China’s Singles’ Day on 11 November has become the biggest shopping day on earth, reaching some US$25bn in online sales in just 24 hours. The shopping extravaganza started by Alibaba in 2009, reached at least 225 countries and regions this year and at its peak, the company’s processors handled some 256,000 transactions per second. Taking place on 11/11, Singles' Day is a celebration of being single – the number 1 resembling a person who is alone.
The holiday has become the biggest shopping day in the world, with Alibaba shoppers exceeding ¥168.2bn (US$25.4bn) in spending during the 2017 celebration. Rival JD.com hosts an eleven day shopping festival as well, during which shoppers spent US$19.1bn, bringing the Chinese total to US$44.5bn. So if you want a bumper November for sales, you should look to the Chinese market.
Next biggest are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest shopping days in the US. Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally marked the official start of the holiday shopping season, when bricks-and-mortar stores would offer early bird specials and people would camp out in the cold to grab the best bargains.
Nowadays Black Friday deals are increasingly offered online, with some sales starting as early as the week before Thanksgiving. Consumers no longer need to brave the cold to pick up the best deals. In fact, last year’s Black Friday online sales clocked up a massive US$3.3bn, almost rivaling sales generated on Cyber Monday.
Even so, Cyber Monday remains the biggest and most hyped e-commerce event in the US. Consumers spent US$3.45bn in 24 hours in 2016, according to Adobe Digital Insights. This year sales are predicted to double, hitting some US$6.6bn.
Both holidays originated in the US, but they’re now an increasingly global phenomenon. UK consumers spent some US$3.6bn last year between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The ease of cross-border shopping has also opened up other markets to the holiday sales boom. Last year India saw 173% year-on-year growth compared to its Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in 2015, while Kuwait saw 99% growth.
These online sales bonanzas might sound like fantastic news for e-tailers. But shopping peaks can also be a nightmare. Imagine dealing with a surge in orders as much as four times larger than your usual workload. Dealing with high volumes is no easy task – especially for small and medium sized businesses.
The secret to success is preparation, which means starting with a plan. Here are some of the essential points that should be on yours:
Know your peaks – map out the possible peaks in advance and then work backwards to ensure you can cope with increased shipping activity.
Optimize your website – there’s nothing more off-putting for customers than a slow website. Take actions now to speed up the load time and optimize the customer experience so they’ll be buying instead of just browsing.
Know what’s in your inventory – you need to know what you’ve got in stock at all times. If something sells out, you need to be able to update the information on your website immediately.
Have enough staff – whether it’s customer service, order fulfillment or dispatch – make sure you have enough people on hand to deal with a possible surge.
Make fulfillment magic – it’s the engine of your business, so make sure it’s perfectly tuned. From picking and packing, stuffing and labeling, to knowing the price of a shipment to almost any place in the world – your fulfillment has to be best-in-class.
Make shipping policies clear and competitive - be aware of domestic deadlines, especially when it comes to cross-border orders, and make sure you understand tariffs, taxes and duty payments in advance.
Delivery to the door – whether you’re using a national postal service or a time-definite delivery service, make sure you’ve got your service in place and know the drop off and pick up times.
Be ready for returns – e-commerce return rates are around 30% worldwide, so you’re going to have some no matter how great your product is. See it as a second chance to make a good impression and make sure you have a returns policy in place.
It’s not rocket science. But you’ll be surprised how many e-tailers leave it to the last minute. A recent customer survey from DHL found 65% of respondents said they only plan one or two months in advance.
Have you got your shop in order? There’s still a day or two to go before the shopping frenzy begins. Time enough to get your plan in place, your website in tip top condition and your fulfillment, shipping, inventory and staff prepared. Then all you have to do is sit back, stay awake, and get ready for the boom to begin.
Alternatively, you could simply turn to DHL to help you get ready for such a hectic period, as we're experts in helping smaller businesses cope with sudden increases in demand.
DHL is the ideal partner for your brand's global ambitions. After all, we don't just deliver to every country on the planet – we have people on the ground. And with e-commerce making your brand accessible to the entire world, you'll need a partner who can actually deliver the goods, especially during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day.