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How to Make the Most of Q4? A Plan for the Seasonal Sales Peak

According to eCommerce analysis from Picodi, 59% of Poles put aside money to spend during the annual shopping holiday – Black Friday. In 2018, the value of the average shopping cart was 176% higher than the previous year. This is obviously good news for the eCommerce industry – but to get the most out of this opportunity you need to be prepared. How can you reap the benefits of this season of spending?



1. The most important dates in Q4 – examples of creatives
2. How low can you go?
3. How can you prepare to make the most of this season?


The fourth quarter is not just about Black Friday and Christmas. There are many more opportunities for sales peaks. Some are the result of predetermined marketing activities and it is up to you whether or not you choose to “organize” them, e.g. by announcing a “shopping night”. Other high shopping periods – pre-Christmas shopping, for example – grow out of the natural needs of consumers. Public holidays (e.g. November 1 or 11 in Poland) also offer opportunities to buy. During these down times, customers have a lot of time to shop and the brick and mortar stores are all closed.


The most important dates in Q4 – examples of creatives


Here are some suggestions for promotional campaigns that you can carry out in the fourth quarter and a few examples of creatives for inspiration:


#1 Halloween


This American holiday, although it has not fully appeared in Polish homes, is doing great on the consumer market. In theory, it incorporates every product category – books, films, clothes, shoes, games, toys, cosmetics, etc. You are not limited to only the one day – October 31 – either. You can (and you should!) initiate a rebate action a few days earlier. It’s worth focusing on products that are related to this day – e.g. horror films, t-shirts with a spooky motif or toy pumpkins.

#2 Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November, but many Americans take a day off on the Friday after to make it a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit family and friends. The majority of purchases at this time are food products – in addition to a hearty dinner, Americans may give each other the so-called Thanksgiving Gift Basket. However, Thanksgiving is also a good time to do some shopping – as you can see below, it even merits a new theme on the blog 😉 


Every now and then, many brands carry out these promotions not only during the holidays, over the course of the whole week: 

#3 Black Friday (November 29)


Undoubtedly the hottest date on the eCommerce calendar in November, Black Friday is the Friday after the American holiday of Thanksgiving. This year Black Friday will fall on November 29.  However, not only Americans “celebrate” this shopping day – already 69% of Poles associate Black Friday with discount prices. Last year, the average shopping cart value was PLN 190, which may seem low, but is 30% higher than the average shopping cart value in October. To multiply profits, many brands extend Black Friday into Black Weekend.  Some brands allude to those who are not crazy about such occasions – like Asos:

#4 Cyber Monday (December 2)


Cyber Monday comes shortly after Black Friday & Black Weekend. This day is a much less well-known shopping “holiday”  in Poland, but it is still worth exploiting, especially since the genesis of this day originates strictly from online sales.  Every year Cyber Monday sets a new record for Internet sales in the United States – in 2018 $7.9 billion was spent through computers and $2.2 billion dollars via smartphones. Here is an example of a creative that plays upon the theme of the day:

#5 Free Shipping Day (December 10)


Some online stores have permanently implemented this option – especially for orders over a certain amount. Most, however, participate in the campaign once a year – this year it falls on December 10. Free delivery is an attractive option for most customers – low delivery costs are still highly valued by Polish consumers, as reported by Gemius. According to data from 2018, low delivery costs came second among their criteria for choosing a specific sales service.


You should approach “Free Free Shipping Day” with a calculator in hand though. Be sure to consider whether this promotion will leave you with a profit or a loss. If you sell low-margin goods (with a small net profit), it will be difficult to earn if covering the cost of shipping, but it is not impossible! However, in addition to purely financial profits, Free Shipping Day is also an opportunity to reach a new group of customers and retain them – sometimes it pays to “go to zero” to increase your long-term customer base. 


“I’ve been taking part in Free Shipping Day for years. I think this is a good opportunity when we want to promote the store – reach a new group of customers, and  “catch” them for the newsletter or on social media channels,” says Antoni Ruszkowski, owner of kinkywinky.pl. “It doesn’t serve a purely financial purpose. In my experience, the average basket value is lower than usual. Personally, I think, when comparing Free Shipping Day with Black Friday, the latter definitely offers a greater financial advantage,” he adds. “Let’s also remember that this day falls at the very end of the month, when consumers often have received their wages and have “cash in hand.”


