Peak Season is fast approaching and, for many web shops, the fourth quarter is the most lucrative period of the year. Some shops see an increase of up to 30% of their annual turnover just in these last few months. 

Success This Peak Season: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

plan for peak season

What’s key to this influx in orders is the many “special events” that happen in the world of retail and ecommerce. These events are perfect marketing opportunities to increase your sales and, therefore, happy customers. 

But fail to prepare and this season could become more of a nightmare than a joy. From end of year parties to last minute Christmas shopping, orders can come flying in, resulting in chaotic shipping, stock selling out, and even issues with your website.  

Below, find our complete guide to tackling the Peak Season 2019, including: 

Key Dates: Holidays, Sales and Key Events

The following dates are vital to take advantage of the Peak Season, ensuring to make plans and act on time. 

Halloween – 31st of October 2019

plan for halloween ecommerce

Although an American holiday, Halloween is still popular for many across Europe. From kids dressing up as their favourite characters, to late-night student events, or freaky movie nights at home, more and more people are joining in the fun. 

This means – whether you sell specific spooky stuff or not – the opportunities for sales increase during this time. 

Take advantage of the fun spirits with a clear marketing strategy. Targeted email marketing or social campaigns can help generate brand awareness, with special “spooky sales” helping push people towards the Checkout. 

Singles Day – 11th of November

“Treat Yourself” is quickly becoming a household phrase, and China’s “Singles Day” certainly uses this mantra to its advantage. 

Starting as a student-led celebration of being single, the event has now grown into a month-long shopping spree that peaks on the day itself. It has become known as the event where you can spoil yourself with a gift (or gifts!), no matter your relationship status. 

Singles Day doesn’t just benefit your sales, but can help alleviate the strain from Black Friday/Cyber Monday by stretching the sale season earlier into November. With a month of deals – rather than just one weekend – retailers can have a better chance of smoother, more efficient delivery. 

Black Friday & Cyber Monday – 29th of November & 2nd of December

plan for black friday sale

Most famous for crazed shoppers fighting over the last heavily discounted TVs or prized designer shoes, Black Friday is a tradition we all know of from America. 

Starting straight after Thanksgiving, Black Friday originated in retail stores in the US. But as more and more people wanted to avoid the craze of the shops, Ecommerce clocked on that they could also join the party, with Cyber Monday being born as the digital successor.

Now, most online retailers join the event as one long weekend of sales to shift stock before the Christmas period.

Ensure to communicate promotions and deals with plenty of time. As consumers now expect Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many begin doing exploratory research in anticipation of the sale start.

Though, Last-Minute deals can also prove very successful. Make sure you save these for your best deals that will grab the attention of your customers and push them to the Checkout. 

Free Shipping Day – 14th of December

Last minute Christmas shopping used to mean dashing down to the stores on Christmas Eve, frantically searching the empty shelves in a last attempt to find a gift. 

Now, consumers have clued in that it’s easy to do last minute gift shopping online, alleviating a lot of stress. 

On average, consumers will most likely be shopping for their gifts online 10 days before Christmas, and this is where Free Shipping Day was born. 

Use this to your advantage with a targeted email or promotional campaign that triggers your customers into action with ordering their Christmas gifts. 

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day – 24th & 25th of December

plan for christmas period

Arguably the biggest holiday of the year, it’s also the biggest holiday for purchases. From the celebrations with food, decorations, and party attire, to the mass of gifts being given, the opportunity for selling online in the lead up to Christmas is huge. 

It goes without saying, being prepared is essential. 

Shipping can become one of the most problematic issues during this time, particularly due to the large influx of orders. Clearly communicating delivery times is one of the most important things to do to avoid disappointed customers if they don’t receive their order in time. 

Ensure your warehouse and logistics process is running smoothly, and that nothing will prevent you from shipping the packages efficiently and on time. 

It can even be beneficial to hire temporary Christmas staff to ensure all orders are packaged and dispatched on time to meet your delivery goals. 

Want to optimize and streamline your shipping process before Christmas hits? Check out our How-It-Works page to learn how! 

