Peak Planning in a Global Pandemic: Your Guide for 2020

Peak Planning in a Global Pandemic: Your Guide for 2020

Peak Planning in 2020

At the close of peak season 2019, few would have anticipated how much the global landscape has shifted by the time it came to planning for 2020.

The far-reaching implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by practically every retailer here in the UK and worldwide, from the short-term closures of brick-and-mortar locations to an acceleration of e-commerce activity, as more and more people have come to depend on online shopping.


With peak season 2020 expected to witness the largest spike in global e-commerce activity ever experienced, it is critical that you are prepared for added challenges and pressures this will place on your organisation. In particular, whether your current delivery service is up to the task of meeting this estimated record-shattering demand.

In this informative document, we will present the information you require to help ensure that your delivery service is not derailed by the added pressures of this year’s “Golden Quarter”. We will explore:


  • What you need to know about the current e-commerce landscape, including cross-border activity.
  • Which areas of your delivery service you should review to make sure you’re fully prepared for these potentially hectic months.
  • Other areas of your organisation that need to be evaluated prior to the upcoming influx of online traffic.


Of course, if you would like to learn more about how our team at P2P are supporting our clients’ preparations for the peak period rush, get in touch to discuss your needs.

Setting The Scene for Peak Season

As anticipated, peak season 2019 set new records for retail sales globally during the holiday season. This was boosted by significant growth in activity among dedicated online retailers and omnichannel retailers with dedicated e-commerce departments. This consistent growth extended back decades, so it was to be expected that 2020 would see this continue. However, the impact of COVID-19 has changed the landscape significantly.


The COVID-19 effect

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 globally and the introduction of social distancing measures, including the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar shops, the world’s reliance on online shopping has noticeably grown.


Figures from IMRG back in April revealed that online retail sales grew a massive 23.8% year-on-year for UK retailers, representing a 10-year high. Furthermore, this surge in online shopping is expected to add a further £5.3bn to UK e-commerce sales in 2020 to reach a grand total of approximately £79bn.


Many shoppers who have never relied on online shopping prior to the pandemic are now using it exclusively in order to uphold social distancing and to protect themselves and their loved ones.


In fact, the Salesforce Shopping Index revealed that across Q1 2020, UK digital revenue outperformed the 2019 peak shopping period in terms of orders. We’ve heard from several of our clients, including a number of large retailers, that their e-commerce activity since “lockdowns” began across the globe has approached peak levels in typically quieter months.


There has been an 11% increase in cross-border e-commerce sales globally since the beginning of COVID-19 (Source: Global-E). Of course, this is not happening across the board – while retailers of home gym equipment and cosmetics have risen, fashion brands have faced a more difficult period.


Yet, if numerous businesses are seeing peak activity levels at non-peak times of year, you would be safe in presuming that activity is only going to ramp up further as we approach November and December. This means an already demanding period for retailers is only set to become more testing for e-commerce companies.


The COVID-19 effect doesn't end there

Restrictions on air travel have placed added pressures on retailers who typically deliver goods via commercial flights to their global customers. Reduced air travel means reduced capacity for these deliveries to take place and higher surcharges – that could place unwelcome limits on businesses whose delivery service or partners are unable to address this issue.

Furthermore, there could potentially be a greater propensity for retailers to other bargain prices for items that they stocked-up on prior to the pandemic, and now need to shift from their warehouses and inventories during priority sales events like Singles Day in China and Black Friday Weekend. COVID-19 has been an unquestioned game-changer for the e-commerce industry heading into peak season for 2020, and has only ramped up the importance of retailers having the right delivery partner in place to steer them through these potentially difficult circumstances.


How have consumers’ attitudes changed?

Through our research into the e-commerce landscape in the UK, worldwide and our own in-house understanding, we are able to offer the following helpful insights into consumer behaviours in a COVID-19-impacted environment:


  • Cross-border purchases have actually grown in the months following the outbreak, with an 11% increase in sales across international markets.
  • 80% of consumers say that they will continue to purchase non-essentials online in 2020.
  • 15% of UK adults purchased groceries online for the first time during this pandemic, with 34% saying they’ll continue to do this in future.


Is Your Delivery Service Prepared to Handle Peak Season?

Now we have established what the landscape for 2020 Peak Season is set to look like, it is now important to use this information to assess whether your current delivery service is in a position to take on these new challenges.


Whether you handle delivery in-house or you are partnered with a delivery provider, now is the time to evaluate your current situation to either reassure yourself that you are prepared for the unprecedented influx that this holiday season will bring, or if a change is required to meet these increased demands.


In our view, the key concern retailers face during peak season is ensuring they have capacity. Many retailers are right now being stretched to near-peak levels of e-commerce activity and the challenges this already presents during COVID-19.


The reduced number of commercial flights across the globe has significantly restricted the ability of businesses to reach their customers overseas at current levels. These restrictions will only tighten during peak season, as customer orders ramp up and commercial flights remain limited.


