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Preparing for the winter sales peak: The key to success

Festive order fulfilment

The winter sales season is an exciting time for retailers. It’s a chance to increase revenue and gain new customers but it can be a double-edged sword.

The transition into autumn and winter brings with it the much-anticipated “golden quarter” of sales, starting in October and extending through the end of December. Encompassing major shopping events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season, customers are on the lookout for great deals, which retailers hope will translate into a substantial increase in online orders.

The golden quarter offers a lucrative opportunity to boost sales volumes and clear out inventory before the year-end, but there are a number of questions and challenges which can be intimidating.

Online retailers must navigate through fierce competition, manage inventory effectively, and deal with the logistical stress of fulfilling orders promptly. On top of this, the pressure to develop a pricing and promotions strategy that aligns with customer expectations while still turning a profit can be daunting.

In recent years, it’s clear that consumer behaviour has changed significantly with many people now preferring the convenience of online shopping whilst also being more cautious with their purchasing decisions.

But this is where the exciting aspect of the winter sales period lies. It allows you to showcase your unique offerings to a wider audience, attract new customers, and build brand loyalty.

There’s no time like the present

Start preparing now. One of the best ways to prepare is to assess your previous performance during the last year and use the data to determine what worked and what didn’t work, let it inform how you operate this season.

It’s no secret that with growing demand and sales comes an increase in fulfilment and shipping. You’ll need to maintain a strong supply chain to streamline the shipping process for your customers. In fact, research shows that 69% of customers are less likely to shop with a retailer in the future if a purchase is not delivered within two days of the estimated delivery date.

Consider how you can optimise your logistics operations, or whether you need to hire seasonal staff in preparation. Having a reliable partner takes some of the stress off so that you can focus on other important aspects of your business, like marketing and bookkeeping.

Taking stock

One of the biggest challenges in preparation for peak season is creating space for increased inventory levels – 73% of retailers say that they still struggle with inventory demand forecasting.

By starting preparation as early as possible  it’s much easier to consider how much product you need to meet customer demand during the peak season based on last year, and create enough space to store it. You can not only meet the needs of your customers, but you can also save paying high prices at a time when demand is high.

Accurate forecasting and budgeting are crucial for managing stock levels effectively. Data-driven insights and historical analysis, will allow you to make informed forecasts and allocate resources wisely.

Maintaining the right level of inventory is essential for meeting customer expectations and reducing costs, being able to monitor stock levels in real-time and make fact-based decisions will allow you to do this.

Getting return ready

Post-holiday returns can have a huge impact on operational speed and profits, but inevitably with an increase in sales comes an increase in returns.

30% of all goods purchased are returned, and consumers expect the returns process to be as seamless as the purchase process. By automating the returns process you can give customers an on demand status of their return and keep your inventory management system automatically updated – all while keeping the costs incurred to a minimum.

Preparing for the winter sales peak is crucial in today’s competitive landscape – if you get the returns experience right 92% of customers will return to buy again.

Christmas and beyond

While it’s important to focus on the immediate sales peak during the winter holidays and Black Friday, forward-thinking businesses should also consider the aftermath.

The January sales offer a significant opportunity to capitalise on post-holiday spending and returned merchandise. By ensuring you have enough stock, efficient order fulfilment processes, and well-timed promotions, you can continue to make sales well into the new year.

Whilst we all know that promotions are a key strategy for boosting sales as the winter peak dips, it’s worth remembering this doesn’t have to be complicated. Perhaps instead of reducing the price of certain items, you could offer a bundle deal or free shipping – in fact, 45.6% of customers claim they are more likely to buy from online retailers if free shipping is an option.

Automation can also simplify the process of promotions – implementing and tracking them for you to make sure they reach your customers at the right time.

So if you’re gearing up for the winter sales season, remember that while challenges may arise, so do endless possibilities. Embrace the excitement that comes with the golden quarter, and use it as a chance to showcase your business’s true potential. With careful planning, and a keen eye for customer preferences, you can transform winter sales into a resounding success.

Looking for more ways to keep your customers happy over the festive season? Explore our latest resource hub >