After-Christmas Sales 

Starting as early as the 26th of December, the after-Christmas sales are another tradition that started in physical stores but has transcended to the online world. 

Although still shy of bringing in as much revenue as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the after-Christmas sales are still super important, and an opportunity to bring in further orders, particularly of winter stock that needs to be shifted. 

Be careful to ensure you fully prepare for this period in advance. Don’t let Christmas overshadow these sales and leave it to the last minute, particularly as staff may be going on annual leave for the holiday period. 

15 Tips to Prepare for The Peak

Prepare for Peak SeasonIt’s without a doubt that, no matter what you sell, you will see an increase in orders during this period. 

Read below for 15 of our top tips to help prepare for the upcoming influx of Peak Period. 

Budget and Stock

If you really want to make this Peak Season a success, ensure to strategically plan in advance. This is particularly crucial for your budgeting and stock. 

1: Determine Budget in Advance

budget for peak season

To ensure you do not waste large amounts, make sure to think about a budget in advance for the Peak Season. 

It is wise to think about what you want to spend on marketing. Consider what discounts you will activate, what days they will be valid and what money you want to spend on spreading the message for these promotions. 

Historical data can be extra valuable in this instance. Make predictions for what you need to spend based on this data so that you know roughly what budget will be worth putting forward to decrease the amount of risk involved. 

2: Avoid Out-of-Stock 

Especially for the holiday period, it’s crucial to ensure you don’t run out of stock. Customers won’t be happy if they purchase something on your site that isn’t in stock in your warehouse – and Christmas won’t wait an extra week for you to get the item to them. 

Ensure your stock data links with your website effectively to avoid this tricky situation. When the last of an item is sold, ensure this is updated on the website instantly to avoid anyone else purchasing the item. 

Marketing & Automation

3: Running Smoothly

It doesn’t matter how nice your homepage and product pages look if your back-end isn’t healthy and running smoothly. 

Ensure all plugins are up-to-date and working well together, and make sure your server can handle a big increase in traffic and activity. 

A top tip is to reduce your image formats and to install a caching plugin to help your site cope and run without issues for your users. 

4: Mobile Optimisation

peak season optimisation

A vast amount of consumers are already shopping via their mobile, with approximately half of all website traffic coming in via phones. 

If your website doesn’t display optimally or loads slowly then there is a high chance your users will bounce right onto your competitor’s site. 

Make sure to spend time putting effort to ensuring your website works just as well on a mobile device, and your users will have an easy and enjoyable experience. 

Top tip: install an extension to view your site as if on a mobile on your desktop browser so you can keep working on the computer, but optimise for mobile. 

5: Marketing Strategy 

With the amount of “Special Events” happening in the world of ecommerce, you will need to compete for the attention of consumers and get them to your site. 

Create a clear strategy driven by the channels you know will help you attract visitors to your webshop, and going back to Tip #1 – decide what budget will be available for this. 

6: Broaden Your Channels

Although your proven channels to advertise and promote your store get traffic to your doors, make sure to try new avenues to see how to broaden your approach. 

Digital marketing strategies are ever evolving, from influencers, online publications and advertorials, partnerships and collaborations. So don’t forget to make time to try something new this Peak Season. 

7: Keep Them Coming For More

optimise checkout process

Customers today are very picky. They almost never buy on the first visit to a new webshop and dropping out of the shopping cart is common. 

To have visitors return, a good re-marketing strategy can help. 

Use targeted ads or email marketing to grab people’s attention and make them come back. Just be careful not to spam users, which can have the opposite effect and turn them away from your brand for good. 

Outstanding Service

It doesn’t matter how attractive your communication strategy and website are if your service isn’t up to scratch. Bad experiences can damage your reputation with social media and review sites a platform where customers can easily share and report their opinions. 

Make sure your base services are in order before spending money and time on extravagant marketing plans or brand schemes. The most important things to consider are; shipping, stock and product quality, data, customer service and website efficiency and UX. 

8: Sufficient Staff

No matter how hard you work, if you don’t have enough hands, it can become impossible to finish orders on time. 