This is a key concern for retailers looking to reach audiences overseas and take advantage of the rise in e-commerce activity. Even if your website is being inundated with more traffic than ever before due to the circumstances we identified earlier, if your delivery services don’t have the space to send all parcels out, this means:

  1. You miss out on the increased digital revenue these orders will provide.
  2. You encourage shoppers to look elsewhere to and the products they’re looking for.
  3. You need to span out deliveries to make up for the lack of capacity, which means longer delivery times and reduced customer satisfaction.


This potential disruption to your supply chain should be a priority focus when evaluating your current delivery service or partner:

  • Can we guarantee a consistent stream of orders being sent to our customers during peak times?
  • Are we already close to full capacity at our current levels of activity?
  • Do we have the ability to upscale our operations should demand increase in the coming months?
  • While restrictions are easing-up across the globe, are we prepared for the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 or if countries are embargoed should circumstances change?


As well as asking these questions of their existing service, it’s also important that retailers understand how they can help support their delivery partners outline your capacity requirements.

For instance, sales forecasts are going to be more important during this period of high e-commerce activity and limited capacity. Knowing your forecasts for peak season will be critical in establishing whether your current supply chain is capable of meeting these predictions, or if operations will need to be up-scaled or alternatives such as the support of a contingent carrier will be necessary to meet your demands.


At P2P, as a FedEx company, we have the potential to utilise a robust linehaul alongside our own fully-managed processes, which gives our clients reassurance that we can help them overcome any capacity concerns during this rush of activity.


With peak season fast-approaching, has your delivery partner been in touch regarding your forecasts for the coming months? It’s important that your partner has the experience and expertise to ask these critical questions, so they can understand what your position is as their client and address any potential problems before they cost you revenue or customer loyalty.


Ensuring you have options

Alongside capacity concerns, it’s also essential to establish whether your delivery service or partner is giving you flexibility and choice in how you reach your customers across the globe.


The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 regarding the potential for a second wave, embargoes and other unfortunate scenarios, it’s more vital than ever that you are working with a delivery partner that gives you options and isn’t tied to a single, fixed approach. Because if that one approach no longer is viable, you’re left scrambling during the most profitable months of the year.


Remember that while e-commerce traffic is expected to rise across the board, this will also increase competition. Working with a delivery partner that can help you give customers an enhanced service (particularly at a time where other competitors will also be trying to manage the fallout from this shift) can help you stand out in this crowded field.


Fundamentally, with so much uncertainty in the air as to how COVID-19 will develop prior to and during peak season, a delivery partnership that gives you choices can ensure you stay adaptable for your customers, be it providing collection points with minimal face-to-face interaction, or being able to provide multiple entry points into a particular destination.

Contingent carriers your safety net

Speaking of having options, that brings us on neatly to the topic of contingent carriers, a service our team has offered to companies throughout the UK for years.


A contingent carrier essentially acts as a substitute delivery service for online retailers in difficult circumstances, either to assist your existing service or replace it altogether if needs be. Peak season is typically the time of year that retailers will deploy this safety net, but in the current circumstances, this added layer of security has become even more vital.


The ever-changing situation and emerging risks COVID-19 presents, as well as the strain that peak season presents in a typical year, makes a backup plan crucial. Being dependent on a single carrier can be disastrous for business continuity – as circumstances change, this added protection will safeguard your ability to reach your customers.


When looking for a fitting contingency carrier to help you meet this record-setting activity, make sure you consider the following:


Ease of integration

Due to the time pressures on contingent carriers, it’s important they can quickly and seamlessly integrate into your existing infrastructure. At P2P, our straightforward APIs minimise turnaround times, meaning we can limit any disruption that bringing us on-board has on your current delivery service. Please get in touch with us so we can help plan your peak period!


Service range

As noted above, a delivery partner that offers you flexibility is crucial in these uncertain times. By offering a mix of tracked, untracked and express services, we help ensure our clients are presented with solutions to fit their needs and the demands of their customers.


Global reach

Your contingency carrier should be in a position to meet your scale of operations and the breadth of your global customer base. With our links to over 220 countries and territories worldwide, we have the coverage to match practically all requirements.


Experience

Ideally, your contingency carrier should have extensive experience both in this role and as an active delivery partner for a number of companies. Many of our long-term partnerships started from our work as a contingency provider, making us well placed to provide the experience and expertise necessary for this role.

Knowledge and experience you can trust

While the forecasts for global e-commerce activity during this year’s golden quarter represent unprecedented levels, your best bet is to align yourself with a partner that is well-seasoned managing operations during peak months and has a proven track record.


