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Peak Christmas shopping set for November, with most orders via mobile

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Peak Christmas shopping will come in November this year, with £20bn spent online in total, of which £10bn will be spent, in a record-breaking month for mobile, via smartphones – according to new predictions.

The month will also see the decline of the letter to Santa, according to ecommerce consultancy Salmon, which expects this year to be the first “significant” year for voice ordering, via channels such as the Amazon Echo.

Salmon’s prediction is based on calculations from its own data – which suggests that 51% of online orders made on Black Friday were via mobile – and that of trade association the IMRG, and with the assumption that online sales will grow at the same rate as they did in 2016. It also cites research suggesting that 45% of consumers already use or plan to soon use digital assistants – and that 20% of all searches are now made through voice.

Salmon is advising retailers to consider voice ordering in its peak operations strategy to cope with the increase in voice demand over the Christmas shopping period as children look set to turn to their Google Home or Amazon Echo for their Christmas lists.

James Webster, head of managed services at Salmon , said: “Black Friday is no longer about one single day, or week – it looks set to take over the whole month. Retailers have realised the opportunity it holds to create an ongoing experience that can help grow their customer base and loyalty, and so it is now an expectation. Even those retailers who do not want to participate in the peak trading phenomenon need to be prepared for it as shopping fever takes over and consumers scour online retailers even if they aren’t offering discounts.

“The retailers who manage their peak trading operations well will be the ones who have made plans across all departments, and ensured that their systems are able to function across all channels, making it a success for both customers and retailers alike.”

James Webster’s six tips for Black Friday logistics

Plan for more than just the day: Black Friday is no longer a day-long phenomenon. In fact, we expect the whole of November to be taken over with retailers creating sales events throughout the month.

Think about your international customers: In 2016 we saw a significant increase in international sales, which was seemingly due to Brexit and the depreciated value of Sterling against international currencies as it’s now more economical for overseas shoppers to buy from UK retailers.

Think about the channels your customers will be using: With consumers now using so many channels to research and shop for products, retailers will need to factor this into their peak operations. From desktop, to mobile to voice, all areas will need to be catered for so as to keep the customer journey fluid for shoppers.

Test, test, and test some more: For any online retailer during peak times, stress testing is of utmost importance if they are to deal with the wave of traffic coming in. By making sure stress-tests are taken well in advance, retailers can shore up performance during the peak.

Get your systems in position: The consumer desire for same and next-day delivery has put enormous stresses on companies’ fulfilment and operations systems, as inventory now has to be ready to be dispatched almost immediately after purchase. All elements need to work collectively and equally quickly for retailers to survive heavy loads during peak periods as if one slows, it could decelerate the whole process.

Team alignment: Communication is key. Departments across the business, from marketing, to the technical teams need to be fully briefed and aware of any peak trading plans. This includes making sure that the teams pricing and promotion strategies are consistent across online and offline channels, as conflicting information across channels is likely to confuse and lose customers.

For more information from Salmon on Black Friday and peak trading, see their Black Friday 2017 Ecommerce Operations Playbook.

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