Nowadays it can seem like online sales events are endless. On top of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there’s AfterYAY, Click Frenzy, Singles Day, Free Shipping Day and Vogue Online Shopping Night.

While these online events can drive huge sales numbers, they can also do a number on your website, inventory and Customer Service team. Shoppers expect the same shopping experience as other times and delivering anything less can lose them permanently.

Online shopping events are more popular than ever

In Australia, major discounts were once confined to post-Christmas Boxing Day and New Year sales. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have been big in the US for years but now they’ve well and truly made their way to our shores, along with several other events.

This year, 39% of retailers are planning to discount their products before Christmas compared to 31% last year. This is partially driven by limited-time sales events such as Black Friday.

Customers are also moving online in their shopping habits, further concentrating the effect of online sales events. All signs are pointing towards an imperative to both participate in these events and ensure that your eCommerce platform is equipped to cope with the increased demand.

Pro tip:

Don’t try to participate in all the events or you could hurt your sales at other times. Pick the ones that resonate most with your brand and your customer base.

It’s all in the preparation

Black Friday sales can drive huge numbers of shoppers to your website in a very limited timeframe. This can create major problems for your server, leading to slow load times or even a site crash. Not only does this lose sales in the moment, frustrated customers may be permanently put off.

If your business is making the leap into Black Friday sales, stress test your website in advance. Then test it again, and maybe a little more for good measure.

A good way of managing temporary periods of increased traffic is to turn to cloud solutions such as Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services. These give you the flexibility to take on larger amounts of computing and memory power when it’s needed, without the cost when it’s not necessary.

Is your inventory management up to scratch?

Tight inventory control is paramount when it comes to online sales events such as Black Friday. Poor inventory management can lead to customers purchasing products which turn out to be out of stock or, conversely, having in-stock items appear to be sold out.

Your Warehouse Management System or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software should give you (and your eCommerce platform) realtime information on product levels. This is helpful at all times but especially vital during high-volume periods such as Black Friday and the lead up to Christmas.

Make use of your analytics capabilities to establish your optimum inventory. This will ensure that you have enough product to fulfil orders, without the cost of carrying more than you need.

Read about how you can slash your fulfilment time to get orders out faster.

What goes around comes around

The effects of Black Friday don’t just end when the orders have been fulfilled. During major online events like Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales, your return rate may increase by as much as 30%. All of these returns will need to be unpacked, checked, authorised for a refund or exchange and then put back into stock.

If you have brick and mortar retail stores, ensure that customers can easily return online purchases to these locations. Make use of an ERP to create an endless aisle, which can help to take the pain out of returning items to your inventory.

Consider a self-service online returns process to easily serve your customers who are unable or unwilling to return products instore. Shippit offers a branded self-service returns portal which allows customers to request a return online, download the return label, and organise item drop off or pick up.

Read more about how to prepare your warehouse for an increased number of returns.

Hungry for more? Read our eBook guide to generating record sales this holiday season.