Preparing for impact: How to plan ahead of big online sales events

Preparing for online sales events involves more than just pencilling the dates into your retail calendar. Here’s what you need to be thinking about to make the most of these opportunities.

Online sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to fuel the growth in eCommerce, dictate the retail calendar and influence how Australians shop.

To make the most of these major sales, it's crucial that retailers not only factor them into their annual planning but prepare for the impact the higher volumes and longer sales periods will have on their business.

Ben Franzi, General Manager, Parcel & Express Services at Australia Post, spoke with beauty brand frank body’s Logistics and Supply Chain Manager, Tess Moseley.

With a 500% year on year uplift in sales volume during the 2019 sales period, Tess knows a thing or three about how to best prepare for these events: “Inventory is key” she says.

“There’s no point being on sale if you have nothing to sell. Our Demand Planner plans inventory 6 to 12 months out to make sure we have enough stock in each of our locations.

“The last thing we want to do is disappoint our customers, so we fully monitor stock during the entire sales period to make sure we have a full range available. We also look ahead to the New Year and make sure we have enough stock well beyond the major sales.”

Tess’ second tip is around fulfilment and warehousing.

“We’re transparent with our warehouses and give them a breakdown of expected volumes so they can gear up for the sales period.”

“Being transparent with our forecasts is key, but so is managing inventory during the sales - when other things such as packaging, are fundamental in getting deliveries out the door.”

The third planning tip Tess shared focussed on meeting customer expectations around delivery.

“We offer a $25 free shipping threshold, and express shipping for a flat rate of $5.95 across Australia in the lead up to the holiday season. Outside of sales time we offer an ‘on-demand’ service, but we turn this off during sales – as it’s an unrealistic expectation during high sales volumes”.

Adding to the list of planning tips, Ben said retailers need to get in early when it comes to planning for sales events.

“Start thinking about how you might release pre-sales events as early as the Monday before Black Friday, and make allowances for the extended sales period”.

“When making these allowances retailers have to consider how they balance consumer expectations when it comes to delivery. How can they use offers such as next business day delivery to meet customer expectations and influence basket size?”

“On the flip side they need to think about returns. To see an uplift in sales volumes, returns need to be easy and hassle free – especially in the fashion space where 30 percent of all items are returned.

“All of these factors together are what can give retailers the competitive edge in a time where sales are fast becoming huge, cross-industry events,” Ben continued.

In 2019, we saw a concentration of sales in the four weeks leading up to Christmas1. As Christmas falls on a Friday this year, will we see an even longer ‘shopping spree’?

If so it may not be enough to just plan well. Retailers will need to prepare to adjust and adapt during the five-weeks leading up to Christmas – where running out of labels and boxes could stop the show.

Australia Post’s 2020 eCommerce update has the latest online shopping trends and insights.

You’ll also find more planning tips to help you make the most of what is likely to be the biggest shopping peak in Australia to date.

Get business stories, ideas and offers in your inbox each month.