Revolutions in next-day delivery, quick and easy returns, and greater accessibility to online marketplaces through mobile technology, now mean that shopping online is more convenient than ever. As the number of online consumers continues to rise, a cycle is emerging of significant sales peaks during both key online shopping events like Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day, and traditional bricks and mortar shopping periods like Black Friday, Valentines Day and Father’s Day.
These peaks present a huge opportunity to drive sales for online brands and retailers, particularly those operating in the gifting industry. But without the ability to effectively forecast, fulfil and manage stock during these busy periods, online retailers can open themselves up to long-lasting issues. Take, for example, Tile, manufacturers of ‘lost and found’ Bluetooth tracking devices which help people find lost things - the classic stocking filler for the person who’s always losing their keys. Tile also sits at a price point (under £20) which is great for gifting, so does really well at Christmas and Father’s Day. For Tile, making the most of peak periods is essential for business success, but it is a difficult cycle to manage. The logistics and staffing infrastructure needed to fulfil the high order volume at peak times are only needed temporarily. Therefore, maintaining these factors as an overhead for the rest of the year would mean the organisation is always just maintaining, not maximising through these periods.
Velocity’s services help brands like Tile ensure they can maximise the seasonal opportunities by implementing an effective marketing and sales fulfilment strategy during peak periods. To prepare for the heavy sales period, our first challenge is that Tile’s products are a new concept, not necessarily fitting easily into an existing product category. So, focussing the marketing strategy on driving understanding and awareness of the products by ensuring Tile listings on Amazon feature high quality, informative, detailed content is a crucial first step. Then, on top of this foundation of quality content, effective use of the promotion strategies available on Amazon through daily deals, is incredibly effective at capturing potential customers at POS during sales apexes.
Pricing strategies are a crucial consideration during peak periods. No brand has a crystal ball to perfectly predict sales, but effective forecasting can help brands meet demand, reduce excess stock, and make the maximum profit. Thorough logistical planning is also critical for when the sales do flood in and ensuring a slick fulfilment operation is crucial, due to the stringent fulfilment requirements in place by Amazon. Predicting seasonal sales trends is ever changing and is markedly different for each on-line and off-line channel. Being able to effectively predict sales requires experience in how seasonal curves differ between channels, for example it’s totally different on Amazon as it is to eBay. Velocity bases forecasts on experience and data, both specific to the channel, not just the product range and customer.
As with everything, preparation is key for managing and maximising sales. We always recommend making time for a pre-peak audit of all listings and channels to ensure that everything is up to date, and optimised for the occasion. For example, this is a good time to ensure product descriptions are accurate and include key search terms such as ‘stocking filler’ and ‘Christmas gift’, and are priced accordingly for the occasion. When effectively managed, big retail events can energise the market and deliver record breaking sales for brands. However, the value of this must be honestly balanced against the amount of time and people power required to manage the opportunity. It can be draining and detrimental to workforce morale for brands to tackle it alone. This is part of the reason where out-sourcing certain elements of the sales and fulfilment process is a winning strategy.
As we continue to see an “always on” approach to sales by online retailers shunning the traditional retail calendar, the interest in one-off major sales events appears to be diminishing. It’s likely we will always see a major shopping surge on Boxing Day as it’s part of the tradition of Christmas, but we are continuing to see online marketplaces increase their hold on convenience seeking shoppers by introducing more sales events all year round. It will be interesting to see whether Black Friday can hold its own in coming years, as more and more retailers work to outsmart the occasion by starting sales earlier, and offering deals for longer, or even in the case of eBay and Amazon Prime Day seeking to capitalise on competitor short-comings.