#6 St Nicholas Day (December 6 in Poland)


For St Nicholas Day – and basically for the whole Christmas period – it is worth getting ready for the rush in advance, e.g. by creating a special landing page with ideas for gifts. The closer you get to St Nicholas Day, the more you can steepen the discount and even offer express delivery at an attractive price. 

#7 Last day of guaranteed delivery before Christmas (December 20)


December 20 is the day customers must order by for online stores to deliver products before Christmas. In general, when choosing “next-day” delivery, you can be sure that the package will be delivered by the Monday before Christmas. However, when stores do not offer next-day delivery, the waiting time is 2 to 5 business days. This means that customers must place an order on December 16 at the latest. You should remember to make this information clear to your customers on your website. One good idea for such a campaign is to announce the promotion just as Landsend.com did:

#8 Christmas (December 24, 25, 26)


On these days, brick and mortar stores are not working – but most customers have plenty of time on their hands to shop. Just remember to inform them that the package will be sent to them only after Christmas. 


The above examples represent only a few opportunities for carrying out a promotional campaign in Q4. Depending on your industry and brand, you could also consider promotions on such days as St. Andrew’s Day or November 11. Let’s also remember that there are post-Christmas sales, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s period to be exploited. You are really limited only by your own creativity – and, to a certain degree, your resources 😉 Here is an example of JCPenney’s creative that plays upon the after-Christmas theme: 

How low can you go?


Admittedly, Black Friday has many benefits besides financial ones – it offers you a chance to reach a completely new group of customers who have not bought from you before. A new customer is a great resource. However, often for fear of the profitability of the promotional campaign, stores decide only on a slight price reduction (approx. 10-20%), as confirmed by Deloitte’s research from 2018 (polish branch). According to an analysis of 800 stores, for most, Black Friday is still mainly a marketing ploy – compared to the Friday preceding this day, prices were lower by only 3.5% on average. Only those with the largest networks, offered on a substantial promotion.


“I try to run a business with a calculator in my hand, but I’m not a pay fetishist. I see many other benefits resulting from participation in such efforts as Black Friday – by which, I mean, above all, expanding the customer base,”  comments Antoni Ruszkowski, owner of the kinkywinky.pl “I approach the matter sensitively – I try to offer enough of a discount to make it attractive to the client, but not so much to not to lose out on the whole transaction. However, I think that sometimes even going to zero is ok.”


What is the difference between Black Friday and regular promotions that you encounter every day in stores?


“First of all, people visiting our store on this day have a strong shopping intent,” stresses Ruszkowski. They do not come by chance to browse the site and learn about our offer. They come to buy – they do not know yet whether it will be from our store or another one. In this case, it is enough to offer a slightly lower price than the competition – you do not have to go down to -70%.”


He adds that the average shopping cart value on this day is higher than usual – the fact that almost 60% of Poles save with Black Friday in mind explains why. Customer motivations are also different than in the case of the Free Delivery Day mentioned above – because the smaller the shopping cart, the more we care about it.


How can you prepare to make the most of this season?


#1 Make it easier for customers to choose


In addition to an attractive price, it’s worth thinking about making changes to the store for the duration of the promotion – creating a dedicated landing page, and a tab with products covered by the promotion or mini-guides, e.g. with gift ideas. 


“I adhere to the principle of making life easier for people,”says Antoni Ruszkowski. “When a customer comes to our site, they need simple advice on what to choose – especially if they have no idea about the product. You can create guides for choosing different items within the range indicating the benefits, e.g. in terms of price or function. This should be followed by the sending of newsletters over a period of time, and be reinforced by posts on social media – pointing to the landing page created for the occasion.” 


