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Peak season is one of the most important times of year, especially if you’re an e-commerce store looking to grow your sales. Many e-commerce stores rake in 75% of their annual revenue in the run up to Christmas and the new year. Before the peak season starts, however, make sure to have your e-commerce logistics sorted out!

Peak season success: your guide to getting it right

Peak season offers three long months of sales opportunities, but in order to see the best returns – you need to make sure you have an effective strategy in place. The right strategy will draw attention away from your competition and grow your revenue to new heights this Golden Quarter

The holiday season, which stretches from Halloween to the Boxing Day Sales, is many people’s favourite time to shop. From Halloween treats for the kids to Christmas gifts for the family to new equipment for those New Year’s projects, people are looking to fill their shopping carts with the best holiday finds. But an increase in sales can also leave you struggling to keep up with demand – stopping you from shipping your orders on time. 

In this guide we cover 20 tips to help you ace peak season 2020, no matter what comes your way, including: 

Peak season key dates: holidays, sales, and key events

What are the main dates you need to be aware of this peak season? Here are the 7 key dates to take advantage of: 

  • Halloween – 31st October 2020
  • Singles Day – 11th November  2020
  • Black Friday – 29th November  2020
  • Cyber Monday – 2nd December  2020
  • Free Shipping Day – 14th December  2020
  • Christmas Eve – 24th December  2020
  • Boxing Day Sales – 26th onwards December  2020

Peak season #1: Halloween – 31st of October 2020

From Halloween parties to Trick-or-Treating adventures, Halloween is a popular holiday in the U.K for both adults and children. Even if you don’t sell ghostly attire or sugary snacks, many people now celebrate Halloween in novel ways – from horror film nights to bonfires and firework-fuelled garden parties. This leaves you with many opportunities to increase your sales during this time. 

How do you get your Halloween marketing right? Plan your Halloween plan of attack with a clear marketing strategy. This may include: 

  • Using spooky themes in your marketing materials – both online and offline. 
  • Offering a line just for the Halloween period. Depending on your offerings, think sweaters with a Halloween twist or a Halloween-hued nail polish collection.  
  • Offer special Halloween sales and discounts. 

Peak season #2: Singles Day – 11th of November

Once a day for celebrating singledom, China’s “Singles Day” has become one of the most popular shopping holidays of the year – first in China, where Singles Day originated, and then around the world. Singles Day gives singles the chance to treat themselves. This makes it the ideal holiday for positioning your most coveted self-indulgent stock. 

Singles Day is also a good opportunity to balance out the shopping frenzy of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Take the pressure off your team and lighten the order processing and shipping load by stretching the sale season earlier into November. 

Peak season #3 & #4: Black Friday & Cyber Monday – 29th of November & 2nd of December

Originally an American retail holiday, Black Friday once had a questionable rep as the instigator of shopping mobs and stampedes for flat-screen TVs. However, as more and more people began to shop online to avoid the hungry crowds, e-commerce stores soon began to rack up the sales with a digital version of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (often known as BFCM). 

How can you make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday? As many shoppers are anticipating the coming sales and doing their research before they start shopping, it’s important to promote your upcoming sales in the weeks leading up to BFCM. To bring shoppers to your store, offer personalised discount codes and free shipping via email. 

Peak season #5: Free Shipping Day – 14th of December

People no longer need to run down to the shops for their last minute Christmas shopping. Shopping online has made it simpler and easier to shop for those final Christmas gifts without leaving the house.  

According to statistics, consumers are most likely to shop for Christmas gifts online 10 days before Christmas. This is where Free Shipping Day comes in. By targeting consumers with a Free Shipping Day promotion, you can draw customers to your shop in the run up to Christmas.

Peak season #6: Christmas Eve & Christmas Day – 24th & 25th of December

Retail sales spike in the lead up to Christmas. From decorations and food to festive gifts and glittering party attire, positioning yourself well in the weeks leading up to the 25th will go a long way in boosting your revenue. 

