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Record-Breaking Cyber Week Reveals Need for Automated, Scalable Order Fulfillment

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Online consumers demonstrated resilience during Cyber Week 2023, setting an eCommerce record of $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday.
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Online consumers demonstrated resilience during Cyber Week 2023, setting an eCommerce record of $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, a 9.6% YoY increase; and $9.8 billion on Black Friday, a 7.5% YoY upsurge. Overall, eCommerce sales rose 8.5% YoY compared to in-store at just 1.1% YoY – online shopping clearly outpacing in-store sales during the year’s top sales events. The strong turnout rewarded retailers that had promoted steep discounts for their upcoming Cyber Week sales, rather than spreading sales out earlier in the season. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) also broke a record, comprising $940 million of online sales, an increase of 42.5% YoY.  

Unlike in 2020 and 2021, when consumers shopped sales across November, this year’s price-conscious consumers waited patiently for the very best and final deals offered during Cyber Week – generating renewed momentum for these traditional sales days. And, with BNPL, shoppers were able to stretch their budgets more conveniently.  

Overall, strong spending is expected to continue through Christmas, with retailers enjoying an extra weekend shopping day this year as the holiday falls on a Monday. As eCommerce retailers prepare to meet the demands of the holiday season, they rely on the capacity and scalability of their order fulfillment operations. But are they prepared? 

What Drove Shoppers to Spend During Cyber Week

Shoppers took advantage of some of the highest discount rates we’ve seen, up to 30% off in the United States and 27% off globally, according to Salesforce. Retailers promoted that their best deals would be during Cyber Week, and shoppers waited for those discounts. “People are more conscientious about getting the best prices possible this year, and this year’s record-breaking Cyber Week proved how much discounts are driving sales,” said Patrick Allard, EVP, Chief Sales Officer, Radial. “Retailers have been able to drive demand for certain products by setting discounts, and this has worked well in terms of streamlining inventory and the supply chain.”

The top categories for online discounts were electronics, toys, apparel, furniture, and appliances. Gaming consoles, skin care gift sets, small kitchen appliances, televisions, smart watches, activity trackers, and Bluetooth headphones were also highly popular, reported Adobe.

BNPL supported shoppers in buying more products per cart, as the number of items per order went up 11% YoY.

Overall, larger discounts and BNPL enabled shoppers to buy more items during Cyber Week than they would have in recent years.

“People have been impacted by inflation, but this has not deterred them from buying for the holidays. Their behavior this year demonstrates that they do intend to buy, they are just more willing to wait for what they perceive to be the very best deal they can get. This year, those deals were during Cyber Week,” said Allard.

Around 80% of online shoppers chose standard shipping rates, when free shipping was not offered — another sign that they are being more judicious with their budgets. “From an order fulfillment perspective, the shift to charge for shipping may be paying off for retailers in terms of consumer adoption, cost containment, and decreasing environmental impact. Standard shipping is slower, which gives carriers more time to consolidate loads,” said Allard.

But record-breaking sales volume also means record-breaking order fulfillment. Something that retailers are still grappling with as they navigate in-house versus outsourced fulfillment operations.

Record Sales Reveals Gaps

Analysts had predicted a robust Cyber Week, but retailers were still surprised by the sales volumes. Those that had their omnichannel sales and order fulfillment processes in place and had their IT, payment, and fraud systems load tested, were able to navigate the high volume successfully.

Others found it more difficult to fulfill customer expectations. Retailers that did not have the order fulfillment infrastructure, staffing levels, automation and robotics, and omnichannel software powering real-time visibility across the eCommerce ecosystem struggled to keep up.

“For some eCommerce retailers, a record-breaking sales event reveals the need for automated, well-orchestrated, human-led fulfillment operations that are built to scale. Retailers that did not have this in place or have not partnered with a 3PL like Radial, find it difficult to deliver on post-checkout customer expectations. Retailers must be able to scale at any time and a solid partner will provide that confidence,” said, Allard. “Radial was prepared for a record-breaking Black Friday and Cyber Monday due to our infrastructure and modern, automated processes. Scaling order fulfillment is part of our normal operations; we’re committed to ensuring our customers can meet order demand no matter how it surges, at any time of year. Radial customers have peace of mind that every order is fulfilled and shipped on time.”

Radial Supports Holiday Shopping at Scale

As a global eCommerce fulfillment center, Radial supports retailers in meeting the demands of the holiday shopping season. With fulfillment, transportation management, payment solutions, omnichannel solutions, and customer care services, Radial delivers the expertise, staffing, automation, and trusted guidance for successful order fulfillment.

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