Summer is almost over, and it’s time to think about your strategy for the holidays.
The holiday season is typically the most chaotic time when it comes to online orders and shipping. To make it worse, the world is currently battling against COVID-19, which makes 2020 a year like no other for ecommerce.
As stressful as everything may seem, we’ve got your back.
Here’s our 2020 shipping checklist to make sure you stay on top during this year’s holiday season:
1. Forecast Demand
As the pandemic continues, you must forecast customer demand for the upcoming holidays.
COVID-19 has changed everything from the customer’s channel selection, frequency to shop, and the products they’re looking for. For example, there’s a stronger demand for items that align with social distancing, such as entertainment products or home goods.
Take a look at your sales during the lockdown — which types of products were in high demand? It should give you a clue on what to expect from customer behavior during these next months.
There is a science to forecasting demand, but let me give you a simple metric: compare sales from March-May this year versus last year. Take that percentage difference and multiply last year’s holiday sales to see how much bigger it could get.
Also, think about talking with your 3PL to find out how they can help you prepare for the upcoming holiday demand.
2. Implement a Strong Communications Plan
Another critical factor to consider during the holidays is communication with your customers.
Make sure to keep them up-to-date with each of their orders. One thing that will make customers worry, for example, is how COVID-19 will impact shipping delays. You’ll need to provide them with tracking and let them know when they can expect the item to arrive at their doorstep.
During your communication with your customer, it’s also a good idea to promote upsell offers. You can run post-purchase email campaigns with other products they can buy to complement their order. It’s going to help deliver more value to the customer and boost your average order value.
3. Get Ready for More Customer Returns Than Usual
Dealing with customers is part of running an ecommerce business. However, you can expect returns to skyrocket during the holidays.
The reason is that customers will feel reluctant to step into retail stores due to virus fears. To gain peace of mind and avoid getting infected, they’ll be doing most of their shopping online.
Customers love the ability to buy and try on or see how something looks in real life. They will often buy two or three sizes or styles, keep one, and return the rest.
As a result, your business must come prepared with reliable customer service staff or shipping software to manage returns effectively. To learn more, check out our blog post with the best tips to deal with customer returns.
4. Get Shipping Insurance
No one can predict what will happen to your product once it is out for delivery. There’s nothing worse for a customer during the holiday season than to make a purchase, only to have the item damaged or never even arrive.
With an expected surge in shipments this holiday season, these problems will be multiplied. You can protect yourself and your customers, however, with shipping insurance.
It’s why you want to plan in advance and get shipping insurance, which is easier than you think. No matter what happens to your product, you’ll be protected against any significant financial loss and gain peace of mind.
5. Do Research on Seasonal Fees and Restrictions
The holidays are the time when orders reach their peak throughout the year. As a result, you can expect new rules, restrictions, and deadlines for all major carriers. Look into the specific provisions of your carrier for different times of the year and figure out what measures and fees are required.
Keep in mind as well that major carriers will be surcharging their rates on shipping due to coronavirus and customer demand. For example, UPS plans to make businesses that ship more than 25,000 orders per week pay an extra $1 to $4 on each package.
6. Offer Multiple Shipping Options
If you’re offering free shipping, then you’re probably sending things via Ground or Priority Mail. Those options have been impacted the most by slow delivery times, and you’ll have customers that will want something faster.
Offering an expedited shipping option – like 2-day, overnight, or even same-day delivery, is a must this holiday season. Here’s why:
- It sets clear expectations on delivery times
- Customers have the option to pay for faster delivery
- Free shipping has a higher perceived value
Anyone that is expecting free shipping will see that delivery times affect cost. They will appreciate that the slower option is still free when compared to the expensive, expedited option.
7. Make Your Packaging Stand Out
The holidays represent a unique opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty and delight new customers. One of the best ways to do this is to create a fantastic unboxing experience that wows them.
Branded packaging is the first approach because it makes each purchase feel unique and delivers a great impression. Since shoppers are also buying gifts for their friends and family, you’ll surprise multiple customers at once.
Customers also love to share brand packages on social media, which promotes your store and boosts your reach.
The next step is making what’s inside stand out with different packing paper, a hand-written thank you note, or even surprise gifts you’ve included.
All of these things and more contribute to make an unforgettable unboxing experience.
8. Use the Right Shipping Software
There are so many things to handle when it comes to shipping during the holidays. You have inventory to manage, orders to pack and ship, tracking, and many more tasks on your list.
Software is the best way to improve processes like this. With automation, you can improve the pick-n-pack process, automatically select the right shipping method, batch print labels, and update tracking information.
Essential Hub’s software provides you with all the tools you need for success this holiday season. Not only do we help you get the best rates on shipping, but our software also comes with order tracking, inventory management, and more.
5 minute conversation is all it takes.
Make Sure You’re Ready
Your shipping strategy is the foundation to execute on hard-won sales made during the upcoming holidays. Without it, you won’t be able to delight customers or convince them to buy more. By applying the eight tips above, you’ll be able to satisfy customers even as COVID-19 persists.