It is advisable to use your historical data and make the best estimated guesses at how much man-power you will need to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

If necessary, you can still hire last minute temporary employees, but it is advisable to make sure you have the temporary cover sorted in advance to ensure proper training before the influx begins. 

temporary staff

9: Customer Service

Arguably one of the most important parts of an online store, and it is vital to make sure your company is reachable for those customers worried about their Christmas gifts arriving in time. 

Make sure you have enough staff covering your customer service, and ensure everyone is ready with the relevant information like current sales and promotions, changed delivery times, and stock updates. 

Efficient Shipping 

Getting your orders to the customer on time and without issues is what it’s all about. But this can become a challenge during peak period, especially if you’re not prepared for the influx. 

10: Communicate Shipping Deadlines

It’s often that during the holiday times, delivery times are altered. However, there’s also a “need” to receive packages from the customers, particularly near Christmas. 

Therefore, it’s important to clearly state and make sure customers know about the delivery times, and the realistic expectations for their packages. 

Top Tip: make sure to share the Christmas delivery times – including the cut off point for Xmas delivery – on social media. The urgency can trigger people to get ordering!

11: Shipping & Payment Options

One of the most common reasons for users to leave the shopping cart without completing the order is insufficient delivery and payment options. 

Make sure you offer enough choice, especially during the holidays. Offering a variety of options can allow anxious gift buyers time the time to order the things they need and receive it in time. 

And don’t forget offering collection points can alleviate pressure on carriers but also offer customers flexibility to collect their package on their schedule. 

Learn how you can optimise and streamline your shipping process with our How-It-Works page. Sign up for free in less than 5 minutes and see how Sendcloud can help you automate your shipping. 

optimise shipping process

12: Free Delivery

Free Delivery is a clear conversion booster, especially on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday and when offered as a special deal excites users to order. 

Of course, you need to decide whether it’s possible to organise. Consider carefully what effect on your margin it can have before you communicate it to avoid any nasty surprises. 

A popular option is to offer Free Delivery when a customer orders over a certain amount. This can help push customers to add an extra item to your basket if they’re close to the threshold when ordering.

13: Automated Shipping

Working smarter, not harder, is the key. Sendcloud aims to help drive efficiency, helping you pick and pack orders with tracking notifications and returns. 

By automating these processes you not only work faster, but you also prevent unnecessary errors. And you certainly want to avoid those during the holiday season when things will already be stressful! 

Look Back to Help The Future

In all the chaos of the Peak Season, it’s easy to muddle through and just make it to the end. But follow the last two tips to help you take a step back, reflect, and prepare for the next year’s Peak Season. 

14: Keep Hold of New Customers

There is a good chance that you will attract new customers from the Peak Season. If you don’t think about this in advance, they probably won’t return. 

Keep them coming back by setting up automatic follow-up emails. 

A great example is, after their first purchase, send a welcome email with more information about your return policy or new products. What is even more attractive would be to share a promotion for their next order with the store. 

15: Data is King

Although it might seem tempting to get stuck into the New Year and leave the chaos of the Peak Period behind, but don’t close the doors on it just yet. 

Use Google Analytics – and any other tools you have access to – to really dive into what worked well and what didn’t go so smoothly for your store over the busiest period of the year. 

You can even try to ask your customers who ordered during this time to give feedback. 

All this can help your webshop grow, as well as give you a clearer objective and strategy for next year’s Peak! 

Bonus: 8 Conversion-Increasing Tools for Peak Season

sendcloud shipping software

There’s two ways to get more customers during Peak Season: increase visitor traffic substantially while retaining the same conversion rate, OR turn more of current visitor traffic into paying customers by increasing the conversion rate. 

The second tactic can be crucial during the sales and special events. Read on for our 8 must-have tools to help you increase your conversion automatically. 

1: Exit Intent Pop-Up

Visitors who leave your webshop without buying anything can still be “saved”. An Exit Intent Pop-Up recognizes when a visitor wants to leave your webshop and will generate a pop-up. 

You can currently offer your visitors a discount code, free shipping or other promotions to persuade them to purchase. 

