Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer a massive opportunity for Canadian businesses. As noted by Global News, Canadian e-Commerce provider Shopify reported record sales for businesses using its platform last year, while Statistics Canada reports that even with pandemic pressures ramping up in 2020, extended Black Friday sales led to an uptick in sales volumes. And with some semblance of normalcy returning, there’s a good chance that in-person retail shopping will rise — in combination with increased online sales, this could be a banner year for Canadian retail businesses.
The caveat? Effective order fulfilment. If a sudden boost of awareness puts your brand in the spotlight, do you have the infrastructure to get customers their orders on time, every time? Here’s what companies need to know about scaling to meet their success and ensuring sustained customer satisfaction.
Common Obstacles to Order Fulfillment
Success comes at a cost. While it’s the goal of every business to boost their customer base and make more sales, there’s a tipping point that often frustrates further growth: Order fulfilment.
As customer volumes rapidly increase thanks to successful Black Friday promotions, social word of mouth or positive real-world reviews of your brand, existing order fulfilment infrastructure may struggle to keep up. Consider a small business owner who’s built their brand from the ground up and handles all order taking, packing and shipping themselves. While it might be possible to process several hundred orders per day alone or with the help of a few staff members, overnight success that suddenly sees thousands of orders each day poses a problem: Suddenly, small businesses are constantly behind the curve when it comes to getting orders out the door.
Best case scenario? You buckle down, hire more staff and get through the surge relatively unscathed. Some orders might go out late, but customers are generally happy and your reputation rebounds. Worst case? Orders effectively come to a halt and the social success you’ve enjoyed turns sour — complaints roll in and your brand actually suffers a setback.
While every business is different, common reasons for order fulfilment frustration include:
- Legacy processes
Manual packing and tracking processes make it hard to ensure orders are correct and going out on time. Without more robust digital order processing options, companies are behind the curve.
- Lacking scalability
Online selling is critical to success — both the growing popularity of Cyber Monday and the impact of ongoing pandemic pressures have necessitated a shift to online sales. The challenge? Many small brands are still using basic inventory management and order shipping back end solutions that don’t allow them to scale as demand increases.
- Limited visibility
You can’t fix what you can’t see. If you don’t have access to data around typical sales volumes, the impact of promotions and the number of unique customer visits to your website or purchases made, it’s almost impossible to anticipate ongoing demand and implement effective fulfilment processes.
Steps to Scale with Your Success
So how do you effectively scale with success? Start with these six steps.
1) Track Sales During Promotions
It’s not enough to simply make sales — you also need to know how many sales you’re making, when, and over what period of time. Let’s say you’re running a sales promotion during the week of Black Friday. While it’s helpful to know that overall sales increased, it’s better to dig deeper and understand consumer behaviour: Were customers buying multiple items? What was the most-sold item? How much did sales volumes increase compared to pre-promotion? Software tools that help you dig into the data are critical to help inform ongoing promotions and help prepare for the sales success that accompanies them.
2) Develop an Order Fulfillment Plan
To ensure order fulfilment meets customer expectations, you need a plan. Here’s why: As noted by Retail Technology Review, 43 percent of customers now want next-day deliveries and 73 percent say they’ve considered not buying an item if it doesn’t come with free shipping.
These statistics tell the tale: Customers want their products ASAP and they don’t want it to cost extra. To achieve these goals, businesses undergoing growth are often best-served by partnering with third-party shipping and logistics experts to ensure they’re able to meet delivery volumes, ensuring they have the technology backbone in place to access order details anywhere, anytime and have contingency plans if orders are delayed.
3) Ensure Your Website Can Handle the Volume
Businesses must also consider the ability of their websites to handle customer traffic volumes. While it’s critical to have robust inventory and order systems in place, these aren’t useful if customers can’t access your site to place an order. As noted by Business 2 Community, almost 68 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned — common reasons include complicated or confusing checkout processes, the requirement to create customer accounts and overall poor user experience.
As result, brands need website infrastructure and design capable of keeping up with rising customer volumes. In practice, this means considering options such as cloud-based hosting which allow website services to scale on-demand as required, and then return to baseline when demand falls off.
4) Enable Secure Payments
Secure payments are also a concern for potential customers. The B2C piece points to payment security concerns and a lack of payment options as another reason for cart abandonment — if users don’t feel comfortable making payment, they won’t make the purchase.
To help reduce the risk of losing interested customers in the last mile of conversion, consider integrating multiple well-known payment options such as PayPal, Google Pay, Square, Stripe and Apple Pay in addition to credit cards. It’s also a good idea to secure your website using the secure socket layer (SSL) protocol, which encrypts traffic both to and from your site. Reputable digital certificate vendors can help you make the switch from standard HTTP to HTTPS, which indicates that your site is secure and can help boost consumer confidence.
5) Integrate International Options
Even the smallest brands can now reach international audiences thanks to e-Commerce websites and platforms. The challenge? Effectively handling out-of-country orders. This starts with currency conversions — customers want to know how much they’re paying in local currency, not just what’s listed on your site. Taxes and cross-border shipping are also concerns; businesses need integrated software solutions capable of automatically converting currency at checkout, calculating applicable taxes for the destination and providing a realistic shipping estimate.
6) Create Clear Communication Channels
Despite best efforts, order fulfilment doesn’t always go as planned. While it’s important to offer fast, free shipping wherever possible — especially on Black Friday orders that customers want in hand before the holiday season — logistical challenges beyond your control may make this impossible. As a result, it’s critical to create clear communication channels that customers can use to get answers about their orders.
This starts with email notifications that provide order details, tracking information and data about potential shipping delays, and also extends to social media channels that make it easy for customers to follow up if they have any questions. The operative term here is “omnichannel” — your sales, order fulfilment and customer service channels should all work seamlessly and in tandem to provide a consistent experience for customers.
Bottom line? Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring the potential for big sales gains — but with rapid customer growth comes the need for robust and reliable order fulfilment capable of supporting success at scale.