At a time when internet retail sales are already at a record high, the anticipated spike in online orders expected to be generated by this Autumn’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales season will mean that fulfillment companies and their courier partners are likely to find themselves under greater pressure than ever.
“Last year UK consumers spent more than £1.5 billion online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and the number of internet shoppers rose by close to 20 per cent. In 2020 - with consumers embracing online shopping in ever greater numbers due to the Covid-19 enforced closure of many physical stores and post-lockdown caution – the figures are expected to be bigger still,” says Charlie Walker, marketing director of Berkshire-based supply chain services and online fulfilment specialist, Walker Logistics
Charlie Walker continues: “This year around 30 million orders are predicted to be placed on Black Friday – 21 million of which will be delivered to customers’ homes. This is around five times the normal daily volume and equates to an extra 210,000 van trips.
“There is no doubt that the courier sector has benefited from the rise of online retailing and as behavioural changes forced by the Coronavirus social distancing guidelines continue to boost online shopping activity, 2020 will see an acceleration of the sector’s growth.
“But, there is concern that many courier companies are struggling to cope with order volumes and their service offering may be suffering as a result. This could become a serious issue across the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period and it is something that we at Walker Logistics are monitoring very closely.”
According to Charlie Walker, the couriers’ ability to ramp up their operations to service the extra deliveries required since the start of the pandemic crisis and meet the demands of the coming retail sales season is being hampered, in part, by the well-documented industry-wide shortage of drivers.
“Couriers are at the heart of Britain’s transport sector but the industry is suffering from a shortage of qualified and experienced drivers to undertake the thousands of transport jobs needed each day,” he says.
And, with speed of order fulfilment recognised as a key strategic differentiator for ecommerce retailers, the pressure on courier services to deliver packages on time and at low cost is only going to grow.
Charlie Walker says: “Quite simply, consumers buy from retailers who offer the fastest and cheapest delivery option. For online retailers the ability to offer fast shipping has an impact on customer loyalty, market share, basket size and growth.
“But just as delivering on these expectations drives revenue upward, not fulfilling them puts businesses at risk. According to a recent study, 49 per cent of UK consumers say they would not shop with a retailer again if they had a bad shipping experience and 68 per cent of UK consumers hold the retailer accountable for delivery issues—not the delivery company.”
“The sharp increase in volumes throughout the pandemic obviously caught a lot of courier firms by surprise and, I think, that’s primarily why some of them may have struggled. The fact that everyone knows that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are approaching should allow couriers to build up staff levels and open additional hubs if required to cope with the volume of orders to be processed.
“However, couriers that fail to implement these changes now could find themselves in trouble if the traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargain shopping frenzy puts further pressure on the ecommerce fulfilment as we expect it to.
“At Walker we are working closely with our courier partners to ensure that our retail clients can be sure that their customers continue to receive their deliveries on time throughout the sales season and beyond.”
Black Friday 2020 is on Friday 27 November but the Black Friday sales are expected to start before that date and continue over the weekend of Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November before the Cyber Monday sale on Monday 30 November.