamlined, now is the time to consider outsourcing to a 3PL.
Entrusting fulfilment and delivery to an experienced, well-equipped partner like ILG will give you the peace of mind you need during the mad rush of the peak season. If you’d like to find out more about our fulfilment services, feel free to get in touch with us today.