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Getting intelligent about the Peak Season

24 October 2018

The biggest sales opportunity of the entire year takes a lot of planning, but Black Friday and the entire peak season still have the capacity to surprise even the most seasoned retail and carrier companies, says Tom Forbes, VP Customer Delivery & International, MetaPack.

Last year we anticipated a healthy growth in volumes, but were taken aback by the 26% year-on-year spike that actually occurred over the Cyber Weekend. This year it could be even higher as online sales continue to gather pace, even as the high street suffers. 

Managing Black Friday and Peak is no longer quite the nerve-wracking enterprise that it was just a few years ago. Everyone involved in the supply chain, from eCommerce website designers and the warehouse logistics teams to the software companies that support smooth delivery management and the delivery van drivers, is prepared. If anyone is not prepared, you can be sure that the first spike in volume orders will reveal exactly where your planning went awry.

We spend a lot of time making sure that all the components of our software that could be affected by volume are prepared for it. It’s the cumulative effect of lots of volume, which means lots of labels and lots of manifests over the Cyber Weekend, that have to be accommodated. For retailers and carriers it’s about back-logs of packages that they have to move through. If any one element in the process falls behind, it can have a serious knock-on effect further down the line, and collectively the industry now works together to combat that possibility. 

Customers will expect multiple delivery options to be available to them throughout the Peak season, and the ability of retailers to support these is vital in terms of long-term loyalty. However, retailers will be in constant communication with carrier partners and their logistics teams to understand physical capacity and if necessary will limit choices if it means they can be guaranteed to meet their delivery promises. Our solution, Delivery Options, allows retailers to quickly adjust the offers that they make to customers without having to update website code. When their websites are being hammered during Black Friday, this will save precious milliseconds in processing speeds, which means being able to handle more orders. 

How will 2018 look different? Possibly in the way that retailers and carriers are focusing more on service and choice and not just on capacity. They are well practised at managing capacity, they know what to look out for and how to redress the balance if it starts tipping in the wrong direction. Retailers and carriers alike are much less worried and more confident when it comes to managing Peak now, which is why customers can expect to see additional service offerings and robust, deep back-up procedures in place. 

What underpins a successful Black Friday and Cyber Weekend however, is not just preparation or experience, it’s the ability to track the order and delivery cycle. Being able to access data that pinpoints exactly where a package is at a given moment and identifies any potential hiccups in the process, gives retailers and carriers unprecedented power. Live tracking data allows retailers to inform customers if their package is mislaid or late, and avert complaints, and it reduces the amount of communication and investigation that would otherwise be triggered between the retailer and the carrier. Using this kind of delivery intelligence represents a game changer in terms of lowering costs and this year, for those organisations who make use of it, it will help to make the Peak shopping season more successful than ever before.