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Preparing for the challenges of Black Friday

Online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday have increased tremendously during the last couple of years. This sales peak is getting more and more important, not only for retailers but also for e-tailers, and not only in the US market – where it all started – but worldwide.

 

At the Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham in late April, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the topic of discussion in several of the seminars. Especially for logistics and customer service managers, it has become increasingly important to plan how to handle this sales peak.

 

In the seminar “Black Friday Post-Mortem”, John Munnely, head of Operations at John Lewis, shared his experience about how supply and distribution must be aligned and prepared for fluctuations in buying behavior.

 

Handling Black Friday

diagram of online sales at John Lewis from 2012 to 2016

Photo: author

Higher e-commerce sales at John Lewis were first observed on Black Friday 2013, see photo. In 2014, there was a real boom. As Black Friday is now here to stay, it’s essential to have a clear strategy for how to handle all the challenges associated with it, said John Munnely. And not only from a sales perspective, but also with regards to warehouse and distribution capacity, as well as taking account of customer satisfaction. It’s important to analyze how much capacity you can afford and which delivery alternatives are possible to offer at the time.

 

Sales around Black Friday are focused on discounts, which also makes it important to value the delivery proposition.  Are fast deliveries important for Black Friday customers or are keeping promises the key to customer satisfaction? For Black Friday, fast deliveries cannot be the first offer, said Munnely. For the days before Christmas, however, this is necessary. Black Friday should be seen more as an “ordering event” rather than a “delivery event”.  Keeping delivery promises and being transparent in the delivery chain is generally the best offer to Black Friday customers.

 

Black Friday is here to stay, and its extreme demands make early plans for how handling this event a necessity. The offering strategy, forecasting, fulfilment capacity, delivery proposition and customer service must all be aligned in a coherent plan. This is the lesson learnt from the past two years, said Munnely. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

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