The 2017 holiday season is right around the corner, and if you are an online retailer, you are probably already feeling the stress. With more and more online competition popping up every day, retailers need to be prepared to handle the holiday rush so they can not only serve their existing customers flawlessly but any new customers they might attract to their online store.
To prepare, smart retailers are likely beefing up their inventories and developing marketing strategies. When prepping for the holidays and looking for ways to boost sales, it’s important not to overlook shipping.
Like it or not, we live in an era where Amazon and their Prime service have altered customer expectations with regards to shipping. Customers want their products delivered fast and, in many cases, free. Meeting these demands can be challenging, and costly, for smaller online retailers. But it does not mean you cannot compete! There are a number of ways you can win the hearts, and trust, of online customers and turn them into sales. Let’s take a look at four things you need to think about when developing your holiday shipping strategy.
1. Free Shipping: When and How
According to recent research, 81 percent of those surveyed cited free shipping as a primary motivator for shopping online more frequently. With so many retailers understanding the value of free shipping as a competitive tool to win the sale, it is almost impossible not to take advantage.
But, how do you do that and not cut hard into your profits or start losing money? There are a number of options you can consider if you don’t want to offer free shipping on every purchase, including:
- offering free shipping based on a purchase minimum
- only offering free shipping on certain special days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- using free shipping as an incentive to a shopper who has abandoned their shopping cart
It’s also important to keep in mind that free shipping doesn’t have to mean fast shipping—compare shipping rates to find the most cost-effective way to get orders to your customers.
2. Your Return Policy
During last year’s holiday shopping season, 22 percent of shoppers backed out a purchase due to an inconvenient return policy, and three in four shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase, according to the National Retail Federation.
To keep holiday shoppers happy, make sure you have a consumer-friendly return policy that is easy to find, easy to understand and works for both you and the customer.
3. Shipping Cut-off Dates
The holidays are a hectic time, and you will always have last-minute shoppers heading to your site hoping to get their packages by Christmas. To help set expectations, clearly post shipping cut-off dates on your website, so customers know exactly when they need to order to get their packages on time.
Here’s a handy guide outlining USPS 2017 holiday shipping deadlines that you can use as a reference when determining the cut-off dates you want to set for customers (keeping in mind that you might want to give yourself a couple days of wiggle room).
4. Streamlining Your Shipping Process
Shipping is an everyday aspect of e-commerce business, but the holidays can bring some extra challenges. Take time to look at your shipping process to ensure that you are optimizing all of your resources. Here are a few things you can do to be prepared:
- Consider bringing in extra seasonal help to assist with the additional workload.
- If you haven’t done so already, stock up on shipping supplies so you’re not left in a lurch at the worst possible moment. Fun fact: USPS provides free boxes and other supplies, which you can order through the Endicia Online Supplies Store.
- Make sure you are using technology to your advantage whenever possible.
Many online retailers rely on holiday sales to boost their overall revenue and profits. Make sure that you are taking full advantage by putting a holiday shipping strategy in place that will not only serve your customers well but will help you increase your bottom line.
Endicia is a leading provider of internet-based postage services that make it easier and more affordable to ship parcels through the U.S. Postal Service®. We know that shipping can be complex and our goal is to simplify your shipping operations so you can focus on doing what you do best. Visit us at endicia.com to learn more.