The Delivery Conference discusses Black Friday

Kicking off The Delivery Conference unsurprisingly immediately focused on the peak and in particular Black Friday 2014 and how it affected couriers.

Dwaine McDonald CEO of DPD opened up stating that with the media whipping consumers into purchasing no one wins. The attitude appeared to be that if you didn’t buy that day then Christmas would be a failure for your family.

Dick Stead, CEO of Yodel added that volumes dropped mid November just as they were training their Christmas staff and then when Black Friday hit they met all their targets. Unfortunately retailers had massively underestimated the targets and DPD agreed that volumes were way up.

The reality is that Black Friday poses enormous challenges on how retailers and carriers handle Black Friday in 2015 according to John Roberts of AO.com. What appears to have happened in 2014 is rather than a slow sustained build up to peak, consumers held back for Black Friday and then sales tailed off towards Christmas.

The issue is for most carriers and particularly DPD is that everything is expected to be delivered Next Day. Next year they aim to open up their Interlink deliveries on Saturday and Sunday as well as DPD. They are simply going to have to work differently next year.

Dick Stead asked the question “How necessary is a 24 hour delivery service?” He suggests that retailers need to be up front on their websites giving transparency and pointed out that most consumers weren’t worried about next day delivery but simply wanted to know when their parcels would be delivered. He contends that most consumers wouldn’t necessarily select next day delivery but retailers directed consumers to this option regardless.

That does raise issues with sites such as eBay as well as for the retailers themselves in building in up front information for consumers letting them know when they should expect a delivery. Martjin de Lange from Hermes suggested that retailers need to smooth out their despatches. One option of course is for retailers to simply ship a set amount per day regardless of volumes and simply delay Black Friday shipments a few days once a certain volume is reached. This coupled with couriers working 7 days per week would help ease the load and mitigate the effect of Black Friday.

The big question is do your customers need next day delivery around the Black Friday peak, or do they just need to know that their items will be delivered in time for Christmas?

John Roberts however had one final point to make, why should he take out his companies 24 hour delivery promise when his competitors still offer it. He doesn’t see how he can pre-judge whether his customers need next day delivery and certainly doesn’t want to lose sales by not offering it. That brings us full circle back to Black Friday 2015 and the expectation that it will be even bigger than last year, that everyone will expect next day delivery and carriers will be hammered once again.

DPD suggests that maybe even 24 hour deliveries could be the solution, that’s not delivery next day, but having delivery drivers on the road 24 hours a day so some deliveries could be made at 1am at night or 6am in the morning. Innovation is key and whilst planning by couriers and retailers is still in the early stages, the one thing that we do know is that the Black Friday peak in 2015 is going to be interesting.