On peak form: Why 2020 is the year for agile online brands

A photograph of the exterior of James and James's new fulfillment centre

With everything feeling ‘a little up in the air’, it can be difficult to gauge what’s set to happen this peak. One thing’s for sure though, agility will be key.

In this post, we discuss what a COVID-19 peak season could look like for eCommerce retailers, and the opportunities for those agile, innovative brands in a year of unprecedented challenge.

What will Black Friday 2020 look like?

Door-busting, elbow-shoving, shelf-clearing. That’s the Black Friday mayhem of yesteryear, not Black Friday of 2020. The future of the biggest shopping discount day of the year remains unknown, but – it will still happen. For agile brands, it could be the most successful yet. 

Over the years we’ve seen Black Friday merge into one weekend-long event together with Cyber Monday. In 2019 was almost a month long. This year though, it is possible that it’ll become a much longer event, with online retailers thinking more about when the official launch of the Christmas holiday season will begin (seeing as consumers are set to start their Christmas shopping earlier this year). 

Whichever way it pans out, these discount day/s give consumers something to look forward to, something to be excited about. With a special deal added to cart, they feel smug and share their bargain buy news with friends.

And, as with any peak, pandemic or no pandemic, consumers will want reassurance that the items they’re buying online are actually available – not out of stock. One nifty aspect of ControlPort is the ‘earmarking’ of stock against orders as they’re taken, rather than when the product is picked and packed. This means orders won’t be accepted for stock that has already sold. Useful, especially for these peak sales periods.

New online players

James Hyde, CEO of James and James recently featured in Modern Retail (see pages 40-41), explaining why he believes the latter half of 2020 offers an unprecedented opportunity for agile online brands. He touched upon the facts of our ‘new reality’ and how lockdown triggered a major re-think of fulfillment operations.

Insight from numerous surveys tells us that retail continues to face a seismic shift to online sales, with many brick-and-mortar stores looking to boost the capacity of their fulfillment quickly to gain market share in this space. So, those who have already been leading the way and doing their usual thing in eCommerce have likely found new entrants on the scene, employing new tactics and new approaches.

With this in mind, eCommerce brands will need to consider doing things differently this year, not just in terms of product and price point, but customer service and experience. Now could be a good time to delve into communicating the social purpose of your brand, as 54% of global consumers feel honesty and authenticity is extremely important.

As you place more emphasis on your brand messaging and marketing, it might also be a good time to outsource your fulfillment to alleviate some of the pressure on your in-house resources.

Embrace the unknown 

Peak provides many unknowns this year, more so than previous years, and therefore many considerations for online retailers. You might be asking some or all of the following:

    • How will we differentiate our brand as consumers browse for sought-after Black Friday deals and Christmas gifts?
    • Will we be increasing the number of promotions we run and could this result in sharper peaks?
    • Will an extended peak make for a greater number of customer returns?
    • Do we need to consider new packaging?
    • Are our SKUs set to expand as we introduce new categories or product ranges?
    • Will we want to keep summer season product lines online for longer?

Then, thinking about your fulfillment operations specifically, you might be asking:

    • Do we have full visibility of our stock?
    • Are we prepared to deal with a high number of returns?
    • Do we have the physical space to house all of our additional products?
    • Do we have the right number of staff to pick and pack orders, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines?
    • Can we guarantee orders will reach customers the next day?

This is likely only scratching the surface of possible scenarios and considerations for your business. Fulfilling customer orders and keeping them happy, has to be a priority, especially as you may find brand new, in-store shoppers shopping with you for the first time. This is a perfect opportunity to wow them, from the moment they visit your website to the moment they open their door to a parcel. 

Seize the opportunity 

As a resilient and agile eCommerce business, you need a platform to rely on that delivers speed, real-time accuracy, and performance. This technology is your ammunition for providing the responsiveness that customers expect, and when you have this at your fingertips, there is opportunity to have a record-breaking peak.

Even in these unprecedented times, we continue to help online businesses tackle their most pressing fulfillment challenges. Read how we’ve supported our clients, Dope Ropes, Bare Conductive and Frau Green to optimize performance and how we’re working with them to adapt to our changing world.