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Black Friday Prep: Peak Season Trends

Matt Kuper | 6 November 2020
 

Although 2020 has been an unpredictable year with unprecedented commerce demands, this year worldwide ecommerce sales have already increased by 18% more than last year. That’s $3.5 trillion USD, according to Shopify. And, it’s expected to nearly double by 2023 to more than $6.5 trillion.

Chances are that planning was already underway to shift processes to accommodate for the expected growth in ecommerce before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, the state of the world during the pandemic greatly shortened the time frame in which updates and changes needed to be made. Companies everywhere scrambled to quickly pivot based on their unique situations.

According to digitalcommerce360, 68% of consumers surveyed say COVID-19 elevated their expectations of companies’ digital capabilities. Holiday shopping is sure to exasperate this, and Amazon’s October Prime Day combined with other large retailers offering early Black Friday deals will compound on that even more. Fearful of the safety of being in large crowds, more people than ever will likely turn to online shopping to score their holiday deals.

 

Holiday Season Predictions:

May - June showed a 44.4% uptick from online spending, compared to 2019, blackfridaygraphtotaling $200.72 billion. October - December predicts an even larger surge of 80% higher than 2019, according to Martech experts. Given that many retailers are closing for the US’s Thanksgiving holiday, combined with the previously mentioned changes in expectations, this peak season will be larger and longer than anyone was expecting going into 2020.

Going forward, companies will need to plan both for a huge spike in shopping online, as well as the possibility of another shut down in many countries. These parallels are daunting to consider at the same time.

How can automation support?

With this year’s online shopping boom and customer expectations higher than ever, it is important for any company selling through ecommerce to carefully consider whether automation can improve their operations. Retailers that already invested in automation had an easier time adapting to this year’s many unexpected challenges. Automated goods to person systems provided flexibility and scalability to maintain service levels despite unexpected shifts in demand and labor availability. Worker safety also benefited from these systems, as operators are able to work in their own space and easily follow social distancing protocol.

While you may not be able to make major changes for the impending season, it’s not too early to start preparing for the future. Keeping track of and analyzing this season’s data and trends will be useful in choosing the right solution.

During the season, be sure to track data on:
  • Throughput
  • Downtime
  • SKU parity
  • Picking rates
  • Replenishment rates
  • Returns, and the reasons for them

Tracking this year’s data and trends and conducting a thorough analysis in the beginning of 2021 will allow you to prepare for changes and make operational improvements well before next year’s peak season. It’s also a smart investment to prepare you for the future of retail – which will continue trending toward ecommerce and buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) over in-person sales.

 

What last-minute prep can help operations for this year’s peak season?
2020’s uncertainty influenced many companies to postpone capital investments like automation. If your company is struggling to keep up with increasing demand ahead of peak, there are still some things you can do to help make sure holiday order fulfillment goes as smoothly as possible.

As we approach the height of the peak season, consider the following:

  • Double-check routine maintenance during any possible downtime
  • Have spare parts in stock
  • Have your service provider’s contact info handy
  • Speak with your system integrator on any sticking points you may be nervous about to discuss possible mitigation or resolutions.

 

Keep these tips in mind over the next few weeks, and in the meantime, our consultants are always available to discuss your operations and support you during the hectic retail season.

Author: Matt Kuper

Matt Kuper has more than 16 years of experience in the material handling industry handling a variety of systems projects and technologies including high-speed sortation, pick modules, goods-to-person, and pallet handling systems. He joined Bastian Solutions in 2013 and has since overseen some of the company’s largest and most complex integration projects. 

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