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Three reasons to postpone your midsummer online sale

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Regardless of what happens with Amazon Prime Day, a midsummer e-commerce promotion dream may best be deferred.

Rumors abound that Amazon is planning to delay its annual Prime Day online sales extravaganza, normally held in the middle of July, till August or even later. While Amazon has not publicly commented on any reports, the e-tailer has valid reasons to postpone the event.

Since Amazon launched Prime Day in July 2015, hundreds of other online retailers have created their own annual e-commerce sales, mostly held in the middle of summer. Even if Amazon decides to keep the 2020 edition of Prime Day in July, retailers with competing events should seriously consider pushing them to later in the year. Here are three reasons why.

Let supply chain/delivery capability catch up
It is hard to overstate how much havoc the arrival of COVID-19 wreaked on supply chain and delivery operations. A sudden, dramatic increase in demand for essential household products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer created nationwide shortages, both online and in-store. 

Retailers responded by shifting the focus of their supply chains to new high-demand products, creating lengthy delays in deliveries of other popular items. The closure of stores across the country strained the ability of retailers to keep up with a surge in home delivery orders for staples like groceries.

Supply chains and logistics infrastructures are still recovering from all this chaos caused by the pandemic. They likely will not return to 100% operational capacity in the next month. Taking a little more time to ensure supply chain and delivery functionality can go a long way.

Recalibrate with new customer demand data
While everyone is talking about how COVID-19 is creating a “new normal” for retail, nobody knows for certain what that new normal is. Customers are still figuring out how the pandemic will change their lives in the short and long terms. 

As a result, right now it is difficult for retailers to accurately predict what products they should include in their midsummer promotions, or how to optimally price them. Will consumers have an increased interest in home entertainment items, or be anxious to travel after being stuck inside for months? Will kids need new clothes for heading back to the classroom or new laptops for the return to remote learning? 

Giving customers more time to sort out how they will proceed with their lives in the wake (or continuing effect) of the pandemic will result in a much more successful online sales event.

The local approach
Another X factor looming over potential midsummer e-commerce extravaganzas is how differently the pandemic may impact customers in disparate parts of the country. COVID-19 transmission rates have widely varied by and even within states since the virus first hit the U.S. Even now, some states are seeing significant increases in infection rates while others are experiencing dramatic declines.

Typically, midsummer sales events have been national promotions with consistent pricing and assortment. But that strategy may not work in 2020. Retailers would be wise to start preparing their sites now to perform a large amount of near-real-time, localized and customized merchandising, marketing and transactional activity. Properly preparation will likely take more than a few weeks.

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