But you can also use it to try to collect email addresses and approach visitors later. 

Wheelio Plugin

Some good examples of this type of plugin are: 

  • Privy: various shop systems (free basic version) 
  • Wheelio: interactive software that allows people to spin a predetermined wheel of fortune (subscription) 
  • Optinmonk: complete exit intent software (subscription) 

2: Countdown Timer

Urgency increases conversion because you force people to make a decision. 

Visitors often leave your webshop because they want to think or search further. By letting shoppers know that there is a chance that they will miss out on the product due to low stock availability or a particular promotion will expire, you can push them towards making a purchase. 

Some good plugins for this: 

3: Coupon Codes

Discounts almost always work well, but they can be even more effective if people feel they are getting something special. 

After a user spends a certain amount of time on the site, show a pop-up that offers a special code for something like free shipping or a free gift at checkout. 

A small gesture can already provide a big boost in the number of conversions. Example plugins that can help with this are: 

  • Privy: various shop systems (free basic version) 
  • Powr: various shop systems (free basic version) 
  • Optinmonk: various shop systems (subscription costs)
  • Popupmaker: WooCommerce (free basic version) 

4: Retargeting Ads

It is cheaper to get returning visitors back to your store and convert that to attract new ones. This also helps strengthen the bond to the brand, especially with returning customers. 

Attracting returning visitors can also be extra valuable during the sales and special events where you can persuade them with a discount code or promotion. 

With the help of retargeting campaigns you can persuade people relatively cheaply to order from you (again!). Plugins you can use for this are: 

5: Sales Pop-Up 

On the high-street, it’s clear for people to see which stores are popular by the bags in people’s hands. Online, it’s not so easy to identify which webstores are trustworthy. 

As a webstore, you can use social proof to solve this. A good example is the pop-ups that demonstrate which products are currently being purchased. 

purchasing popupThis can have a major positive influence on the subconscious of the webshop visitors. Top example plugins are: 

  • FOMO: various platform integrations (subscription costs) 
  • Beeketing: various platforms (free) 

6:  Cart Reminder

As more and more people order via their mobile phone, abandoned shopping carts are an increasing frustration. Users can become distracted even faster by a message or notification. 

By sending visitors a shopping cart reminder, you increase the chance that they will come back to you. This can be done by mail or with a pop-up. Use the following plugins: 

cart reminder marketing

7: Personalised Suggestions

Sometimes people need a little help in making a choice, especially when you have a large assortment. If users are overwhelmed making their selection, chances are they will leave the webstore. 

You can help them by showing related products or by making personalised offers based on search behaviour and purchase history. 

It’s also advised to make sure you spend time on the organisation and categorisation of your products to ensure easy navigation so users can find what they want quickly and effectively. 

This is especially important during sales and promotions as less margin will mean it is key to sell multiple products to one customer. Plugins that can help with this are: 

  • Beeketing: various shop systems (Payment based on usage) 
  • Nosto: various shop systems (payment based on usage) 

8: Wishlist

SWYM_Wishlist

Consumers now expect more and more promotions towards the end of the year – they’re even excited for it! Help you visitors by giving them the option to create a wish list. 

This gives you insight into what products they are interested in. You can send them a fun promotion for those products, or even just a free shipping coupon to push them into the checkout. 

Plugins that can help with this are: 

  • YITH: WooCommerce (free basic version) 
  • Swym: Shopify (free basic version) 

Ready for the Peak Season 2019?

ready for peak season 2019

We wish you a lot of success with upcoming Peak Season and hope the above tips will help. 

The e-commerce Peak Season is the period that, if you prepare, you can get a lot of orders and a lot of happy customers. 

Do you want to automate the most time-consuming process and improve efficiency by up to 300%? In just a few minutes you can link your webshop(s) and marketplaces, starting with smarter, easier and faster shipping! 

Create a free Sendcloud account, add your own shipping contracts or choose from the different carriers via the portal, and return control over shipping back to you. 

And if you have any more tips for tackling Peak Season, feel free to comment below and share with others.  

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