Customer Service

The Impact of Seasonal Sales on Shipping: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday Surge

September 28, 2023
5 mins

Seasonal sales, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday sales, often lead to a surge in orders, putting immense pressure on e-commerce businesses. This article delves into the challenges faced during peak sale seasons and offers insights into how businesses can prepare for the influx of orders.

1. Surge in Order Volume

During peak seasons, most e-commerce brands witness a significant increase in orders. This surge goes well beyond the usual business operations, leading to a heightened demand for warehouse space, manpower, and fulfillment infrastructure1.

As the festive season approaches or during special promotional events, e-commerce platforms often witness a spike in traffic. This sudden influx can strain the existing infrastructure, leading to website slowdowns or even crashes. A slow-loading site can deter potential customers, leading to cart abandonment. Moreover, the increased order volume can also lead to logistical challenges. For instance, processing a large number of orders in a short time can overwhelm the packing and dispatch teams, leading to delays. It's crucial for businesses to have a scalable infrastructure that can handle these spikes and a well-trained team ready to manage the increased workload.

  • Study Insight: A survey conducted by Deposco and Supply Chain Dive in July revealed that 52% of respondents are managing the peak season differently than in previous years. About half of the respondents no longer consider peak season to be a specific period of increased activity but view it as a year-round event. The demand for products has increased significantly, with many e-commerce businesses experiencing what used to be peak season order volumes on regular days. Citation: Talk Business
  • Scalable Infrastructure: Ensure your website and backend systems can handle traffic spikes without slowing down or crashing.
  • Preparedness Training: Conduct regular training sessions for staff to handle increased order volumes efficiently.
  • Backup Systems: Have backup servers and systems in place to manage any unforeseen surge.
  • Efficient Fulfillment: Partner with reliable third-party logistics providers or expand in-house capabilities.

2. Supply and Demand Shifts

A considerable shift in supply and demand can profoundly impact operations during the peak shipping season2. For instance, if a popular product runs out of stock, it can lead to customer dissatisfaction and potential loss of sales.

The balance between supply and demand is delicate. During peak seasons, if a product becomes a sudden hit, it can quickly go out of stock, leaving many customers disappointed. On the other hand, overestimating the demand for a product can lead to overstocking, resulting in increased holding costs and potential wastage. It's also worth noting that supply chain disruptions, especially during global events or unforeseen circumstances, can affect the availability of products. Businesses need to have a robust supply chain management system in place, with real-time tracking and analytics to predict and manage these shifts effectively.

  • Study Insight: 59% of respondents expect the peak season to be more challenging than the previous year. Major concerns include COVID-19 restrictions and U.S. seaport delays. Additionally, labor shortages are expected to impact the ability to prepare for peak season, leading to decreased on-time delivery ratings. Citation: Talk Business
  • Real-time Analytics: Use data analytics to predict product demand and adjust inventory accordingly.
  • Supplier Communication: Maintain open communication with suppliers to ensure quick restocking of popular items.
  • Contingency Stock: Keep a buffer stock for best-selling items to avoid sudden stock-outs.
  • Diversified Supply Chain: Avoid relying on a single supplier; diversify to mitigate risks.

3. Increased Customer Demand

The recent peak seasons have set record-setting numbers for e-commerce sales3. With more consumers turning to online shopping, especially during sales, businesses must be equipped to handle the increased demand efficiently.

With the rise of online shopping, especially post-pandemic, consumers have become more comfortable making purchases online. This comfort, combined with the allure of seasonal discounts, leads to a significant rise in customer demand. However, this also means that customers' expectations are higher. They expect faster delivery times, instant customer support, and a seamless shopping experience. Any hiccup, be it a delayed delivery or a wrong product, can lead to negative reviews and harm the brand's reputation. It's essential for businesses to understand their customer base, anticipate their needs, and have contingency plans in place to address any issues promptly.

