2020 has been a challenging year for eCommerce businesses. Entering the year, businesses were predicting Brexit would be their most significant hurdle to overcome. Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit. Nationwide lockdowns left consumers with no choice but to shop online, and online sales rocketed to a 10-year high. The unexpected surge in business has continued throughout the year as in-store sales drop. Now, with Christmas on its way, businesses are facing a perfect storm of higher volume peak sales, the difficulty of social distancing and reduced staff levels due to the pandemic, and Brexit on the horizon. 

Peak on top of Peak: An Unprecedented Year

The sudden surge in online sales as the world went into lockdowns due to Covid19 meant retailers were juggling social distancing in the warehouse and reduced staff members with peak level orders. Some of the country’s biggest brands were forced to shut their online stores or limit the amount of orders per day. Those that were able to continue trading took up to 10 days to deliver as carriers also struggled to keep up with demand.

Now, Christmas is around the corner, and it’s likely that many customers will be ordering their Christmas presents online rather than braving the stores. Carriers have pre-warned retailers that the capacity will be limited this year, and they are implementing their own contingency plans in order to protect service levels. This includes switching off non-core services that may slow down the networks, for example, delivering bulky, heavy items. Some carriers are already restricting or turning away new customers to protect capacity. With social distancing still likely to cause issues and capacity limited in warehouses, retailers need to ensure they have the flexibility and contingency in place to weather the storm. 

Tackling Brexit and Incoming Cross Border Complication

As of the 1st of January, Brexit will be fully implemented, and businesses will be facing the end of borderless trade. Even though we don’t know the full details, we do know there will be significant changes to duties and tax charges and the process at customs. Also, those selling in the EU will need to have the right paperwork ready such as an EORI number and HS codes for products.

Retailers need to ensure their warehousing and technology set up is ready to tackle these changes. The right technology mix can help at the point of sale by providing transparency over additional duties and taxes for customers. This is an important factor when  68% of international consumers check if there are any additional fees to pay.* Technology can also help streamline your operations and speed up cross border deliveries. Businesses must ensure that their carrier partners are also ready to handle all the changes and ensure there is no hold up for your customers. 

One of the first challenges businesses could face post-Brexit is Returns. 2nd January is known as returns day, where customers return unwanted Christmas presents. Returns are already a real headache for many retailers, and cross-border returns present additional issues to tackle. But they are important to consumers, with 1 in 5 abandoning a purchase if they don’t like the returns policy. * Neglecting returns could prove to be very costly. Any delays in the returns process can delay resaleable products being resold and further erode margins. Retailers need to make sure their returns are handled swiftly, provide value for money, and offer the same flexibility as deliveries. Find out more about how you can prepare your supply chain post-Brexit.

Don’t Put Your Delivery Eggs in One Basket 

Businesses can’t rely on just one carrier to fulfill all orders. It is far too great a risk, especially at times of such uncertainty. If there are any issues that occur, your parcels may have nowhere to go leading to delays and a backlog of unfulfilled orders. All this can mean unsatisfied customers and more time spent handling their queries. Therefore, it’s essential that businesses work with multiple carriers so that the contingency is in place should one carrier fail to fulfill orders. This can result in more work for retailers to manage all the carriers, which is where the right delivery partner can help relieve the heavy load.

With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing and online shopping at peak levels, retailers face a huge ‘peak on peak’ as Christmas approaches. For many businesses, this year has exposed the lack of contingency measures within their supply chain and the need for a robust multi-carrier approach for many businesses. Businesses must be prepared for the unexpected and put in place the backup plan to be able to adapt fast. This is the backbone to a successful period every year, but especially with the challenging times we are facing ahead.

*IMRG Returns Review

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