Let’s plan now for the November rush

Dwain McDonald discusses planning for cyber weekend

Let’s plan now for the November rush

CEO Dwain McDonald explains the upsides of having a ‘Cyber Fortnight’

I’ve just finished taking part in a virtual ‘This is Us’ event – this is the welcome event we hold every six weeks for the hundreds of new starters joining Team DPD. I talk a lot during my session about the company’s 6 core values: Honesty, Accountability, Flexibility, Passion, Hard Work and Respect

These aren’t just nice words on a wall, they define what we stand for, what we care about, and ‘how we roll’ at DPD. They’re the qualities we look for when recruiting new people and they describe the attitude that you’ll need to have a long career with us. In short, the 6 values are our DNA.

During the event, a new starter said: “Can you give me an example of how you bring the DNA to life?” In this post, I want to answer that question by sharing with you just how much these 6 values matter to me and my team. 

Not only in terms of how we work together internally but also in the way we’re communicating with customers in these extraordinary times to prepare for a monster Cyber Weekend and Christmas.

Flexing up for Peak – why it’s time to plan for the November rush 

We only have 74 working days until the start of Cyber Weekend on Black Friday (27 November). This annual four-day retail extravaganza marks the start of the holiday season and will see Brits spending an estimated £7billion in a bid to bag a bargain for Christmas. 

Last year more than 75% of these purchases were made online for delivery to home addresses by DPD and our competitors, and this year, due to the pandemic, I’d expect that figure to rise even higher. That’s why DPD is expecting to carry 400,000 more parcels on Cyber Tuesday than on the same night last year.

74 days might seem a long way off but the truth is that we’ve been planning for Cyber Weekend since January and fine-tuning our plans with customers since May – this is partly how we hold ourselves accountable

Due to the surge in online shopping caused by lockdown, we now have 9,000 delivery drivers – 3,000 more than this time last year and we’re working hard to recruit another 3,000 before October. We’ve also recruited 500 new managers, spent £100m on new vehicles plus another £60m to open 12 new depots and a further £40m on technology.

Despite this unprecedented investment, our Honesty value means we’ve been reminding retailers that the UK parcels sector will still not the have the infinite next-day capacity in the November-December Peak. 

That’s why I’m urging all our customers to plan ahead as far as possible and resist the temptation to leave their logistics until the last minute or to hope that Christmas will save their year.

We’ve never had Christmas in a pandemic year (well not that I can remember) and so any kind of ‘copy-paste-repeat’ approach from 2019 simply won’t work in 2020. For a start, we’re already delivering the kinds of volumes in August that we usually don’t see until November. 

And you just cannot put all your 2020 eggs in a 4-day (or even a 4-week) basket, cross your fingers and hope for the best in terms of on-time delivery and customer experience.

Why? Because for DPD, this year’s Cyber Weekend is already a more finely tuned operation than ever before. 

Two years ago, in order to ensure we could deliver the best doorstep experience, we started asking customers to make volume forecasts three months in advance – and then stick to them. The vast majority were supportive, appreciated our Honesty, and realised it was the best way to give their own customers a reliable service.

Next level planning

This year, because of the pandemic, we’ve decided to take our planning to the next level. 

So for example when discussing forecasts with customers, instead of just saying ‘you can send me 10,000 parcels on Cyber Monday’, we’re now saying: ‘We can deliver to your customers on time as long as you can send me 6,000 parcels before 7pm. Of these, we need to receive 3,000 between 11am and 3pm. Then we can handle the final 4,000 after 7pm.”

In order to meet retailers halfway, we’re being flexible and rejigging our operations so that delivery drivers go out in waves, with the first wave hitting the road at 7am.

Again the more forward-thinking retailers are loving our Honesty and see the whole Cyber project as a partnership based on Respect where each party strives for a win-win by sticking to their side of the bargain. We believe this is an accountable approach to the challenge we are facing together.

Of course, forecasts can and do change. And thanks to our Intelligent Operations Centre (real-time ‘mission control’ for Peak…) we can still offer Flexibility

For example, if ‘Customer A’ decides they need less volume than forecast on a given day, the spare sortation capacity can be switched immediately to ‘Customer B’ – who has just requested more of our resource, perhaps because a promotion has gone better than expected.  

Facebook fans and the final mile

We know that many of our customers on the doorstep really value the relationship they have with their local DPD Driver, in fact, dozens of them have set up Facebook ‘fan pages’ dedicated to the drivers who deliver to their homes. 

I’d like to think that this is because we recruit and retain people who have a genuine Passion for the DPD brand. But in these challenging times, our drivers are also having to be super-flexible: I’m asking 2,000 of them to switch to a different route and often a different depot from their usual one. This is because we’re moving 22% of our postcodes from one site to another this year to handle the impact of COVID-19 and better manage the ‘fall to earth’ – i.e. the areas that will receive the highest volumes during Peak.

Can we have a ‘Cyber Fortnight’ please?

One of my more forward-looking friends recently asked me what I’d like for Christmas. I replied that I’d like a Cyber Fortnight instead of a Cyber Weekend. 

We’re passionate about giving customers a super-consistent performance across the whole of Peak so we would love it if retailers could ‘flatten the curve’ – by going early with their discounts and spreading them over two weeks instead of four days. 

If we can work together to set customer expectations and move volume a little earlier and a little later than normal, then I’m sure we can keep everyone happy.

Delivering a Dazzling Peak

Back to my ‘new starters’ event. The question I was asked by a new member of DPD, plus the whole experience of preparing for Peak since the outbreak of COVID-19 has made me think long and hard about this year’s discussions with customers and all our other stakeholders. 

So in summary:

  • We’re 74 days from our biggest ever Peak, it’s going to be Hard Work!
  • Flexibility from our people will be more crucial than ever before
  • It’s a crucial part of our DNA to set expectations and then hold ourselves accountable
  • We have the Passion to go the extra mile and get it right for the customer
  • We must respect each other and treat people how we would like to be treated ourselves
  • Honesty is absolutely paramount: if we share information and work together on a common goal of delighting the consumer then it will be a win-win for everyone


If we follow this formula, we can deliver a dazzling peak for our customers but it’s only going to happen if we get the planning and forecasting all wrapped up within the next 20 days!