Pushing your festive stock into the spotlight via social media and email marketing campaigns can help you make the most of the Christmas shopping rush. Put processes in place to help you handle the influx of orders over the Christmas period. Test and optimise your warehouse and logistics process – consider hiring additional help to ensure your packages get out on time. 

Take a look at our How It Works page for tips on how to optimise and streamline your shipping process before Christmas.   

Peak season #7: After-Christmas Sales 

The after-Christmas sales, originally a brick-and-mortar event only, arrive online on the 26th of December. The after-Christmas sales are the perfect time to make some end-of-year sales and shift any excess inventory. Keep in mind that staff may be away for the Christmas holiday season – factor in any absentees with your predicted shipping demands. 

Peak season: 20 expert tips 

Peak season brings an influx of sales and orders. How can you prep for the surge? Read on for our 20 top tips for making the most of the peak period

Up your marketing game for the peak season

1: Create a dedicated peak season marketing strategy 

Success during the Peak Season starts with a great marketing strategy. With many revenue-boosting holidays to account for during this period, you need to make sure you’ve crafted a clear strategy and scheduled your channel plans and editorial calendar to reflect the most important dates of the season. 

2: Consider every marketing avenue

Each year, new social media channels, marketing strategies, and content formats gain momentum. Sift through the digital noise to find the best options for your business and audience. Combining a diverse set of approaches will help you reach and convert new customers. 

Here are some avenues to consider:

  1. Podcasts – guest star on a popular podcast in your niche or bring on influencers to your own podcast to expand your reach.
  2. Find new partnerships and collaborations – either with complementary businesses or influencers.
  3. Use a range of content formats that will resonate best with your customer personas – consider both written content, video content, and audio. 

3: Don’t forget your re-marketing strategy 

Success during Peak Season begins with a solid marketing strategy, but you’ll only get so far without focusing on a complementary re-marketing strategy. Customers come and go – adding things to their cart, second guessing their purchases, and often abandoning their shopping stash all together. 

How do you keep them coming back? A re-marketing strategy is your road to return visitors. Both targeted ads and email marketing are a great way to bring people back to your store. In particular, emailed personal promo codes are an effective way to convert and avoid the dreaded abandoned cart.

Peak season: behind the scenes

4: Take a look at your back-end

To meet Peak Season demand, you need to make sure your back-end is running as smoothly as possible. Check all plugins are up-to-date and working well together. In addition, take the time to optimise your server so it can handle a huge increase in traffic. A caching plugin can go a long way in ensuring your site runs smoothly. 

5: Make it easy to shop on mobile 

More and more consumers are shopping via their mobile, with approximately half of all website traffic coming in via phones. On cyber monday, 54% visited a store from their mobile device. Mobile optimisation has never been more important for creating a seamless and enjoyable customer experience and converting your visitors into paying customers. 

Test your site on mobile to make sure your formatting and images work well with the mobile format. If your website loads slowly then you can be sure you’re frustrating customers and sending your bounce rate rocketing. Test and optimise these all-important elements and make any changes before peak season hits. 

Run through your budget and stock for the peak season

Peak season also demands a strategic approach to your budgeting and stock. Here’s how to make sure you’re strong on both fronts. 

6: Plan your peak season budget 

To avoid overspending and limiting your ROI, plan your budget in advance for the peak season. Consider what you want to spend on your marketing, discounts, and shipping, and tally up the costs based on historical data from previous Peak Seasons. Give yourself a 15% leeway to account for any surprise, last-minute costs. 

7: Don’t run out of stock 

It’s unnervingly easy to run out of stock during the holiday period. But it’s also the most important time of year for making sure every one of your customers gets what they want, when they need it. 

Ensure your inventory levels are transparent and set up automatic alerts for any dwindling stock. Also make sure your stock data links with your website to avoid any false promises and broken customer hearts. 

Put customer service at the top of your agenda for the peak season

You may have a beautiful website, great promotions, and a hard-hitting marketing strategy, but none of it will matter if you don’t back it up with great customer service this Peak Season. One disgruntled customer is all it takes for a damning online review that can undermine everything you’ve built around your brand. 

