Supply chain issues abound in the UK, meaning you may experience stock shortages this peak shopping season.
Ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas, how can you address those out-of-stock situations and still remain buoyant? Here’s how to be prepared so that you can cope with the 2021 holiday season sales challenges.
Recalculate Your Anticipated Ecommerce Sales
Last year saw a massive upsurge in the amount of online ordering. Pandemic lockdowns meant the closure of physical retail stores for many weeks, which forced buyers to look online for goods.
The swing from in-store to online skewed last year’s figures. And when preparing for this year, you can’t simply apply the percentage shares from each channel from last year to this year’s budgets. Things are different. Equally, the shares don’t appear to have gone back to their pre-pandemic levels, either, which makes forecasting extra difficult this year.
We won’t know for a while what the long-term shift towards online retail will be. While many shoppers are going back to bricks-and-mortar stores, plenty more have experienced the convenience of online shopping and want to retain that.
Prior to the pandemic, global online sales were growing at an increasing rate – by 7.4% in 2015, 8.6% in 2016, 10.4% in 2017, 12.2% in 2018 and 13.6% in 2019. Some sources estimate that the pandemic brought increases in online buying that we would not otherwise have seen for four years. One estimate puts the year-on-year growth for 2021 at 19.5%.
Have your financial forecasters recalculate the numbers for this year so that you are fully prepared for a range of scenarios – from minimum order volumes to maximums.
Be Clear About When the Christmas Buying Season Really Starts for You
Many people believe that Christmas shopping only really ramps up from late November and into December.
But if you sell items that could be classed as Christmas gifts, then it’s likely that your customers started their Christmas shopping at least a month ago.
Checking Google Trends for the term “Christmas” in the UK shows that there was a slight uptick in searches from about the end of August, which then grew more quickly through September and October. The graph line then becomes even steeper at the beginning of November, as expected. But it shows there is certainly interest in Christmas much earlier than many people think.
The growth in the popularity of Black Friday shopping has also brought forward some sales too. A decade ago, the search term “Black Friday” was just a blip on Google Trends for the UK. With greater interest in Black Friday sales, many retailers need to plan for a rise in orders earlier on than traditionally has been the case.
If you haven’t geared up already, it would be wise to review your historical sales to see what the trends have been like for you. If it looks like there will be some stronger demand over the coming weeks than you had planned for, then anticipating that now – and planning for it – can help you to cope with the surge.
Equally, if you are seeing an indication of an early boost in sales, and your stock levels are finite and cannot be added to, then you won’t want to run out of stock. Delaying any Christmas advertising or marketing campaigns might be appropriate until you have had a chance to re-evaluate after Black Friday.
Strategies to Counter Running Out of Stock this Holiday Season
Supply chain delays have meant shortages for many retailers and distributors. Both the pandemic and Europeans leaving the UK due to Brexit have caused staff shortages. On top of that, demand has risen more quickly than anticipated after some slow trading during lockdowns. Some industries have hit by panic buying and many have been affected by pressure on global supply chain issues.
Against this backdrop, many UK suppliers are facing delays in getting hold of goods, components and raw materials. The resulting shortages have seen only 57% of consumers able to get hold of all the goods they wanted.
With fewer goods to sell, the automatic reaction is often to raise prices. This is certainly happening in the UK, which is seeing the highest rates of inflation for ten years.
Raising prices will preserve your income, but it will also negatively affect customer satisfaction. There are other options that you can consider first.
- Halt discounts and offers – by stopping promotions or special sales and instead selling your goods at full price, you won’t stimulate demand so much. This preserves your revenue and profits. If you’re quick enough, you should be able prevent any marketing and advertising spend – and effort – creating and running campaigns.
- Adjust product allocation by channel – some of your channels may have lower margins than others, for example, selling via Amazon marketplace versus your own ecommerce website. If you can limit the number of goods provided via less profitable channels, you can again uphold profit. This is especially apt if you believe you will run out of stock. Selling all your stock through the most lucrative channels is the rational approach.
- Consider bundling products – if it’s a possibility that works for your products, bundle top selling products together with slow-moving items. While you can continue to offer them both as standalone purchases, a bundle will help boost sales of the less popular items. While you may still sell out of the popular products, you will simultaneously raise sales of the other stock too.
Offer Alternative Last Mile Delivery Methods
If your business involves ecommerce, then you’ll know that last mile delivery is often the most expensive part of the order process.
But there are options you can add that will cost you less and give your customers extra choice over how they receive their purchases.
Customers love anything that provides greater convenience. With workers beginning to return to the office, at least for some of the week now, they are less likely to consider a home delivery. While delivery to the office is a failsafe option, they may have to wait a few days before they get their item. So, adding other alternatives that give a broader choice of delivery method is a winner.
You could offer click and collect, where the consumer buys online and picks up from one of your stores. Or if you don’t have stores, then you can deliver to a network of local convenience stores for the customer to collect from.
Click and collect is a profitable option. Although you pay to deliver to one of your stores or to a third-party location, there is no likelihood of a failed delivery – so your costs are entirely predictable. Then, when the customer comes to collect, if it’s in a store of yours, then this increases your footfall – along with the prospect of additional impulse purchases.
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