By Amelia Coleby | Senior Consultant

Planning for peak is starting earlier and earlier each year as online peak trading has itself evolved, particularly because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

So while it's hard to think about Christmas while the sun is still shining, it's crucial to have your promotional and marketing activity defined, budgeted and staffed well in advance; to take advantage of the spikes in demand that we see between late November and early January.

If you've left it late to complete your planning here are our tips for planning for peak, to ensure that you remain competitive over this crucial trading period.

 

What do we mean by planning for peak?  

For online sales the first strong uptick in sales takes place around the week leading up to, and including, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is the 18th-25th November this year. But this isn't the only event to consider. Others include Manic Monday on the 2nd December, Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas on the 21st December) and your last order date for guaranteed delivery.

In addition, you will need to decide when you are going to kick off your January Sale online. Many retailers launch Sale on Christmas Day, or even late on Christmas Eve to tempt bargain hunters. Online Sales can be opened up earlier to certain preferred customer groups too, such as those signed up for your loyalty scheme or email newsletter.

 

Data, data, data

When planning for peak, your first port of call should be to review any and all data sources available from your past performance, and that of your competitors. Dig into your analytics data, sales figures, look at your organisational structure, etc. and review:

  • Channels: How did different channels perform, what was your strategy (CPA, KPIs, etc)?
  • Customers: Who are they, where are they from, what are they buying?
  • Timing: When did you start to see a peak uplift? When did you start your sales and stagger discounts?
  • Offers, discounts and Sale: What did you offer last time? Did it work?
  • Margins: What offers can you push this year? Do you offer an overall discount, hero products, a Sale section, or a blend of all three?
  • Budgets: What do you need to get budgets signed off? What budgets did you have last year? Were they enough? If not, why not?
  • Headcount: Do you have enough people to cope with everything you’ll need to do?
  • Stock levels: What’s your usual sell-through rate? Do you have the stock to cope with growing peak demand? 

 

Know your market

Make sure you know how consumers in the markets you’re targeting shop.

For example:

  • Black Friday isn’t a day anymore - it’s a full week at least;
  • Black Friday in the UK is like Cyber Monday in the US as shoppers in the UK don’t have as much opportunity to go into store as Black Friday is a working day in the UK;
  • If you’ve got customers in Australia – have you factored in Click Frenzy?
  • For China, forget Black Friday, it’s all about Singles’ Day and the increasingly popular Double12 (12th December).

 

Keep an eye your competitors

Keep a close eye on how your competitors are planning for peak.

  • Run a Googlesearch on [brand] + Black Friday / Christmas 2018 - what did they do? Did it make the news? 
  • Sign up for their emails and follow them on social - make sure you’re on top of what they’re doing this year (also keep note of this for next year);
  • Are any of them starting to bid on highly competitive search terms with ‘Black Friday’ in them? This will give you an insight into their budget levels, planning and channel strategy;
  • Visit their websites - do you get targeted with retargeting ads through display and social? Start to unpick their targeting strategy.

 

Plan, plan and plan some more

In the build-up to peak it can be tricky to know where to focus the majority of your efforts. It may be useful to map out the balance.

Planning for Peak trading online Practicology blog post

  • Marketplaces: Are you active on marketplaces? Are other people selling your products and looking to clean up over the peak season? Are you set up for flash sales? Do you have someone actively managing your marketplace search presence? Are you prepared for price wars and matching discounts on and off marketplace?
  • SEO: Consider a year-long Black Friday page to gain as much traction as possible. Your SEO strategy should help you to build a robust visibility for generic shopping search terms throughout the year.
  • PPC: Look at search volumes and agree what terms you want to bid on. Search volumes spike from mid-late October, so you’ll need to have budget signed off and briefs in with your agency / team by mid-September latest.
  • Affiliates: Sit down with your affiliate manager / agency and see what coverage you can get for what budget. Ask them what you can do to get ahead.
  • Logistics & delivery: If you push sales, can your warehouses cope with the increase in volume and fulfil on time? Can you offer free delivery over a threshold or as a lever over the holiday season? Pushing the last delivery date before Christmas to the maximum will drive incremental revenue but you must balance this against the costs of not meeting the customer promise and potentially having to deal with a lot of returns for goods that arrived too late.
  • Social & community management: If your team staffed to cope with answering questions and solving problems via social channels?
  • Onsite merchandising & trading: What are your capabilities? Do you need UX work or any tools to allow you to work more efficiently?
  • Agree your rules of engagement for the biggest trading days: if it’s going well or going badly, what do you do? Can you add more budget? Can you easily shift focus on the fly?
  • Test, test and test again: Is your ecommerce platform robust enough to cope with peak period traffic? Stress test and develop a contingency plan for if it falls over. 

Planning for peak Currys Black Friday page

Black Friday planning & SEO in action: Currys has its Black Friday page up all year long.

When peak itself hits you will find time comes at a premium, and so we’ve also put together some suggested digital marketing last minute tips.

It can be useful to seek an external perspective and support to review and fine-tune the plans that you've created. Need support with finalising your peak planning? Get in touch at hello@practicology.com to find out how we can support your ecommerce trading
 

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