As the temperature plummets, it signals the start of the festive season; woolly hats, pumpkin spiced lattes and of course – shopping!

The busiest shopping period of the year is just around the corner; as an indication of what we can expect this year, sales are forecasted to reach £5 billion just over the Black Friday weekend. Many retailers will have their sights set on a big slice of this pie and how to make the most of peak sales opportunities.

International sales

There is a golden opportunity for international sales this peak. The Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley recently commented that “For holders of dollars and euros and other “citizens of the world”, the sale is now on. Britain is becoming a poundland bargain”. Due to the low value of the Pound, international customers are on the look-out for some UK bargains as shoppers abroad can buy from the UK for cheaper, without affecting seller margins.

The key is to make your offering attractive by removing the obstacles that make people wary of ordering outside of their own country. Research by Pitney Bowes has shown international customers are often put off a purchase because of:

  • high shipping costs
  • unexpected duties and taxes
  • lengthy shipping times

Don’t let any of these things be sales barriers for you.

Reassure with visibility and clarity

The buying experience should be as easy and seamless for international customers as it is for domestic customers. Make sure you offer a choice of cross-border delivery options, as well as a simple returns process. Reassure your worldwide customers that their order won’t take weeks for delivery and they won’t be stung by unexpected costs. Present all of this information at the checkout so that this is clear from the outset, giving cross-border customers the peace of mind and confidence to commit to their purchase.

Shipping efficiency

Receiving more orders is great but being able to fulfil them is just as important, if not more so, especially the closer we get to Christmas Day. During peak, optimised shipping efficiency is a must to make sure that you can get orders out of the door fast. After all, Father Christmas can’t afford to be late!

Black Friday 2014 suffered store outages, slow browsing and virtual queueing which shows how important it is to have technology that is in top shape. Last year, retailers were better prepared but many were still issuing delayed delivery warnings on their home page. Automated shipping can help you to speed up your despatch processing as much as possible, as well as create tracking information and print shipping labels for accuracy and visibility. This level of precision is quite difficult to achieve manually and will give you the edge over your competitors.

Customer experience

We’ve all seen the notorious scenes of Black Friday; shoppers flooding stores, fighting over TVs and trampling over each other – some have even been armed with pepper spray! Often, the words “Black Friday” evoke this sort of image in our minds, which is exactly the kind of awful customer experience that retailers want to avoid. This applies to online stores too; it might not get physical, but shoppers still become frustrated if the shopping process is long, slow and over-complicated.

Low prices and increased sales volumes are no excuse for poor customer service, open communication with your customer will really help to enhance the experience. Give them a choice of delivery options and manage their expectations by presenting them with realistic expected delivery dates and costs before they click buy. It’s better to add on an extra day or two for delivery and let your customers know than to make promises you can’t keep, which can prompt a social media storm. Also, ensure parcels are fully tracked so that you can see any issues that arise and keep your customers updated with the progress of their order.

Reap the rewards without tying up resource

This may sound like a lot of extra effort but it doesn’t need to be if you work with the right delivery partner. A dedicated parcel tracking team, such as ours at GFS, can do this for you to save you time and minimise inbound customer queries, as they can ‘catch’ problems before the customer is even aware of them.

The excitement in the air during peak means shoppers are ready to spend, but this shouldn’t be taken for granted. You need to give consumers a reason why they should buy from you and not somewhere else, and this comes from the service you provide to get your products to their doorstep. If it is simple, easy and quick, how can they refuse?

GFS connect you to the best carriers in the UK and around the world, with parcel services tailored to fit your products and your customers’ needs. Our focus is providing a simple, quick despatch and shipping service for you and your customers so you can make the most of the festive season.