What crops up in your mind when you hear about Black Friday (and by extension, Cyber Monday)? The flurry of customers making a headlong dive into brick and mortar establishments? Great deals and bargains for TVs, gaming consoles, and other gizmos?
For the enterprising, it can mean a massive opportunity. But with each opportunity comes a few downsides.
Tracing the roots of Black Friday
Traditionally, Black Friday is celebrated on the Friday after the American Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November. For both consumers and retailers, Black Friday heralds the coming of the rush to buy presents for the holidays.
Although the practice has been around since the 1950s, the term Black Friday is just a few decades old. Today, what is distinctively an American tradition has spilled over to the various corners of the globe, with several retailers, most notably online merchants, making their own version of this event.
The economics of Black Friday
Although the number of people flocking to and lining up around the perimeter of brick and mortar stores has diminished substantially in recent years, partly due to the rise of online offers, Black Friday remains a considerable economic event.
In 2018, Thanksgiving sales hit the $3.7 billion mark, growing by as much as 27.9 percent. Black Friday, on the other hand, registered as much as $6.2 billion in sales, with consumers spending an average of $146. For online retailers, Cyber Monday accounts for a substantial chunk of their sales. In 2018, retailers were able to net $7.9 billion in sales.
It is important to note that a substantial number of customers, roughly 54 percent, are consumers who use their mobile devices to check out deals and to buy items.
If you are a retailer or even a wholesaler, what do these facts and figures mean for you? How can you take advantage of this cultural and economic phenomenon?
Setting yourself up for success
Black Friday and Cyber Monday both account for a high volume of ocean and air freight, with shipment volume peaking at around the tail-end of August.
As such, if you are getting your wares from manufacturers located abroad, you have to be mindful of this established trend. Ignoring this can compromise your stockpile of goods to sell, and you might miss out on making a good profit during this season.
Start with a forecast
Forecasting sales is a critical task, not only during peak periods. In fact, the job should be an invaluable part of your company's processes.
If it is just your first year of doing business, projecting sales during this peak period can be a challenging task. Add that to the fact that projecting sales is not an exact science.
However, you can make up for these by leveraging research materials as well as emerging trends to help you determine how many items you should stock in your store to take full advantage of the increase in demand during this highly profitable season.
For industry veterans, making a forecast becomes easier as you can draw upon your experience as well as data culled from previous years.
Either way, you do not need to focus solely on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you make the right forecast and put the right systems in place, you can nail down your orders more accurately, minimizing the pitfall of over and under-ordering.
Be mindful of timing and costs
Sales forecasting is just one part of a larger equation. On the other end, you need to get your timing right. Otherwise, you risk missing out on a great opportunity. Worse, your reputation can be tarnished by irate customers who can't get the items they ordered on time.
Additionally, you have to be mindful of the fact that along with the increase in shipping volumes during peak seasons, freight rates also increase. If you time your orders based adequately on accurate sales forecasting, you can avoid, or at least minimize, the impact of increased freight rates.
You can't do it alone
The increase in demand for your items necessitates an increase in your staff. In the same vein, you will need a helping hand with your shipment if you can't help but get your items shipped from overseas during the peak season.
The key here is to find a dependable freight forwarder who can help you effectively manage shipments consisting of multiple products.
A reliable freight manager can help you solve hiccups or even fast-track the shipment process for you through a variety of strategies, including using a separate bill of lading for individual containers and choosing the optimal shipping routes for you.
Pay more to earn more
Ideally, you should give yourself and your freight forwarder ample time to get your items shipped. But as mentioned earlier, sales forecasting is not an exact science. A lot of unforeseen problems can crop up and mess up your forecast and shipping timeline.
If you find yourself in a pinch, with your inventory running low a few weeks before Black Friday, one option that you should strongly consider is air freight. For large orders, you can use air freight for a portion of your items while the rest can be shipped via FCL or LCL ocean freight.
Airfreight allows you to bridge the gap between your inventory and customer demand while you wait for the bulk of your orders from overseas.
Although air freight is the more expensive option, when you are pressed for time, the more expensive option is always better than having no option at all.
Consider going digital
You and your freight forwarders might be busy during the weeks and months leading to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With all the work involved, from sending quotes to booking your shipment, traditional freight forwarders may be working with limited resources, especially during this period.
If you do not want to risk having a fast-dwindling inventory during these peak periods, you should strongly consider trying online freight forwarding.
This allows you to save time as well as gives you the power of choice when deciding how you want your goods to be shipped.
As Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight, Paul Rehmet is responsible for translating the vision of Shipa Freight into an easy-to-use online freight platform for our customers. Formerly Vice President of Digital Marketing for Agility, Paul managed Agility's website, mobile apps, content marketing and online advertising campaigns. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways. Paul has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brown University. Paul is based in Philadelphia.