Overcoming the logistical nightmare of Black Friday: What’s the secret to order fulfillment success?

Topic: Marketing

Arguably the biggest and busiest shopping period, Black Friday is the time many e-commerce businesses make much of their annual profit in a single quarter. While there’s a lot of focus on organising the best deals/promotions and ensuring they’re sufficiently marketed, businesses must also ensure their order fulfillment process won’t buckle under pressure.

The logistics challenges presented by Black Friday

While every business aims to boost their customer base and drive sales, order fulfillment can often slow growth down. Particularly when rapid surges in demand happen – like Black Friday. Overnight, your business can go from processing hundreds of orders a day to managing thousands or tens of thousands.

Best case scenario: you hire more staff, clock in some extra hours, weather the storm together and emerge relatively unscathed. Some orders go out late and perhaps a handful even fall between the cracks. But, you’re able to send out replacements and keep customers in the loop so customer feedback is generally positive and your reputation is stable.

Worst case scenario? Orders grind to a halt, complaints start coming in and your reputation is negatively impacted. 

This was something that happened to UK fashion retailer Nobody’s Child in the summer of 2020. The retailer temporarily closed down during the first few months of the COVID outbreak in the UK and upon reopening, was inundated with orders and returns. Naturally, it could not keep up and some customers were waiting months for their orders and returns to be processed.

Nobody’s Child posting an apology on Instagram

While this wasn’t caused by Black Friday, the root cause remains the same. This is an example of a retailer whose order fulfillment and returns processes couldn’t cope with an unexpected surge in demand.

What causes order fulfillment issues?

Every business is different but here are some common reasons for order fulfillment related issues:

  • Limited data visibility
  • Siloed processes caused by legacy systems
  • Systems that are difficult to scale as the business grows
  • Teams working disparately 

How to master order fulfillment for Black Friday

1. Ensure your website can handle the surge in traffic

While robust inventory and order systems are important, they won’t help if customers struggle to access your website to place an order. Research suggests that as much as 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned, with barriers to order completion including a requirement to create an account, extra costs or an overly complicated checkout process.

So, make sure that your website design and infrastructure can rise to the challenge of seasonal peaks in demand and return to baseline when traffic drops.

2. Have visibility over inventory levels

Customers can quickly become frustrated if their orders are delivered late, they receive the wrong items or their order is out of stock. The likelihood of these situations happening naturally increases during busy periods. That’s why you need to know how much stock you have and where it is. 

A warehouse-eCommerce solution integration will help you gain better visibility over inventory. This knowledge can help you prepare stock ahead of time so picking, packing and dispatching orders can be fast, efficient and accurate.

3. Track sales

Can you easily find out how many sales you’re making at any given time, over any period of time? For example, if you’re running a promotion over the Black Friday weekend, can you find out what was the most popular item/range and how this compared to sales pre-promotion? 

Analytics software can help you gain access to this level of data. You can use this to inform ongoing and future promotions.

4. Keep customers updated

Even when you have a robust order fulfillment process, things may not always go as planned. It’s important to keep your customers informed, whether that’s providing them with regular updates about the status of their orders or letting them easily reach out to you if they have questions.

For example, in addition to sending order confirmations, tracking details and other updates via email, why not also send them via SMS? SMS open rates sit as high as 98% compared to 20% for email so these updates are less likely to be missed or end up in junk.

Don’t forget to make it easy for customers to reach out to your customer service team too. As well as being able to call, email or engage on live chat, you could offer rich messaging options such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Not only are they convenient and easy to use, but they also allow your customers to talk to you via the same channels they engage with family and friends.

5. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration

It’s not just your customers who you need to keep in the loop. It should also be easy for your teams to speak to each other, working across departments and sharing information. 

After all, when customers reach out, it may take more than one person in a team or even multiple teams to resolve the query. All of the teams involved, from sales and customer service to order fulfillment, should be able to collaborate seamlessly to deliver an excellent and consistent customer experience.

A great communications platform is key here – for keeping both customers and your internal teams in constant contact with each other.

So, is there a secret to order fulfillment success?

Black Friday is an extremely busy time for retailers, particularly for those dealing in e-commerce. Logistics challenges often become highlighted during this period. 

While there is no singular secret to order fulfillment success, steps like being able to track sales and stock will help. But it’s not just about being able to fulfill orders. You should also keep customers up-to-date with the status of their orders, whether that’s with tracking details and news of potential delays or by providing multiple communication channels for them to reach out if they have queries.

Then there’s the internal side of things. Your teams should be able to easily share and access the information they need to keep customers informed and satisfied. This will help you to provide an outstanding customer experience, even when fulfilling orders becomes challenging.

Is your business ready for Black Friday?

The biggest shopping weekend of the year is fast approaching. What is your business doing to prepare?

We polled over 4,000 shoppers globally to discover what they’re expecting from businesses when it comes to customer engagement and experience, and how they’re planning to spend their money over the Black Friday weekend.

Download our guide below to see how you can capitalise on the latest e-commerce trends and elevate your sales this Black Friday.  

Author Avatar
Prachi Bametha

Marketing Coordinator, Esendex Australia