Did you know that 20% of eCommerce stores’ annual revenue is made during the holiday season? This year’s holiday season seems to be even more promising. It’s no secret that the pandemic has shifted buying habits and pushed online sales to unprecedented heights, so much so that shipping carriers couldn’t keep up with demand last year and were forced to restrict their customers’ holiday shipping volumes by up to 50%.
There are many sales opportunities right around the corner, and now is the time to fine tune your holiday shipping and fulfillment strategy so you can make this season your most profitable to date.
Here are 10 essential tips to get you ready for peak shipping season.
1. Stock Up!
Don’t wait until the last minute to stock up on your inventory. Start by using sales patterns and spikes from last year to give you an indication of how much inventory to plan for. It’s crucial to ensure you don’t run out of products to sell, especially during the holiday season. Make sure your inventory is linked with your website effectively so that your customers know which items are available, and which ones are not.
Bear in mind that, like last year, consumers may start their Christmas shopping early in anticipation of holiday delays and inventory shortages. Andrew Wagar, spokesperson for the Canadian Toy Association, says that “Some items are going to sell out even faster. They're going to be replenished even slower. They're going to be harder to find.” For this reason, it’s a good idea for you to stock up in advance. When you are in the planning stages of forecasting your inventory, be aware that ocean and airfreight rates have in some cases increased by 5x their level a year ago— that’s why you need to partner up with a trusted 3PL to ensure you get the best rates on the market. Check out SmarteFreight, which handles ocean, air, and truckloads and can get you the most competitive shipping rates and transit times for your inbound needs.
In addition to stocking up on inventory, you also want to ensure you have enough holiday shipping and packaging supplies. Find a partner who offers free supplies such as label rolls, envelopes, and polybags— and to avoid delays, order ahead of the holiday rush! If you ship with eShipper, supplies can be ordered directly through your account.
TIP: Make sure you have enough staff to fulfill your orders, or outsource your operations to an e-commerce fulfillment services centre so you’re ready for peak shipping season.
2. Set Up a Seasonal Shipping and Delivery Strategy
During last year’s peak season, all shipping carriers were inundated with volumes unlike we’ve ever seen before, and they were all over capacity. Not only were there massive backlogs at Canada Post, but the courier companies were also experiencing huge delays. In many cases, this led carriers to limit the number of packages a business could send out on a daily basis, causing many businesses to scramble to find alternative solutions. How else could they get their products in their customers’ hands before Christmas?
This year, ensure your shipping partner has a variety of carrier choices to mitigate the issues you experienced last year.
eShipper has introduced several new services which don’t rely on the normal courier networks— in fact, they leapfrog right over them! CPX and CanX are zone skipping programs that bypass the busiest GTA hubs and line haul packages across Canada to induct them locally into major cities. eShipperX is another service that has been tried and trusted by the likes of Amazon, and it also has the advantage of providing photographic proof of delivery to mitigate any disputes your customers may have.
If you’re looking for incredibly fast delivery options, FleetOptics is a regional carrier that provides flat shipping rates up to 10 pounds and gets your products to your customers the next day, ensuring a positive delivery experience that puts you ahead of the competition.
Do you think this holiday season might be too much for your team to handle? Consider partnering with a fulfillment services centre so you can focus on growing your business while they take care of the nitty gritty logistics. eShipper+ offers boutique eCommerce and B2B solutions which will enable you to scale your volumes, without compromising your customer experience.
3. Set Up Customers’ Expectations
Ensure your customers know when they should anticipate the delivery of their shipment. No one wants to be waiting around on Christmas Eve worrying that their loved one’s gift is not coming on time! To avoid these issues, establish and communicate order-by deadlines based on the carrier holiday cut-off dates.
Make your holiday shipping time clear at checkout, not just in your FAQs. 53% of US online shoppers won’t make a purchase without a clear indication of when it will arrive. If you’re not showing your customer exactly what to expect as they make a purchase, you’re risking the chance of losing them.
It’s also important to remember that holiday shipping and fulfillment times differ. The shipping and delivery process consists of three stages— receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders— and they all need to be accounted for when you set your “order-by” dates. Find out what are the holiday 2021 carrier cut-off dates, then provide a timeline for how long the item takes to ship out and how long it takes to get delivered. If you use a partner that provides live shipping rates, this will already be automated.
TIP: Add a banner at the top of your website to clearly set your “order-by” dates to guarantee delivery before Christmas.
4. Offer Competitive Rates and Shipping Options
Giving your customers only one option for their deliveries can deter them from making a purchase if they need their product in a hurry! Shipping during peak season tends to be slower, so choose a shipping partner that offers competitive rates with multiple service options. With eShipper, you can offer several ground and express shipping options, knowing that transit times vary based on the point of origin and final destination. By giving your customer a variety of delivery speeds at checkout, you allow them to make their own choice depending on how quickly they want their order to arrive.
