Surviving Christmas

shutterstock_230709589Asif Khetani, director of e-commerce at BT Expedite explains the simple ways UK retailers can prepare themselves for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales spike. 

2013 was the first time that UK shoppers truly experienced the discounted offers seen across the shores in the US on the day after Thanksgiving. Amazon UK certainly reaped the benefits, recording £4 million in sales on November 29, 2013. In addition to Black Friday, Cyber Monday has also remained one of the busiest annual shopping days. Cyber Monday helped the online retailer Amazon UK to £4.1 million sales.

However, retailers need to bear in mind that the “Cyber Weekend” is more than just a couple of days to see a higher spike in sales than usual. It is the genesis of the Christmas sales period. It is a time to ensure that they have the infrastructure in place to not only record huge number of sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but to also continue the increase in sales across the entire Christmas shopping period.

According to figures from BT Expedite for the majority of UK retailers Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not actually the busiest online shopping days. In 2013, retailers experienced the highest volume of Christmas orders on the December 1, the Saturday in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – which was also the last pay day before Christmas. This shows how important it is for retailers to be prepared for spikes in traffic all though out the holiday season, and not just in line with specific, predetermined shopping days.

Days with huge sales spikes, not just limited to Cyber Monday, have been fraught with issues for online retailers who have been caught unawares. This has included slow page loading times, to poor tablet and mobile experiences. Perhaps the most damaging is some cases of delayed deliveries.

Customers in the UK, and across the globe, don’t just want great deals, they want great experiences. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, they need great experiences to keep them coming back. Customers are not as brand loyal as they may have been in the past, these problems can cause serious damage with customers choosing to shop elsewhere and usually with a competing retailer.

It is therefore imperative for retailers to have a stable e-commerce platform that will support a big jump in traffic. This is also vital for any retailer looking to run Christmas campaigns based on online pricing or gifting promotions or event one day flash sales that will encourage the bargain hunting Christmas shopper to snap up a bargain online. In addition, and as a result of this, it is vital that the retailer has a network that can react to a big jump in orders that need to be shipped in a timely manner.

One of the biggest mistakes that a retailer can make over the Christmas period is having disjointed communications with suppliers or in-house teams around critical issues such as logistics and fulfilment. This can delay or prevent orders getting shipped out to customers.

If there is one vital piece of advice that the team at BT Expedite could give to retailers across the UK, it would be to have a solid network underpinning a stable e-commerce platform. This will allow retailers to communicate quickly and effectively with key parties: collaborate with suppliers and logistics providers, and the customer. In this way, retailers can offer customers not just the best deals, but the best shopping experiences. Ultimately, it will ensure that the retailer really ensures that they receive the biggest slice of the Christmas shopping pie.