The time is upon us—only six weeks left until Black Friday. But don’t fret, we are here for you!
While the “official” 2022 holiday shopping season begins on November 25th, consumers have already started hunting for deals—even Amazon is ramping up their efforts by offering their first-ever Prime Early Access Sale.
To help you prepare for peak season holiday shopping, we’ve put together 3 last-minute tips and a Black Friday/Cyber Monday Tool Kit packed with handy checklists and tips covering everything from demand planning and technology stacks to shipping rates and more.
3 Last-Minute Tips for the Final Stretch
Tip 1: Set Your Goals for the Peak Season: What Matters Most to You?
It can be tempting to employ every weapon in your arsenal to achieve peak season success, but the old adage of “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” may not be the path to take.
So, what do we mean by eggs? They represent your goals and priorities during peak season. These may include wanting to cut down costs so you can turn a profit, offloading overstocked inventory, increasing sales, speeding up delivery, or improving order accuracy to cut down on returns.
If you put your eggs in many baskets, the higher the risk they will “break” and the more energy you’ll have to expend trying to manage all the baskets.
For some brands—especially smaller ones with fewer resources—putting your eggs in one or two baskets might be the way to go. By staying focused on your established goals, you won’t waste time and resources trying to do everything and you’ll be able to pinpoint the strategies that actually helped or didn’t help you reach your goals.
Our advice? Choose 1–2 goals and 1–2 strategies that reflect what matters to you as a business.
Sample Goals and Strategies
Goal: Improve Order Accuracy to Cut Down Returns
Strategy: Use an Order Management System (OMS) , which offers brands visibility into every sales and fulfillment channel so you can make changes in real-time to address any problems. Consider automating some tasks to improve accuracy—for example, using a handheld barcode scanning tool will help you know exactly what's in your warehouse, where it is, and what items are running low so you can avoid stockouts and unhappy customers.
Goal: Reduce Inventor Glut
Strategy: Since warehouses are overflowing with excess inventory all across the country, the cost to rent space to hold the surplus has shot through the roof. If you have slow moving inventory that's taking up a lot of warehouse space, instead of paying astronomical rates for traditional rental space, look for creative ways to offload the inventory like moving it to liquidation sites, exploring new sales channels, sharing warehouse space, partnering with Amazon, and using hybrid retail/DC facilities.
Tip 2: The Ghost of Peak Seasons Past: How to Use Dubious Historical Data to Use in 2022
Evaluating your historical data for demand planning is challenging even in the best of times. But if you are looking to glean insights from data collected during the pandemic, it’s difficult to plan for 2022 and beyond when 2020 and 2021 weren't exactly straightforward. The traditional peak season data hasn’t been traditional in three years, so what insights, if any, can it provide when planning for future peak seasons?
Well, it’s not all doom and gloom—even if recent data can’t precisely predict what will happen this Black Friday/Cyber Monday, some of it could still be useful, even if it just helps you prepare for uncertainty.
Sample Goals and Strategies
Goal: Use My Historical Data to Predict the Unpredictable
Strategy: Instead of using data from past years’ peak seasons, you could tighten up your demand forecasting to a shorter time period and revisit that data more frequently. And be flexible—too often companies stick to their forecast even when it’s not working.
Keep in mind the sage advice from Kenny Rogers: you need to know when to walk away (and know when to run) if your forecast isn’t helpful. It’s also a good idea to stay abreast of recent trends and industry-wide developments to manage unanticipated changes in the supply chain.
Goal: Find Easy-to-use Tools to Help with Demand Planning
Strategy: Inventory forecasting software provides innovative tools to help brands manage stock efficiently so you can save money and still meet demand. It’s also a great idea to keep up on ecommerce trends and potential hazards that might significantly impact your best laid plans. And be sure to offer subscription plans and incentives to turn your new customers into repeat customers next peak season.
Tip 3: Have a Plan B Ready for When Your Carrier Partners Aren’t Meeting Your Needs
When we asked the experts at Pitney Bowes and BUKU Ship for their advice on how brands can prepare for peak season shipping, expanding and diversifying carriers were at the top of both of their lists. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s revealed how fragile our supply chain can be and how much havoc it can wreak when things go sideways. If you want to get your products to your customers on time, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan if your carriers are unable to meet your needs.
Sample Goals and Strategies
Goal: Reevaluate My Current Carriers and Shipping Needs
Strategy: Review and then check in with your carriers to create a viable Plan B if things go haywire at the last minute (which they likely will). While it’s impossible to predict all delays with shipping carriers, you can still meet the deadlines set out by the carriers and subscribe to email their list so you can be the first to hear of any late developments. It’s also a good idea to consider alternative or non-traditional delivery partners like Instacart and find carriers that are flexible enough to offer you custom services.
Goal: Target the Areas That Matter to My Customers
Strategy: For example, if most of your customers are located in one area, it’s probably not a good idea to focus your efforts on expanding your nationwide carriers. It’s abundantly clear that most people are looking for fast and/or free shipping, so it’s best to find out what they expect and how you can meet their expectations without charging an arm and a leg or eating into your profits. Maybe pairing up with fulfillment partners would be better than handling everything in house.
Black Friday / Cyber Monday Tool Kit
To help you navigate peak season this year and into the future, we created several resources to help you in the areas of demand planning, technology stack optimization, managing shipping volatility, and more.
Demand Planning Strategies for the Holiday Season
Effective demand planning must employ useful, germane historical data to provide the insights brands need for accurate forecasting. This checklist includes the key data points brands should use in their demand planning, including SKUs, sales data, throughput data, and inventory valuation. Read the full article.
Optimizing Your Tech Stack Ahead of Black Friday
A technology stack is a collection of software applications, integrations, and platforms brands can use to run their business efficiently and profitably. The tips in this section offer tech stack solutions for brands that are just starting to expand their platforms and for those looking for more advanced technology options. Read the full article.
How to Address Shipping Rate Volatility During Peak Season: Expert Advice from BUKU Ship and Pitney Bowes
We asked two industry-leading shippers—BUKU Ship and Pitney Bowes—for their thoughts on this year’s peak season fulfillment challenges. This section includes their advice on how brands can save (or even make) money despite rising shipping rates. Read the full article.
Be Like Santa and Ho Ho Hone Your Fulfillment Process
Considering that Santa delivers billions of presents to 500+ million households in 42 hours, in one sleigh, with only 300 microseconds for each delivery, he knows a thing or two about fulfillment. In this playful infographic, Santa’s team of elves and reindeer offer some inside information so you can create your own lean, mean, fulfillment machine. Read the full article.
For ecommerce brands, Black Friday / Cyber Monday can be the most thrilling—and profitable—time of the year. For some brands, this four-day period can even make or break their business. If you want to stay competitive, our tool kit and last-minute tips can help you reap peak season rewards.