If you’ve been considering free shipping as an option, the holidays are the perfect time to start. But be strategic about your free shipping play. Set minimum order value thresholds for customers to qualify so you can recover holiday shipping costs and increase profits within the same purchase. To facilitate this, consider bundling some products to help customers meet the minimum cart value they need to qualify for free shipping. This not only simplifies their purchase decision-making, but also gets more of your stock moving while increasing overall sales. This strategy works. A survey by HubSpot revealed that 24% of online shoppers would spend more money in order to qualify for free shipping, so why not aid them with a bundle?
However, keep in mind that in order to offer your customers free shipping, you as the business owner will have to absorb the costs. And these costs are now higher than ever. According to Soren Skou, CEO of container shipping giant Maersk, ”The current historically high freight rates are caused by the fact that there is unmet demand. There's simply not enough capacity.” Knowing that shipping rates are on the rise this year, and that shipping generally is more expensive during the holidays, make sure you use carriers that offer competitive rates, or integrate your online store with a third party logistics provider that gives you discounted shipping rates from major carriers.
5. Automate Shipping
If you’re anticipating a big increase in your daily volume, but you don’t have the time or staff to manually process all your orders, make sure to automate your shipping during peak season. Whether you are on Shopify, BigCommerce, eBay, or Amazon, eShipper has the technology to support you with your order automation.
Our Shopify app gives you the ability to control shipping rates and process orders with pre-approved shipping carriers and services, so when you log in to fulfill orders, the hard work is done. You’ll be able to sync and fulfill all orders at the click of a button, using multiple filters to reduce processing times.
Check out our list of integrations and contact us to learn how you can get your holiday shipping automated well before you get busy.
6. Create a Memorable Unboxing Experience
You know the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a package and the box is absolutely stunning? That’s the unboxing experience you want to give your customers every time they order something from your store.
Make an impression by using special packaging that serves as an extension of your brand. Presentation goes a long way at brick and mortar stores, so why not give your online shopper a boutique experience in their own home? Custom packaging, a beautifully placed “thank you” note and luxurious packing material can cultivate a strong connection with your brand and can help you gain repeat customers and advertise your product through word of mouth.
If you fulfill with eShipper+, we can even replicate the unboxing experience you envision with gift wrapping, inserts, stickers, and other items that add a personal touch.
While aesthetics are important, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their carbon footprint. Be a part of the movement by using eco-friendly custom packaging from ARKA or Packlane.
TIP: Ask your shipping provider if they offer solutions for custom packaging to really WOW your customers.
7. Plan for Delivery Delays
Because all shipping carriers experience delays during the holiday season, you need to plan for when it inevitably happens.
Shipping carriers can take 2 to 10 days to deliver during the holidays, depending on the carrier and service you select, as well as the point of origin and delivery destination. If you’re shipping overnight with FedEx or Purolator, for example, your last day to send holiday packages this year is December 23. But if you’re mailing packages through Canada Post, be aware of the following carrier deadlines to guarantee timely Christmas delivery:
Local: December 21
Regional: December 20
National: December 17
Set up a section in your FAQs that details the carrier cut-off times, and ensure you build in a buffer of a few days to give your customers a bit more time to plan. Also, utilize services such as eShipperX and last mile carriers like FleetOptics to give your customers options for last minute gifts.
8. Be Prepared When Something Goes Wrong
Select a shipping service that offers accurate and detailed tracking information. Providing your customers with a tracking number as soon as the order is processed will mitigate the number of complaints you receive, as they can monitor the status of their delivery on their own. If there is an issue with a damaged or missing package, and your customer brings it to your attention, make sure to offer a resolution right away.
With eShipper, you are automatically insured for $100 of coverage plus the cost of the freight. That means you can send your customer a replacement and submit a claim on the missing or damaged package. Once the claim is approved you’ll have your money back for the initial shipment, and in the meantime you’ve made your customer happy by immediately sending them a replacement. A happy customer is a repeat customer!
9. Set Up Easy Returns
One of the biggest concerns that consumers have when purchasing something online is the fact that they can’t touch or try on the products. Give your customers the confidence to place their order, and take away the fear of complicated returns! For eCommerce businesses selling clothes, especially, it is always a good idea to include a return label and even an extra polybag in the original order— that way if someone needs to return an item, the process is simple and easy.
If you’re concerned about the cost of doing this, don’t be! Generating return labels doesn’t cost you a penny as merchants only pay for a return shipment if the label is actually used by the customer. If the carrier doesn’t scan the label, you’re never charged for it.
Whatever your return policy, always make sure to outline it in your FAQs so your customers know the process before they order, and clearly define your exchange and return procedure so they know what to expect.
10. Anticipate Customer Questions
Whether your customers have questions before, during, or after their purchase, make sure they have the support they need! Having a robust FAQ section will hopefully answer the majority of their queries, but you could also consider having a Live Chat option for the busy holiday season. Hiring a college or university student to monitor your chats and social media is another way to ensure your customers’ messages and DMs get answered in a timely manner.
Want to learn more? Download our 2021 Holiday Shipping Guide!
Get ready to take on peak shipping season. Contact us today to find out how eShipper can support you with competitive holiday shipping rates, tailored fulfillment services, and so much more, and you’ll be all set to close the year with a bang!