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Holiday shopping means gametime for merchants. It’s important to approach the holiday season organized and ready for heavy impact. To drive sales, you’ve probably already planned holiday marketing campaigns, are engaging customers through social media, and have considered issues of supply and demand.
In addition to all the presale preparations, you also need to make sure holiday orders land in the hands of anxious customers. Failing in the world of ecommerce makes for a bad impression — especially around the holidays.
Ultimately, getting holiday shipping right comes down to a simple message: be prepared.
Look out for the following things:
1. High demand
If you normally handle shipping in-house, make sure you have the bandwidth to get the job done when the order volume begins to escalate — by a lot. Last year it was reported that holiday sales accounted for almost a full quarter of ecommerce sales. Manpower, speed, address labels, shipping labels, packaging materials, access to supplies, and carrier service availability are all things to consider. Planned shipping days and prepacking bestsellers can help with the rush. However, around the holidays, you want to be doing what you do best: selling your product. If you’re spending a lot of time managing logistics, it’s probably time to check out some fulfillment partners.
A shipping partner will free you up to handle other business matters and can buy you some extra time to spend with the family during the holidays. The earlier you get the ball rolling, the more time you’ll have to work with your provider. Once the holiday rush hits, fulfillment workers’ schedules are booked, so beat the crowds and get your products in warehouses before everyone else has the same idea.
With an increase in purchases, you may see an increase in returns. Use this flowchart for help with crafting your returns policy, and make sure you keep your documentation updated. Test that it’s straightforward by having a friend read it and explain it back to you. In addition to displaying it on your site, send a policy insert with all your orders and stick a return label in the box, too. Returns let you demonstrate awesome customer service, so drop the technicalities and craft your policy to be friendly and simple. Not only will this create happy customers, but it will save you from having to answer endless questions. If you’re using a shipping partner, confirm they can automate returns for you.
3. Shipping and delivery calculators
With shipping, the only good surprises are free shipping and early deliveries, so make sure your customers know what to expect prior to purchase. The checkout process on your site should include a calculator that notifies customers about estimated shipping fees and delivery dates. Duty Calculator is a good one that few people know about. And don’t forget to inform customers of international shipping processes. If a customer imports a product, the customer will pay duties, which means an increase in the end price paid. If a product is received and import duties are much higher than expected, the customer can refuse to receive the product. Depending on the destination country and the product shipped, this may mean that the product has to be sent back or abandoned, leaving you with an unhappy customer and a lost product. To avoid this type of complication, highlight your ability to ship internationally and tell customers ahead of time that they will have to pay duties. Most people are already aware, but it doesn’t hurt to cover your bases and remind them.
4. Free shipping
If you want to be the most popular person at the party, here’s your in. Consumers repeatedly cite free shipping as a significant motivator in their online purchasing habits, and “On average, retailers said that at least 10% of their revenue was incremental during the time of a free shipping offer,” according to research for a UPS report. If you’ve got everything else in place, consider a planning a free shipping promotion.
There are tons of things to think about when gearing your online store up for the holidays, but don’t let shipping slip through the cracks or you’ll be running sprints to the post office while everyone else basks in holiday food comas. Put simple shipping plans in place now and consider it an early gift to yourself.
About the Author
Lauren Jow is a marketing analyst at Shipwire, a global fulfillment services provider with fulfillment centers in the USA, Europe, Canada, and Asia. Shipwire lets brands of all sizes grow sales, expand into new markets, and delight their customers by eliminating the hassles of shipping and storage.