by Robert Victor Robert Victor
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) may be months away, but e-commerce businesses can’t risk falling behind in their planning for the biggest sales weekend of the year. In 2018 alone, Black Friday saw $6.2 billion in revenue, while Cyber Monday shattered records with $7.9 billion in revenue.

Both of these numbers ignore the staggering $3.7 billion in revenue hauled in on Thanksgiving Day.

Sales don’t increase each year by accident. Major businesses are adept at planning ahead, ensuring their sites are streamlined for quick sales and devoting enough resources to prevent slow or crashing websites.

Revenue for Black Friday versus Cyber Monday

Before the weekend begins, your business should:

  • Have your website ready to go.
  • Create a marketing plan that targets shoppers through email and online advertising.
  • Set key performance indicators (KPIs) and have a plan to reach them.

But planning the marketing and goals of your BFCM campaign is only part of the battle. How are you going to fulfill sales during the busiest time of the year for sales and shipping? How will your supply chain react to the sudden increase in activity — and the subsequent drop?

To run a successful BFCM campaign, your business needs to work with its third-party logistics (3PL) provider to create an end-to-end plan.

Conduct Demand Forecasting

Before you offer mind-boggling deals or start carrying the hottest item of the year, you’ll want to get an idea of how many sales you can expect to generate.

Demand forecasting is the process of predicting what shoppers will demand, telling you what should be supplied. Multiple forms of demand forecasting exist, from seasonal planning to trend analysis. Of course, seasonal forecasting is easy; you’re preparing for BFCM, after all! But exactly how much of a material or good you should carry is the key.

It may sound difficult, but demand forecasting tools are typically available in most supply chain management software (SCMS). Your 3PL should be conducting demand forecasts to find the perfect levels of goods you should be carrying and preparing to sell.

Prepare to Scale

E-commerce businesses rarely experience smooth, steady growth. Spikes in sales occur seasonally, and the holiday season accounts for at least 25% of all online sales. Is your business ready to handle that huge increase in sales?

Businesses know that they need to scale up during busy times, but doing so is easier said than done — one reason why outsourcing supply chain operations can be a huge money saver.

Prepare your business to start scaling early, too. Nearly half of BFCM shoppers start planning their shopping as early as October, so they’re ready to buy once the deals begin.

Offer Incredible Deals

No BFCM campaign would be a success without crazy deals! Your business will have an idea of how to price goods to remain competitive without sacrificing the bottom line. But BFCM is much more than just low-cost items.

Shipping Deals

Shipping and delivery continue to be a dominant factor in customer satisfaction. According to a 2018 survey, 78% of BFCM shoppers were more likely to purchase a gift that offered same-day delivery, and 92% of shoppers expressed the importance of on-time deliveries.

Timely shipping isn’t the only factor to consider. According to Salesforce, 85% of the 2019 BFCM orders they tracked had free shipping.

Your supply chain needs to be ready to offer fast, free shipping to remain competitive. Scaling up, getting more warehouse space, and increasing warehouse and fleet workers are all critical at this time of year.

Sales Deals

Your supply chain and what’s readily available could help determine some of your sales deals. Existing inventory that has been sitting in a warehouse costs money, and selling it at an incredibly low price could be more cost-effective than continuing to hold on to it.

Make an Effort With Customer Service

Yes, you should always be making an effort with customer service, but BFCM is a hectic time, and keeping up with each customer request can be overwhelming.

However, this is the most important time of the year for customer service. Most businesses will see large sales spikes during this time, involving both new and existing customers. Making them happy can mean consistently higher sales from growing your customer base.

One effective way your business can address customer service is via social media. The majority of consumers have communicated with a brand via social media, so having a constant presence interacting with customers can have a profound effect.

Your supply chain, from shipping to distribution, will also represent your business for better or for worse. Pick a 3PL that has a record of delivering on their promises, or you may risk losing future customers.

[Download Infographic: An Essential Guide to Order Fulfillment]

Automate Everything You Can

The less you have to focus on, the better.

Optimize your supply chain to automate everything you can. For example, automating warehouses reduces the number of times any stocked items are touched. Every time an item is touched, the risk of damaging or losing the item increases. Automation saves time and decreases this potential risk.

Plan Beyond BFCM

BFCM may be the busiest time of the year, but it only lasts a few days. Preparing for sales throughout December and the inevitable change of pace that comes with the New Year is just as important as planning for BFCM.

Scaling Back

Just as you scaled up during BFCM, you’ll need to scale back once the record-setting time of year is over.

Scaling back, when done correctly, should be relatively easy. This involves reducing warehouse stock, cutting seasonal workers, and anticipating sales for the coming months.

With a 3PL, most of the factors involved in scaling — such as warehouses and workers — won’t be your problem to deal with. Having a partner that scales well can bring your costs down to where they need to be.

Dealing With Returns

The unfortunate reality of BFCM — and the holiday season as a whole — is that returns will happen. Reverse logistics isn’t fun for businesses or consumers, but ignoring this step could push potential return buyers away.

Reverse logistics is an essential part of a successful supply chain. This wide-ranging field includes:

  • Returns
  • Repairs
  • Recycling
  • Refurbishing

Outsourcing reverse logistics is an excellent way to reduce stress. After all, you may be a little fatigued after working through the busiest time of the year!

[Related: Guide to Reverse Logistics]

Prepare For More Sales

You’ve offered low prices and incredible shipping deals, and you’ve engaged with customers online and fulfilled their returns. What’s next?

When done well, all of these factors can have a hugely positive impact on customers. With any luck, some of them will become repeat shoppers, increasing your nonseasonal revenue.

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