Peak Season is coming, are you ready for it? Typically, e-commerce brands can expect a significant portion of their annual sales between November and December. This is your opportunity to capitalize but it’s also a time fraught with challenges. From getting your sales and marketing campaigns on-point through to handling supply chain issues, stock management and on-time fulfillment, there are a hundred things to think about.
So, this year, our aim is to help you de-stress the season a little with a series of Discover articles, playbooks and guides that will help you make the most of the period and keep your customer promises over the next few months.
First, let’s look at the key holiday dates which should be marked out in bold in your e-commerce calendar.
The Holiday Season, celebrated in most Christian countries, gets into full swing around the start of November (many stores will have been filling shelves with stock from mid-September onwards) and culminates around the 25th December (although a number of East European and African nations celebrate Christmas Day in early January). The yuletide period is a secular holiday celebrated in over 160 countries around the globe, offering an opportunity to reach cross-border markets from Armenia to New Zealand.
Singles’ Day first emerged in China in the 1990s and is now marked across the world. Every year it falls on Friday, November 11th, or 11/11 when written numerically – hence the term Singles Day. Its popularity – and sales potential – is growing. In the UK, for instance, sales on Singles’ Day hit £1.72 Bn in 20211. Obviously, the event is still most popular in China – where 828 million mobile customers joined the shopping carnival last year2. But in today’s world, celebrating singlehood – and treating oneself accordingly – is a sign of the times, despite the Global downturn.
Started in the US, this shopping event has become a global phenomenon. This year, Black Friday falls on November 25th, swiftly followed by Cyber Monday on the 28th. Originally, the big spending on Black Friday was a result of US shoppers taking the opportunity of the extra day’s vacation after Thanksgiving to hit the shops. Then, in 2005, the online shopping community saw the opportunity to get on board – and Cyber Monday was launched. Today, the weekend from Black Friday to Cyber Monday is an opportunity for online retailers of all sizes – and in all locations – to cash in with a few well-targeted discounts.
Following the success of Black Friday – especially for large global businesses – Small Business Saturday has been growing in popularity in the US and UK. This is typically a day for customers to patronize small local businesses in their communities – giving them a chance of competing with the ‘Big Players’ for a weekend. For SME online retailers, it’s a perfect opportunity to showcase their local roots and drive sales where authenticity, sustainability and community spirit still matter.
So called because this is the final Saturday before Christmas Eve – and when all those last-minute shoppers suddenly realize they can’t put off thinking about the big day any longer. Savvy shoppers also hold back until Panic Saturday to make their purchases in the expectation of deals, so a well-timed email from your brand with a special discount code will nudge them towards your store. The downside is the truncated delivery period available. Websites that can offer pre-holiday delivery on Super Saturday purchases are in a strong position.
Whilst the Peak Season is traditionally a lucrative time for e-commerce businesses, now more than ever there are a myriad of challenges to consider, too. Covid may be tailing off, but global trade is being rocked by the threat of nuclear war, record inflation and the subsequent impact on consumers’ budgets.
So, what are the key things your business should consider when planning its Peak Season campaign?
The global energy crisis and rising inflation is unsurprisingly impacting consumers’ budgets. In fact, 89% of shoppers expect inflation to affect their seasonal shopping this year3, and around 30% will start shopping earlier due to concerns around increasing prices4 – which means right now is the time to prepare your business and plan your sales strategy.
As consumers feel the pinch, they’re going to reign in their spending: 51% plan to purchase fewer holiday gifts this year5. Shoppers will spend more time researching products on platforms like Amazon and Google Shopping to compare prices and find the best deals. If you don’t already sell via an online marketplace, now may be a good time to start!
Furthermore, consumers will be hypersensitive to shipping costs and delivery fees – meaning brands should continue minimizing these for customers.
Inflation is driving up the cost of raw materials at a time when retailers need to be keeping the prices of goods as low as possible for budget-conscious customers. Brands will need to strategically consider where prices can be lowered without impacting their profit margins too much.
With forecasts predicting consumer demand for products will be toned down this holiday season, online brands need to watch their inventory closely, or risk having excess to shift in the new year. Supporting technology such as AI-driven demand forecasting will allow retailers to plan and adapt quickly to changes amidst tumultuous global conditions.
Inflation and the rise in the cost of living is causing industrial action amongst key workers within global supply chains. The need for online businesses to run agile supply chains and maintain close communication with suppliers has never been greater.
E-commerce has made consumers increasingly at ease with buying from cross-border sellers, presenting online retailers with lucrative growth opportunities. But it’s important to remember to research each market and adapt your sales and marketing strategies accordingly. For example, research by Criteo6 found that in the US, much of Europe and Brazil, Peak Season acquisition opportunities for brands are at their highest in early November and Black Friday, with the highest share of new buyers at that time.
Rising gas prices are impacting last-mile delivery costs for online businesses. Yet, free shipping continues to be a top incentive for shoppers – 66% expect it for all online orders and will abandon their carts if it’s not available7. Partnering with a leading logistics provider like DHL means you can continue offering your customers the most competitive shipping prices – even for international deliveries. Just remember to keep your customers up to date with frequent messages on your website about delivery cut-off times to ensure they get their orders completed in time for pre-Christmas delivery. They won’t be impressed if that holiday gift for that special someone arrives after the big day!
The Peak Season offers opportunities for business looking to channel into new markets around the world – and there’s still time to talk to the experts at DHL to help you find your next export sweet-spot. Most importantly, remember to swing back to Discover over the next few weeks to tap into our Peak Season Event guides. They could be the difference between having a happy holiday – or a very successful and prosperous one!