Peak Planning Guide - Your Essential Guide to the Festive Season

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UK retailers can look forward to a second spike in online shopping this Christmas, a fortnight after the Cyber Week period, according to a new study* released by Radial today to help UK retailers boost sales this festive season. 

Last year, UK shoppers spent an estimated £17.4bn online during the Christmas period, accounting for 23.4% of all Christmas spending**, and the prize looks set to be even larger this year. Whilst the so-called ‘Cyber Week’ period of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is typically the single biggest revenue driver of the Christmas period, Radial’s ‘Peak Preparedness’ report identified a second ‘peak week’ in the run-up to Christmas 2014 that had a much higher shopper conversion rate. Radial’s data shows a 30% average growth year on year for October – December over the past three years. Furthermore, Cyber Week sales have peaked dramatically, showing sales figures which are more than 200% that of an average October – December week. 

According to the report, online conversion rates in this second peak period were 74% higher than the average Christmas period rate in 2014. 

Commenting on the study’s findings, Enda Breslin, European Head of Business Development, Radial said, “Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now firmly established on the UK calendar and every retailer plans for them, but our ‘Peak Preparedness’ guide shows another lucrative opportunity for retailers in mid-December. Conversion rates are higher at this point in the Christmas cycle because shoppers are much more focused; they have already researched their likely purchases and shopped around. Savvy retailers should be primed to cash in on this.”

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday seeing online sales volumes of nearly quadruple the average Christmas period day last year, Radial’s report also pinpoints the times of day that saw the biggest surges. 

Whilst Black Friday 2014 saw an early morning peak of online traffic and sales between 7am – 10am, Cyber Monday also saw an online evening peak between 7 – 10pm as last-minute shoppers tried to bag a bargain. 

“This last-minute rush presents a big opportunity for retailers to drive Cyber Monday sales online by promoting any remaining deals and targeting abandoned baskets from earlier in the weekend. Equally retailers should think about their presence throughout the day – targeting messages different by time of day and making the most of the early morning peak,” said Breslin.

“The Christmas period remains the ‘make or break’ time for UK retail. Last year a number of retailers were flawed by the unprecedented demand, which put a considerable strain on supply chains and customer service channels. Learning from last year, preparation is key,” he added. 

 

To help retailers get their operations ready for these peak points, Radial released the following tips:

1. Establish a cross-departmental team dedicated to Christmas: this should be step one in any Christmas planning as Christmas involves all teams – from retail to accounts. All teams should be represented in a cross-departmental committee and performance metrics, areas of ownership and communication strategies agreed in advance. This will prevent miscommunication amongst teams with different priorities and eliminate internal issues. 

2. Get web ready: the short, sharp spikes in visitor numbers and associated transactions put a huge burden on systems that are usually built for handling much lower demand.  Cloud-based networking can provide retailers with excess capacity to handle such large fluctuations without heavy investments in infrastructure.  Similarly, payment and fraud processing systems must be built to cope with peak demand – failure on back-end systems ultimately result in lost customers.

3. Deliver on time: we advise retailers to work closely with carriers to ensure that they are able to cope with expected volumes and clearly understand performance expectations.  Working with multiple carriers is a smart decision to mitigate against such risks.  Similarly, monitoring carrier performance and listening to feedback is essential.  The carrier network has finite capacity, so a reliable two-day delivery service may become a 2-3 day service.  Whilst this isn’t ideal, knowing it in advance allows you to set clearer expectations with customers both at the stage they place their order and through order confirmation emails.

4. The store network: those with a store network and omnichannel fulfilment options (such as click-and-collect and ship-from-store) are in an enviable position. Such assets helped retailers in 2014 to maintain home delivery options through local carrier based ship-from-store services and relieved the delivery burden by enabling in-store stock for customer collection.

5. Customer Care: the final line of defence, and a key asset to solve issues for unhappy customers.  Just as cloud networking provides flexible capacity for websites, out-sourced overflow customer care services increases your capacity when needed most.  One key facet often missed by retailers is outward communication – if there are delays in the service they should be communicated to customers through email, website messaging, social media, and even automated IVR telephone line messaging. 

 

Download our full report to get an in-depth understanding of the online trends experienced over the past three years, and how to prepare your business to be a success this festive season

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