By guest author Lana Richardson, blog editor at NIParcels.com
The holidays are a lovely time of year. Let’s not be Scroogey about it. But for small online businesses, and specifically ecommerce retailers, there’s no denying that it can be a stressful period — often with twice the workload but with no increase in manpower or facilities and of course, having to deal with those dreaded shipping issues.
As all online businesses know, good shipping services are about expectation management and preparing for any issues which may arise. This is never truer than during peak periods such as Christmas, when a higher volume of shipments can lead to a host of unexpected problems.
So to help you streamline your holiday shipping and deal with any potential issues, we’ve created a list of top holiday shipping mistakes and tips to overcome them.
Overwhelmed and Underprepared
If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, there should be no excuse for being unprepared. Simply look back at last year’s inventory during the holiday period, alongside your level of business growth during the current year to create projections for this peak time.
However, for new online businesses, it’s not so easy. If you haven’t been in business during the holiday shopping season, you might not know what to expect in terms of shipment volumes, order frequency and delivery destination. And this can be especially problematic if you are manually processing orders without any specific shipping software.
Solution: To get an idea of what to expect, take a look at the busiest periods you have experienced thus far and prepare yourself for similar or higher numbers. Also, assess whether or not your business is likely to be impacted by increased buying during the holiday period — if you sell a product that would make a perfect gift, then the answer will likely be yes.
Pay attention to online search behavior and traffic for your product or service. If you use tools such as Google Trends, you will be able to see if there is any significant peak in customers searching for what you have to offer. If so, prepare for a noticeable increase in sales.
Cutoff Time Chaos
Customers can be quite cautious when doing online shopping during holiday periods, because ensuring that an item will arrive on time is a top priority. If your online business’ shipping cutoff dates and delivery times are not made clear to customers, it will make them more likely to bounce off your website and favor a competitor that can offer that assurance.
Solution: To help with this, post an alert message on your website during the checkout process. Or create a blog post or website page detailing your cutoff dates. Promote these dates and times on social media or put them in an email newsletter so that your customers are aware of them.
Competition between businesses is extremely high during the holiday period and often drives companies to offer free shipping or reduced rates in order to attract more customers.
However, with shipping rates being a significant expense especially among small businesses, this can have a detrimental impact on profit margins.
Solution: If you do want to offer a discount or free shipping, ensure that your offer is still profitable. In addition, you can utilize methods of upselling, such as providing a gift-wrapping option or the inclusion of a personalized message for a small fee.
With your shipping strategy in tip-top shape, your online business is well on its way to having a successful holiday selling season this year.
About the Author:
Lana Richardson is a journalist and content marketing specialist. She writes about small business and digital marketing for a range of online and print publications and is the current blog editor of NIParcels.com.