After an unexpectedly busy spring with many more orders than usual, online stores and delivery drivers are now bracing for a possibly even busier holiday quarter. It has always been busy around Black Friday and Sinterklaas, but the corona virus is expected to make it even busier.
This period is an “ultimate test moment”, says Fonq CEO Jeremiah Albinus. His webshop specializes in home furnishings. “It’s going to be particularly exciting because it’s so unpredictable. We don’t know if orders were pushed forward earlier this year or whether declining consumer confidence will play a part.”
The most important test moment, according to Thuiswinkel, is around the last weekend of November. It starts on Friday with Black Friday and ends with Cyber Monday. The two sales days fall just before Sinterklaas.
Albinus expects retailers, just like his store, to sell customers no. “Or discourage the purchase with fewer ads. We are entering a busy quarter anyway. If the corona measures continue, I think there will be problems.” In particular, he expects delivery the bottleneck can become.
Scale up in three weeks
According to a tour of the NOS, the sector is prepared. “This spring, we had to scale up the capacity by 40 percent within three weeks compared to the beginning of March,” says PostNL’s director of operations Iris van Wees. “Then you don’t actually have any preparation time like you do around the holidays.”
I dare say that the peak that we can handle is a lot higher than the peak during this spring’s intelligent lockdown.
The past months have been used to be prepared. “I dare say that the peak that we can handle is a lot higher than the peak during the ‘intelligent lockdown’ this spring”, says Van Wees. To achieve this, all distribution centers will open on Sundays around the busiest sales times, more vans and carriers will be deployed and there is a lot of consultation with the web shops.
Web shops also indicate that they are ready for what is to come. “We work broadly with different scenarios”, says Carolien van Brakel, responsible for the holiday planning at Bol.com. “We work in such a way that we can scale up and down very easily.” The web store can choose to, for example, only highlight a certain range.
The same sound can be heard at Wehkamp and Coolblue, but they do not provide any details about this. Mediamarkt says it will get 900 percent more traffic to the site around Black Friday than on a regular day and expects 20 percent more traffic this year than at the 2019 edition.
Huge amount of orders
Carrier PostNL had to increase its capacity considerably as a result of the lockdown this spring; in the second quarter there was a volume increase of 25 percent. “That was a really huge bump,” says Van Wees. “The biggest storm then subsided, but this autumn we will step up to a higher level.”
The delivery person processes one and a half million parcels per day at peak times in the holiday quarter, on such days the chance of delays in delivery is greater. Competitor DHL expects to process one million parcels per day on peak days from November and says it has different scenarios to handle the crowds.
At Bol.com, 60 percent of sales are also handled by so-called partners of the webshop. These are web shops that use Bol.com as a platform to gain a greater reach. “We regularly send them tips about, among other things, stock and logistics,” says Van Brakel. “We notice that many parties find it difficult to make a good estimate of the size of the peak that is coming.”
“I think we as an industry have gone through just as many changes in the last five months as we planned in five years,” said Albinus of Fonq. “Nobody had foreseen this and had to scale up and turn all kinds of knobs.”
Also check out ‘Retour Rumor’, a special from NOS op 3 about the growing pains of the delivery sector.