Is the secret to this year’s Black Friday success not offering discounts?

Ben Kaye, E-commerce and OMS at Mintsoft shares his thoughts on how to succeed this Black Friday.

The race is on for retailers and brands to launch their Black Friday deals and offer the best possible deal to consumers. But with the current E-commerce boom, driver shortages and supply chain issues, online retailers are already struggling to fulfil orders in a timely manner. With this in mind, is discounting your products in order to sell more really the best approach this Black Friday?

Combine the current supply chain issues and driver shortages with customer expectations rapidly evolving, there’s a lot of pressure for online retailers to fulfil orders quickly whilst offering a great customer experience. Customers now require some sort of value at every touch point; easy payment options, cheap and convenient shipping and returns, and a seamless shopping experience.

Customer experience continues to be the main differentiator for the top E-commerce brands, so instead of fighting to fulfil an unrealistic amount of orders, why not focus on offering an unrivalled customer experience? Whilst your competitors are overselling their products and struggling to pick and pack items at a reasonable rate, you could be gaining customer loyalty be offering an experience customers will be happy to come back for. But what exactly can you be doing to ensure you’ve set yourself up for success this peak season?

Get a handle on inventory

Stock availability is an industry-wide problem at the moment, and you might find yourself struggling to meet demand if you can’t get your hands on the stock you need. It’s important to ensure you aren’t overselling products as out of stock items can cause chaos – and is the quickest way to lose customer loyalty.

Max Mirra, International Account Executive at Lengow comments on the importance of working smarter, not holiday this peak season: “This year’s Black Friday is a strategic game between the current logistics problems and out of stock fears that we face in the industry. Many retailers are starting campaigns earlier this year, many are waiting to pull the trigger in fear of running out of stock. Warehousing and logistics issues mean that it’s a really strategic moment for brands and retailers. Two of the most significant issues we see in E-commerce is not having enough stock available to accommodate sales, or not preparing stock ahead of time. In fact, globally, retailers record an average of $1.75 trillion due to mismanaged inventory. This is where order management and automation tools are really key; it’s working smarter not harder.”

To enhance operations and avoid encountering multiple errors being made in the picking and packing process, it might be worth considering implementing technology such as an Order Management System (OMS). This will help to automate time consuming tasks such as compiling customer information, whilst reducing errors and allowing for more accurate fulfilment. An OMS also supports you in managing your online shops across multiple E-commerce channels from a single platform, so is a great solution if you already sell across multiple marketplaces or are planning to this peak season.

Anticipating peaks, becoming aware of lead times from suppliers and getting a handle on the data behind inventory is also made easier by automating your processes. If your inventory isn’t synced, it is likely you will exceed order capability and you won’t be able to deliver.

You can take advantage of a range of management reporting for inventory by using the right software. By using an OMS, automated reports can be set up and sent every day, week or month and can be teamed with critical alert notifications for out of stock, low stock and general stock movements – meaning you’ll never oversell again.

Utilise your warehouse space as best as you can

Warehouse space is also another problem faced by the industry – even if you can source the additional inventory you’d need to fulfil increased orders, where do you plan to store this extra inventory?

Faster handling means you need less floorspace, so your pick and packing system is all part of the game. If it’s not speedy and accurate, it will cost you.

You might have delved into automation and even considered robotics to reduce manual errors, but these are interim solutions. Simple tweaks to aspects such as your warehouse layout can begin to ensure maximum efficiency. For example, bestsellers and fast selling items should be all close to hand, while SKUs need to be clear, well labelled and distinct.

An OMS also makes warehouse management easier, allowing you to gain a full overview of your warehouse, inventory and courier relationships from one easy to use platform.

If you rely on a 3PL or fulfilment house for your logistics, it’s worth investigating how they create their pick lists. Many warehouses still rely on printed lists, whilst those that are ahead of the game have this activity streamlined by using automated software. One example of this is through the use of smart tech, such as mobile barcode picking. By using voice assisted picking commands and product images, more intelligence can be gathered before the item comes off the shelf, leading to 100% accuracy. By using a scanning app, stock can also instantly be stored straight to relevant warehouse locations from Purchase Orders/ Advanced Shipment Notices (ASNs) – another area where accidental errors can quickly become an issue. The major benefit to this is that stock is updated in real time and then automatically transmitted to any connected sales channels for inventory sync.

Get savvy with logistics and delivery

A big part of meeting customer expectations also comes in the delivery of their orders. This means choice of delivery options and transparency of order status is important. Data from Ofcom revealed that there was a 53% increase in number of complaints relating to postal services from 2019 – 2020 (and an increase of 71% in complaints when comparing 2018 and 2020). This proves that customers’ expectations are ever increasing. The most important online delivery factor during COVID-19 amongst consumers was being kept informed on the status of delivery, whilst having to stay in at an inconvenient time to wait for a parcel delivery is the most prominent problem relating to delivery of orders.

This shows that speed of delivery is not always the most important aspect – consumers always want to ability to be able to choose nominated day deliveries for convenience, and to be updated with the status of their order.

A recent report from Royal Mail showed that the option for tracking was more of a need for SMEs and those selling items on online marketplaces. Here, tracking was considered most useful in terms of offering confirmation of delivery. Some also used tracking to provide estimated delivery time slots for their customers. Most SMEs acknowledged that they were sending and receiving more parcels; largely due to an increase in online shopping / ordering. Most also recognised there was a range of providers available to send parcels, even if they did not personally use them.

Having a multi-courier strategy in place is pivotal to providing multiple shipping options to meet your customers’ needs (time, price etc.) and this is made easy with an order management system, as you’re able to integrate with multiple couriers from one centralised platform. Opting for an OMS that provides courier and multi-courier API integrations removes the complications of multiple deliveries via third-party services.

By integrating your online stores with your chosen couriers via an order management system, shipping orders is made easy. Automatic updates, tracking numbers and despatch status are provided instantaneously, so your customers will always be kept in the loop about their order.

Final thoughts

Those that don’t look to invest in technology are at risk of falling behind competitors – and larger organisations – this peak season. Automating the many tasks that are open to risk of human error means that orders will be fulfilled more accurately – and at a faster rate. Most OMS systems also provide many API integrations, allowing users to connect to the numerous sales channels they use to power their business. Being able to manage inventory systems, marketplaces, shopping carts and couriers from one centralised platform not only speeds up the process of getting orders out but allows more secure and faster data transfer – putting both yours and your customer’s mind at ease.