How to Prepare for Successful Holiday Shipping
Before long, the holidays will be in full swing. During this time, e-commerce businesses switches into high gear and they need e-commerce shipping solutions that provide international fulfillment to customers as far away as Morocco and Beijing. Planning now helps online sellers not only manage the busy season, but use increased holiday traffic to bring in repeat business that will allow them to boost sales throughout the year. Working with a solid e-commerce shipping company can help provide the best customer shipping experience. Here’s how to get ready for a successful season in 2017.
International customers want the same things as domestic consumers. They’re looking for alluring sales, rock-bottom prices, and affordable or free shipping. Prepare social media campaigns that speak to each culture individually to avoid alienating international customers and to plan for customs processing issues. Familiarize your business with international customs, and segment customer interaction to complement significant times of the year.
Research rules for international shipping, since duties and e-commerce laws vary by country. Errors could result in goods getting delayed or even seized. On the other hand, a positive shipping experience causes international customers to view your business in a positive light and may turn them into repeat business.
Prepare for Demand Spikes
For most businesses, consumer traffic comes in waves during the holiday season. Huge waves. E-commerce customers usually do most of their shopping on weekends when they have more time for relaxed browsing. As a result, you may find an order surge Monday morning you must prepare and fill quickly. During the remainder of the work week, however, you may experience near normal consumer traffic.
Analyze Order History
Review how your inventory flowed last holiday season and use that to forecast need for this year. What items did you run out of, and what did you have left over at the end of the season? When merchandise ran out, what did customers buy instead? What shipping materials did you have that were helpful and what did you run out of? Were there aspects of packaging and shipping that seemed like a continual headache? If so, where can you make modifications?
Most e-commerce businesses see more single line, single unit (SLSU) orders during the holiday season. To plan efficiently, review your order history to isolate patterns connected to order size and product distribution. You might find SLSU orders make up half your overall orders, while large multiline orders and midrange multiunit orders make up a smaller percentage.
SLSU orders often have different packaging, handling, and labeling requirements. If you’re running a warehouse, plan holiday picking strategies around each order type.
Prepack for SLSU demand. It’s cumbersome to have too many moving parts within your packaging process. Relocating packages and relying on customer interaction equals wasted time and money in many cases. Prepackage items in large batches so they’re ready to go. Think back to what merchandise was returned last year. Look through feedback to find out the reason for each return. If customers were dissatisfied over unclear policies for return shipping, develop a plan for communicating policies more explicitly going forward.
Plan for Replenishing
Well-organized e-commerce strategies plan for replacing inventory as it ships. Plan where you’ll store merchandise and how you’ll efficiently move it from storage to your main warehouse area. Use a warehouse management system (WMS) to sort orders by criteria, like shipping destination and order size, and to manage your inventory management workflow.
Keep shipping compliance label requirements from slowing you down by sorting items into multiple picking workflows. Replenish forward bins to make sure there’s enough merchandise to fulfill orders when demand spikes.
Make Strategic Decisions About Shipping
Holiday customers want to score the best bargains on everything they buy. They also want free or reduced-price shipping. This creates a problem for e-commerce businesses, since offering deep discounts already cuts into profits. There’s only so much additional cost you can absorb and still make money. Before the holiday rush, analyze your options and decide what’s best for your business. Here are a few to consider:
- Free shipping above a set threshold – Set your shipping threshold slightly above the standard order value. Look at how it will affect your profits based on current averages and shipping costs and decide if the impact is worth absorbing shipping costs.
- Flat-rate shipping – A flat rate allows you to offer a predictable, relatively affordable price. In some situations, the flat rate ends up being slightly more than it costs to ship the item, and that amount can be applied to shipments that cost more.
- Free returns – Sixty-two percent of online shoppers say they are more likely to buy if they know they can return it for free, and 92% say they’re more likely to buy again if they’re happy with a company’s return policy. Customers don’t just want free returns; they prefer a shipping label they can print from home. If you offer free returns, make it easy to build positive customer relations. Scan-based returns allow customers to print the label, but the carrier does not charge your business unless the package ships.
- Item specific shipping and return policies – The holiday season brings many impulsive purchases with gifting in mind, and shoppers are willing spend on themed gifts and novelty items. Holiday specific items and products in high demand represent a greater risk to shoppers, as the potential for duplicate or unwanted gifts arises. More flexible policies on high-risk items can lead to increased sales by creating incentive for buyers to splurge specifically on gifts they may have second thoughts about.
Plan for Deadlines
Various carriers publish cutoff dates. You’ll need to have merchandise packaged and delivered before the deadline, so plan processing time into what you promise customers. Here are cutoff dates for some of the major carriers:
- Three-Day Select – December 18
- Two-Day Air – December 22
- Next Day Air – December 23
- Standard Parcel Post – December 15
- First Class and Priority Mail – December 20
- Priority Express Mail – December 23
- SmartPost Shipments – December 12
- Home Delivery and Ground Delivery Shipments – December 17
- Express Save – December 20
- Two-Day Shipments – December 22
- Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, or First Overnight – December 23
- Same Day Shipments – Christmas Day
Major carriers have information for international shipping on their individual websites.
For many e-commerce merchants, holiday revenue makes up 40% of their yearly sales. The sheer volume of business creates a strain, and if you are unable to keep up with demand, you won’t just lose sales, you might lose future customers.
Make sure you have the equipment, staff, and processes to handle increased demand. If you plan to bring on extra employees for the holiday season, hire them in time to have them trained before the rush. See what equipment needs to be added or updated. Do you have enough scales and printers for efficient shipping?
Now is the time to talk to your shipping provider about technology upgrades. Your business might flow more smoothly by using automation or predictive analytics. Find out also if increased holiday shipping earns you discounts, a more frequent pickup schedule or shipping supplies. Sometimes your representative can advise you on how to modify packaging to pay less on shipping.
Assess your shelving and layout. If your physical space can’t handle the demands of holiday inventory, you may need to rent additional space or add storage.
Plan for seasonal returns. Thirty percent of products ordered online are returned. Returns usually increase during the holidays. Think through how returns will be processed and resold.
Use Shipping in Marketing
How you ship your product matters when customers decide to make a purchase and when they first receive it. During shopping, your shipping policies may be what helps them commit to a purchase or walk away from their cart. When they receive your merchandise, how it’s packaged creates the first impression. Leverage shipping-related marketing opportunities by doing the following:
- Promote your brand through packaging. Either invest in branded boxes or add stickers to the outside.
- Market to people your customers know. Target gift recipients with customized promotions to draw them in when the season is over.
- Reward repeat customers. Send past purchasers customized promotions to reward repeat visits to your online store. Let customers control the notifications they receive so communications don’t become an annoyance.
- Offer gift options. Decide if you’ll offer gift wrapping and how that will affect your shipping process. Customers appreciate when you allow for different items to ship to multiple addresses. If merchandise is a gift, capture the recipient’s information to use in later campaigns. The fact that your merchandise was chosen as a gift indicates they might have future interest in your products.
In many situations, the purchaser will not want the recipient to know what they paid for the product. Create packing slips that can be customized to exclude this information and can include gift notes from the purchaser.
http://blog.highjump.com/8-steps- to-help- e-commerce- retailers-prepare- for-the- holiday-season
http://www.business2community.com/infographics/e-commerce- product-return- statistics-trends-