To determine this, we’d recommend you do the following:

  • Contact your current delivery partner about how they are planning for peak season (if they haven’t proactively provided that information already).
  • Research into potential delivery partners (either as a permanent or contingent solution) by checking any case studies, testimonials, years active, client list, and more markers of quality.
  • Ensure your partners are asking the right questions about your business and your requirements, be that sales forecasts for peak season or the nature of your products.
  • Check if they are up-to-date with the latest developments with COVID-19 and other notable news.
  • Assess their capabilities to give your customers value during this year’s rush of activity, whether that’s the added reassurance of end-to-end traffic or how they can personalise communications with customers across their package’s journey.
  • Ensure they offer a range of delivery solutions and if their offering is as flexible and scalable as you need it to be – relying on a fixed, one-size-meets-all model is unlikely to cut it in these extraordinary times.


Ensuring your delivery partner has capable knowledge and experience builds trust that they will help you navigate this uncertain period, and that you can make peak season as profitable for your company and as smooth for your staff and customers as possible.

What other factors do retailers need to consider before peak season?

As well as reviewing the capabilities of your delivery service, planning for 2020’s peak season will require retailers to reassess other key aspects of their e-commerce platform. Here, we break down some of the additional considerations you should keep in mind to ensure you’re in peak performance prior to peak season.


Website optimisation

Your website is the gateway for your customers overseas to understand and order your products. As such, it needs to be in a position to handle the spike in traffic that is anticipated during peak season, particularly in relation to major holidays such as Black Friday Weekend, Halloween and in the build-up to Christmas.

As well as this, it is also crucial that your website ticks the following boxes:

  • Does your homepage convey clearly that you deliver internationally in some form or fashion?
  • At the shopping basket phase, are your customers presented with a range of delivery options relating to tracking, collection points, contactless delivery and more?
  • Do you present a range of payment options and international currencies, helping overseas customers feel more familiar when purchasing from your website?
  • Is your website translatable across your various international audiences?
  • Are taxes and customs included in the basket price?
  • During COVID-19, are you regularly updating your website with any changes that might affect particular destinations to keep your customers informed?


Ensuring your website is optimised in accordance with these key areas should be a top priority of your peak planning. This also represents an opportunity for retailers who have prioritised in-store services to shift their focus onto their online offering, and how they can combine the two to present the most complete experience to customers.

Mobile-friendliness

Next, mobile shopping, like e-commerce in general, is a trend that is not going away anytime soon.


As mobile activity will undoubtedly make up a significant proportion of e-commerce sales for this upcoming peak season, now is the time to make sure that you are maximising your potential on these platforms:

  • Make your website mobile-responsive, and avoid cluttering the layout with unnecessary design elements or images that slow loading speeds and obscure your products.
  • Introduce easy navigation and search functions to your mobile.
  • Place call-to-actions strategically across the website.
  • Explore the potential to develop a dedicated shopping app.
  • Present automated discounts and dynamic pricing.
  • Promote the strength of your security on mobile.
  • Customer communication.


Finally, before peak season kicks-off it is worth evaluating how you currently communicate with your customers across the globe. Particularly in this current environment, customers will be looking for reassurance and support from retailers throughout their journey on the website.


From answering customer queries about your various products, to keeping them in-the-loop throughout your delivery’s journey into the country, it is all about instilling them with confidence and security during this time of significant uncertainty.

  • Ensure your data compliance systems are up-to-date and keeping both your business and your customers secure.
  • Give information such as returns policies, delivery times, product information and duty pricing upfront to help set expectations.
  • Consider the potential to provide tracking updates to your customers in their native language – this personalises their delivery even further.


Customer communication is one of our key consideration at P2P, both in how we proactively engage with our clients and how they in turn connect to their customers. Through features such as reliable tracking and regular notifications during transit, to delivering communications in a customer’s native language, we make every effort to ensure our clients’ customers are well-informed and treated as individuals.

Make sure you're prepared for peak season

As the most hectic peak season in history edges ever-closer, the robustness, capacity and consistency of your delivery network will be more important than ever in helping you manage the demand, satisfy customers and reap the full benefits from this expected boom period.


Time is of the essence and, if you haven’t done so already, we hope this has given you the motivation to evaluate your current delivery service and a better understanding of the priority areas to focus on. Whether it is ensuring you have capacity to manage the anticipated influx of activity during the final months of 2020, or putting a contingent carrier in place for that added layer of security, now is the time to cement all of these before the rush commences.


If you believe it is time to readdress your current delivery service, or you need a team to help lighten the load or increase your capacity in the months ahead, our team at P2P are happy to lend a hand. With extensive experience of supporting clients across peak seasons, a range of customisable delivery solutions and access to over 220 countries and territories worldwide, we are perfectly positioned to assist you in making the most of this huge opportunity.


Receive a free quote from our team today, or get in touch to discuss your circumstances and learn more about the services we can provide.

About P2P

At P2P, we bring UK retailers to the doorsteps of customers across the globe. We’re there from the start of a package’s journey to its destination, helping our clients overcome the challenges of international delivery and make reaching new markets a reality.


  • Working with retailers since 2009.
  • Handling more than 16.5m parcels per annum.
  • Access to 220 countries and territories.
  • Choice of delivery solutions.
  • Breaking down the barriers of international trade.
  • Flexible to the needs of retailers and consumers.