Will this Christmas be the biggest for e-commerce yet?

Nigel Phillips
6 December, 21

It’s that time of year again; ‘tis almost the season to be jolly! The countdown to the festive season is well and truly on. Whilst many belt out songs about the most ‘wonderful’ time of the year, retailers will more suitably belt out that it’s the ‘busiest’ time of the year. The last 24 months have been a bit of a rollercoaster within the sector to say the least. As we’ve battled closures, supply chain disruptions, and Brexit implications, one aspect of retail has thrived. Online shopping looks to continue its lead-role on the retail stage. So, what do retailers need to remember to ensure a truly wonderful festive performance?

The early bird catches the worm

Good news for the industry is the prediction that we’re going to be significantly splashing more cash than usual this festive season. After all, who isn’t wanting to restore a more ‘normal’ Christmas after last year’s spent in a lockdown?

The public are craving the magic of Christmas, so much so that preparations have started early. A recent survey by Sitecore found that almost half of consumers are starting their shopping sooner than usual, with 27% admitting to having started already!

Lest we confuse preparations with panic buying; for starters, we’ve heard that phrase enough for a lifetime already! Last year, we were caught out by last-minute restrictions and impending lockdowns that threw plans to the wind and wreaked havoc on any chances of last-minute shopping. What’s more, the increasing occurrence of delivery delays is prompting consumers to anticipate product availability, promoting more proactive consumer behaviour as we enter the golden quarter.

An e-Commerce Christmas spirit

It’s no longer shocking news that online shopping has more than doubled its share of retail sales in recent months. What is shocking is Adobe’s discovery that Christmas Day (typically the biggest mobile shopping day in the year) 2020 accounted for over half of total revenue coming from smartphones alone. The exceptional acceleration of digital is expected to lend to a holiday season considerably dictated by e-commerce.

As we near one of the main events in the retail calendar, Black Friday (26th November), suppliers are arming themselves for record spikes in demand. Given the current fragile nature of supply chains, a lack of lorry drivers, and the ongoing fuel crisis, it’s imperative to be ready. Like, really ready.

Un-cancelling Christmas

There’s plenty of scare-mongering out there about a ‘cancelled Christmas’, but we don’t want to be a part of that narrative. Especially not where e-commerce is concerned!

Having suitable and secure storage of end products ready to be distributed to customers in timely, efficient manners is key. Many manufacturers lack such capacity, especially given present surges in calls for products. Outsourcing to a warehouse and logistics provider takes pressure of businesses to magic storage space and last-mile delivery solutions out of thin air.

Walking in a logistical wonderland

You won’t need us to remind you that finding solutions that are resilient is important. Taking it back to basics, storage facilities, like warehouses, need to be based in prime locations. For national couriers, that’s being smack-bang in the middle of motorway networks. For imports/exports by air, locations close to an airport.

Determining the extent of logistical operations is next. After all, what’s the use of paying to store your in-demand product if it’s going to be stuck on a shelf rather than on a customer’s doorstep? Distribution centres must be primed for the season’s mass activity levels. And tracking a products’ journey from the minute it enters a warehouse to the minute it’s out for delivery should no longer be a novelty. It should be standard.

Taking stock

Providing suppliers with transparent information about their orders in terms of stock levels and pre-empting any issues (and having tried and tested contingency plans) should be givens, too. Remember how the Royal Mail got overwhelmed last year? Us too. We’re all aware that Christmas is going to be a busy one, so get ahead to stay ahead.

Having a 360 view of stock levels is vital to ensuring equilibrium between the rate of manufacture and customer demand. One of retail’s biggest headaches is stock levels. Too little means customers’ needs aren’t met; too much leads to a whole can of financial worms. Real-time, reliable stock information allows for realistic supply forecasting. Inventory levels need to reflect real-time demand, especially significant in the face of offering Christmas stock sooner than usual.

As Christmas adverts steadily begin to stream through online, on the TV, and that person starts to play songs in the office, the inevitable excitement for the Christmas season begins. It’s certainly going to be a Christmas to remember; let’s make sure it’s for the right reasons.

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