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Editor’s comment: Doing it by the numbers


Two zero four. 204 days, that is. Until Friday 27 November. I shan’t call it by its other name, not just yet anyway. In terms of planning, it’s all over bar the screaming and shouting, according to most people I’ve talked to recently. And there will be screaming and shouting.
With the next edition of eDelivery Magazine due out imminently, I’ve been reflecting on an article from the first edition, which came out back in February, in the almost-aftermath of the Black Friday / Christmas peak. It has also chimed with something else that has been uppermost in my thoughts lately – the importance of data.

One of the unintended consequences of Black Friday 2014 was the diminution of a Christmas sales uptick. In fact, according to data from CapGemini and IMRG, UK shoppers spent just 5% more in December 2014 than they did in 2013. Why? Because almost one fifth of online Christmas shopping was done over the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend.

Other numbers that caught my eye while catching up on the eDelivery back-issue included:

  • 70% of UK e-retailers ran promotions over the Black Friday weekend with sales up by 180%
  • Parcel volumes over the Black Friday weekend increased by 30% above the expected level
  • Even those retailers that didn’t run promotions enjoyed the halo effect with sales increasing by 24%

You’ll find that article here.

Once you throw into the mix the expected 1 billion parcels some people think the UK retail sector will ship, stir in a little greater public awareness thanks to last year’s publicity, and then add the potential for heightened anxiety about Christmas presents that fail to materialise, and you don’t exactly have a recipe for a fun and frolic filled festive period.

Some described last year’s peak as a tsunami. It’s not a bad analogy. Volumes were sucked out of the industry by a public waiting to shop when the prices drop, after which there was an almighty inpouring of orders.

Sticking with that analogy, what’s needed now is a tsunami early warning system. Surely.

And just like the real thing, except of course that one saves actual lives from genuinely terrifying natural disasters, it would need to be built on data.

This is a theme I’ve explored in a piece I’ve recently penned for eDelivery’s big sister, InternetRetailing. It’s not out yet, but I’ll let you know when it is.

Last year’s numbers turned out to be so huge that they created their own special gravitational pull. This year we’ve already seen predictions from IMRG of more parcels, more online sales, and the increasing need to hit high first-time delivery rates.

Those predicted bigger numbers don’t – because they can’t – take into consideration what might happen as a result of even more people saving up for a big Black Friday splash, followed by a tame Christmas. Getting caught out will be all too easy. If volumes dry up you’ll still have wages and bills to pay. When you get swamped, are you going to be throwing money at the problem in an attempt to make it go away? I’m afraid I don’t the answer to that.

But I do have an inkling of where you should be looking to find the answers – they’re in the numbers, you’ve just got to look for them.

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