  • Study Insight: 60% of supply chain executives are most concerned with inflation and a declining economic outlook. A significant majority (88%) expect higher prices for supplies and services during the peak season due to inflation. This could lead to reduced consumer demand, more order cancellations, longer lead times, and increased return-related issues.Citation: Talk Business
  • Enhanced Customer Support: Increase support staff or use AI chatbots during peak seasons to handle customer queries.
  • Fast Shipping Options: Offer expedited shipping options for customers willing to pay more for quicker delivery.
  • Clear Communication: Keep customers informed about potential delays or stock issues.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Implement a system for customers to provide feedback, helping in continuous improvement.

4. Inventory Management Challenges

Managing inventory levels is one of the primary challenges for e-commerce businesses. The last thing merchants want during peak seasons is to run out of stock or overstock items that don't sell4.

Effective inventory management goes beyond just ensuring products are in stock. It involves forecasting demand, managing supplier relationships, and having a clear understanding of the lead times for different products. During peak seasons, when sales are unpredictable, having an efficient inventory management system becomes even more critical. Using outdated methods or relying on manual processes can lead to errors, such as shipping the wrong product or quantity. Investing in automated inventory management systems, which use AI and machine learning to predict demand and optimize stock levels, can be a game-changer for businesses.

  • Study Insight: 60% of respondents were somewhat confident or not confident in the ability of existing systems to handle fulfillment. Most respondents (79%) believe that investing in modern warehouse management systems or order management systems will prepare operations for improved profitability during peak season. Citation: Talk Business
  • Automated Inventory Systems: Invest in systems that automatically update stock levels in real-time.
  • Demand Forecasting: Use AI and machine learning tools to predict product demand accurately.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular inventory checks to ensure system data matches actual stock.
  • Supplier Agreements: Have agreements in place for quick restocking and flexible return policies for unsold stock.

5. Seasonal Demand Fluctuations

E-commerce seasonality is relatively easy to understand, referring to the fluctuations in customer purchasing behavior throughout the year5. However, these fluctuations can cause severe problems with inventory management and order fulfillment.

Different products have different peak seasons. For instance, winter wear will naturally be in higher demand during colder months, while swimwear will see a spike in sales during summer. Understanding these seasonal trends is crucial for businesses to plan their inventory, marketing campaigns, and sales strategies. However, these trends can also be influenced by external factors, such as a viral social media trend or a celebrity endorsement. Businesses need to stay updated with market trends, conduct regular market research, and be flexible in their strategies to adapt to these fluctuations.

  • Study Insight: To manage the return of goods during the peak season, 36% of respondents plan to allow consumers or retailers to keep or dispose of mistakes and damaged goods. More than one-third plan to gather additional data about returned items to identify problem areas and trends. Furthermore, 31% of respondents plan to establish locations or partnerships that allow customers to easily return unpackaged items. Citation: Talk Business
  • Market Research: Stay updated with market trends and customer preferences.
  • Flexible Marketing Strategies: Be ready to pivot marketing campaigns based on current demand and trends.
  • Inventory Adjustments: Adjust stock levels based on seasonal demand predictions.
  • Engage with Customers: Use social media and email campaigns to understand and anticipate customer needs during different seasons.

ShipAid: Your Partner in Navigating Seasonal Sales Challenges

At ShipAid, we understand the complexities of seasonal sales and the challenges they bring to e-commerce businesses. Our platform is designed to assist merchants in navigating these challenges, ensuring a smooth post-purchase experience for customers. By integrating AI-driven solutions, ShipAid offers real-time tracking, delivery guarantees, and efficient customer service, even during peak sale seasons. As highlighted in one of our previous articles, ShipAid's self-service customer resolution portal is a game-changer, especially during high-demand periods.


Seasonal sales are a double-edged sword for e-commerce businesses. While they bring in increased revenue, they also come with their set of challenges. However, with proper planning, leveraging technology, and partnering with platforms like ShipAid, businesses can not only survive but thrive during peak sale seasons.

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