#2 Make sure the site works


More traffic means more sales. However, if your site is not prepared for an increased load and works too slowly this can lead to trouble — the heavier the traffic, the more you have to lose. According to the Harris survey, 46% of buyers declare that they won’t return to shop if the website runs too slowly. What’s more, Black Friday or Cyber Monday are not only opportunities for you, but also for your competition, and customers are particularly impatient. They will leave your store if something doesn’t work smoothly. If you do not have an IT department, you can test your website yourself, e.g. using tools available on the Internet. 


#3 Choose your inventory carefully


When it comes to stocking the store, we should consider Black Friday differently than Christmas. When it comes to Black Friday, a low price is important in creating the feeling that the products were bought with a big discount. Whether or not the products will be delivered the next day is no longer relevant (as long as this fact is clearly communicated on the site).  With Christmas shopping it’s different, the delivery time counts, because the delay may result in the lack of a present under the Christmas tree. This, in turn, affects how you should manage your inventory. 


“Where time is of the essence, we need to have goods in stock to not only ensure quick delivery times, but above all to guarantee product availability,” says Rafał Szczczeswski, COO & Founder of Omnipack. “In other cases, we may try to ensure a greater availability of products directly from the supplier, but remember that you are probably not the only recipient and you may find that there are no products available. One alternative to consider can be larger purchases with a refund guarantee or an invoice with a payment deadline deferred for a longer period.” 


Based on last year’s results at the same time, we can forecast what our sales will look like.  However, there is a minimal risk that it will go better than we expected. Then what? 


  1. Make an arrangement with the producer and/or distributor for express deliveries during this exceptional period – even if it costs more than usual.
  2. Order more than you expect to sell and arrange a return guarantee with the manufacturer / distributor.
  3. Make an appointment with the supplier to issue an invoice with a longer payment term.
  4. Inform customers of the delay, and execute surplus orders only after other deliveries. Then add a free gift to the shipment as an apology for the delay.


#4 Make sure you can pack and send


Even if we are able to tempt customers with an attractive offer, and our site works like a Swiss watch – there is one more threat. A poor logistics operation, or in other words, inefficient packaging procedures that can adversely affect your business. Your warehouse must not only be properly stocked – it also needs additional workers, and more equipment. How can you address this problem?


  1. If we pack orders in a personalized way – we simplify the way of packing the most popular products. 
  2. Inform couriers ahead of time about expected volumes and set a higher frequency of parcel collection.
  3. Engage with an employment agency for additional hiring of employees only during a period of temporary promotions in your store.
  4. Inform your team about possible overtime and pay them accordingly.
  5. All activities that accompany the release of goods (e.g. adding instructions when packing) should be moved to the beginning of the process (e.g. instructions should be added at the stage of receiving the goods) – in this way, when a shipping peak arrives, you ensure maximum throughput in the process.


“If you plan to hire additional employees only for the holiday season, then first of all you can not leave it to the last minute,” says Rafał Szczczeswski. “A new employee needs to be trained – only then will this enlarged staff add value. In addition, more employees also need more space – in the cloakroom or kitchen, or there might be a need to retrofit the warehouse with additional trolleys, data collectors, or computers. More staff is also a greater load on the wifi network. All of this must be planned well in advance and you must prepare for the costs of this project.”


In addition to the above list, for many stores, the most cost-effective option – not only for seasonal peak service, but also for year-round logistics operations – is fulfillment. 


Fulfillment involves outsourcing all logistics operations to a professional logistics company. This removes the need for you to rent a warehouse, hire employees, negotiate contracts with courier companies, lay out logistics processes, or buy packaging, etc. You replace fixed costs (such as rent for the warehouse) with variable costs – you pay for the space occupied and operations performed for you. This can generate considerable savings during the year, and ensures you can get the most out of seasonal peaks without any slowdown in the implementation of orders. Professional logistics centers have much greater facility in scaling the number of orders processed and are able to respond faster.

“Since I started using fulfillment, I have stopped worrying about whether all my orders will be completed,” says Antoni Ruszkowski. “Without this help, a sales peak would require more preparation from me – hiring someone, training them, etc. I would also have to roll up my sleeves myself. The fulfillment company has much more flexibility in scaling operations – all I have to do is warn them.”

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Get Your E-commerce Logistics Ready for the Coming Sales Peak


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