Thorough hiring processes and excellent customer service training should be a cornerstone of your business strategy. In addition, customers are looking for quick responses to any question or frustrations, so set time-specific goals that let your staff know how quickly they need to reply to any customer communications and complement your customer service team with chatbots that provide instant answers to any product or shipping queries. 

8: Make sure customer service team is informed

Don’t leave your customer service team in a frantic rush to find the right product, returns, promotions, and shipping information for the holiday period. 

During peak season, you’ll likely see an increase in calls and messages from customers asking for these details. Make sure every member of your customer team has quick access to this information and has been adequately briefed before Peak season kicks off.

9: Make-up for holidaying staff

It’s impossible to finish orders on time without the right number of staff. The holiday season is also the most popular time for your team to take a festive break. So factor in any holidays and staff shortages before you put your marketing plan into play. Make sure you hire temporary staff beforehand to make up for any shortages. 

Peak season shipping 

Shipping your orders out to customers on time can be the biggest challenge of the peak period. Here’s how to take care of the influx. 

10: Be clear on shipping deadlines

The holiday period often throws off delivery, leaving many customers waiting for their much-needed parcels. Being clear on delivery times and potential delays will give customers the heads-up they need to plan and shop on time. Post your delivery times on social media to create urgency and get people buying. 

11: Offer choice on shipping & payments

Shoppers often abandon their cart because of insufficient delivery and payment options. Customers are looking for flexibility and choice – and this is particularly true during the holidays. A range of shipping and payment options alleviates anxiety – allowing your customers to order and pay on their terms. 

Collection points also offer customers the chance to collect their packages when they want, rather than having to stay in and wait for a parcel during the busy holiday season. 

Looking for advice on how to optimise your shipping process further? Sign up for free in less than 5 minutes to see how Sendcloud can automate your shipping. 

12: Automate your shipping

Automate your shipping processes to work faster and avoid manual errors during the hectic holiday period. Sendcloud helps you do that, automating your shipping and optimising the process with tracking notifications and support for your returns.

13: Free delivery 

Free Delivery is one of the best ways to convert customers. Adding the free delivery option over a certain order amount also encourages shoppers to buy more and evens out the hit you’ll take financially from offering free delivery. 

How to Tackle Delays 

Delays are common during the holiday season – your team could have at least double the normal number of orders to process and ship. Carriers are also overwhelmed with a sea of packages to deliver in a limited timeframe. While delays are the norm during Peak Season, customers also desperately need their packages on time during the holidays. 

How do you tackle delays and keep customers happy? Read on for our 5 top tips

14. Let customers return later 

The average return period is 14 days. To satisfy customers and lessen their anxiety as they wait, offer an extension beyond the standard return period. This will help make allowances for any delays. A long return period also helps take the pressure off carriers, who are overburdened with holiday packages.

15. Use multiple carriers

Instead of shipping with one carrier, use multiple carriers to take the pressure off parcel-swamped carriers and make use of carriers with less deliveries. In addition, you can easily track any issues with particular carriers – such as those experiencing technical difficulties or on strike – and avert any delays. 

You can use Sendcloud to choose and monitor multiple carriers in real-time – all under one dashboard. 

16. Insure your parcels 

The chance of a lost, damaged, or stolen parcel increases dramatically over the holiday period. However, without insurance you’ll have to pay for any losses yourself. Send your packages insured to cover the costs when things go wrong. Insuring your parcels reduces delays for replacement items, as you’ll feel confident that you can cover the extra costs of replacing missing or damaged items. 

In terms of damaged items, be sure to keep the product in case your insurer wants to inspect it before paying out. Sendcloud lets you take out insurance for any amount, at a cheaper rate. 

17. Use collection points 

Collection points go hand in hand with a higher delivery guarantee. Collection points allow carriers to guarantee deliveries on the scheduled day of delivery. They also allow customers to pick up their package whenever they want – offering greater flexibility. Moreover, collection points are a financially savvy option – letting you deliver multiple packages in one delivery. 

Thanks to our multiple carrier strategy, shipping with Sendcloud gives you access to a wide range of collection points in your checkout – helping to guarantee that there’s never one far from your customer.

18. Keep your customers updated

Keeping your customers informed is one of the most important things to do in the event of a delay. Ensure that you communicate clearly about the likelihood of any delays during the holiday period – with average delay times clearly mapped out on your site. Recommend customers to opt for delivery to a collection point if they need guaranteed delivery for a certain day or time.

To keep your customers informed of updates about their own delivery, set up automatic Track & Trace mails using Sendcloud. This feature enables you to automatically send an email when a shipment is delayed, reducing customer frustration.

Learn from past peak seasons 

ecommerce peak season

Your throwback peak seasons can teach you a lot about what to expect for the upcoming golden quarter. By learning from what worked well and what didn’t work so well in previous years, you can prepare yourself for one of your most successful holiday seasons. Here’s how. 

19: Look at the data of the last peak season

Use Google Analytics and sales data to figure out what was most effective in your strategy for the last peak season. Also analyse the metrics to see where you went wrong – was your blog series a flop? Did you gain more traffic from Facebook or Instagram? Which lines performed the best? Use this data to shape your strategy for this season.

20. Listen to your customers

What kind of response did you get from customers in the previous years during peak season? Were they frustrated by your lack of shipping options? Did they love a particular campaign? Take a look at your past customer feedback – taking into account customer reviews, responses on social media, and communications with your customer service team.

Bonus: 8 tips for increasing your conversions during peak season 2020

Looking to turn your hard-earned site traffic into paying customers? We explore how to increase your conversion rate below. 

1: Countdown timer

Countdown times increase urgency, which increases your chance  of converting wavering customers ready to click off your page. Add a countdown timer to your webshop to prevent customers abandoning their cart. 

2: Add exit intent pop-ups

Stop visitors leaving your webshop with an exit intent pop-up. Add an automated pop-up that can sense when your webshop visitors are leaving and notify your customers of time-sensitive promotions or low stock.

3: Offer peak season discounts coupons

Most savvy shoppers are looking for sizable discounts and offering a tempting reduced offering or free shipping can be the final push many shoppers need to make their purchase. Looking for a reliable plugin that can automate this for you? We love Popupmaker from WooCommerce (they offer a free basic version). 

4: Retargeting ads

It is cheaper and easier to get visitors to return back to your store and convert than to attract new ones. Focus much of your budget and attention on past visitors can go a long way during the peak season. Retarget your ads and offer personalised discount codes or promotions to draw past visitors back to your webshop.  

You can use Google Adwords to place a pixel on your website to help bring visitors back. 

5: Bring shoppers back to their carts 

Many people browse and add items to their shopping cart without the intention to buy straight away. But digital window shopping can easily lead to abandoned shopping carts. Send visitors a shopping cart reminder to bring them back to you. 

The best way to do this? Either via email, with a personalised discount code or time-limited free shipping, or with a pop-up. 

6: Sales pop-ups for social proof 

People are always curious to know which products other shoppers are buying. As a webstore, you can cash in on this curiosity by including sales pop-ups that showcase which items are being purchased by other customers. The additional social proof is a great way to boost your conversions.  

7:  Offer peak season suggestions

Webshop visitors can easily become overwhelmed by choice – paralysing them and upping the chances they will leave your webstore without making a purchase. Use their search behaviour and purchase history to make personalised offers and make relevant product suggestions on your site margin. 

Plugins can help you organise and categorise your suggestions for easy navigation. 

8: Let shoppers save their favourite finds 

Consumers look forward to Peak Season promotions, let them begin their browsing early by giving them the option to create a wish list. Send them a personalised promotion to improve your conversion rates when peak season arrives. 

Make peak season 2020 your best one yet 

Peak Season is one of the most lucrative times of year for the e-commerce world. We hope these tips help you make this year your best yet.  

A revenue-topping peak season begins with seamless shipping. Interested in a 300% jump in shipping efficiency – along with time-saving automation? Get started with easier and faster shipping. Create a free Sendcloud account now.

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