Get Control of Your Holiday Shipments
10/11/2017 — Leah Palnik
As a consumer, it might feel like it’s too soon to start thinking about the holidays, but retailers know that waiting is not an option. If you’re in the retail industry, you’ve probably already been receiving shipments from your vendors and preparing for the increase in business. As you’re getting ready for this busy time of year, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Set up inbound management
While you’re forecasting sales and preparing your inventory for the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are properly managing your inbound shipments. You need to have a good relationship with your vendors and be assured that they’ll be able to deliver your goods on time. You need efficient routings set up and you need to be able to plan ahead so you can avoid costly expedited services when you’re replenishing throughout the season.
This is where working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider or broker can make a big difference. A quality 3PL will create routings for you and ensure vendor compliance. They can also make sure you’re getting the best rates and service options for your time-sensitive shipments, by utilizing their buying power in the market.
Make sure your website is prepared for increased traffic
Online shopping is more popular than ever and will be a crucial part of your sales this holiday season. Don’t let technical issues get in the way of sales, when customer traffic to your site will likely be the highest of all year. Use a reliable web host and develop back-up plans in case of problems.
Clearly communicate shipping deadlines
There are some of us who are guilty of waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. When’s the last day to order for Christmas? Do you offer expedited options or any special seasonal guarantees that could give you a leg up over the competition? Managing customer expectations will increase your customer satisfaction. Clearly communicate this information on your website, during the purchasing process, and in emails to your subscribers.
Consider special promotions
Now is the time to pull out all the stops to maximize your sales. People are looking to buy, and it’s your job to incentivize them to bring their hard earned dollars to your store. According to a report by the National Retail Federation, 50% of shoppers cited a limited-time sale or promotion as the reason they were swayed to purchase an item they were on the fence about.
Even more notable, 64% of shoppers said that free shipping has influenced them to make a purchase. Offering free shipping has become the new normal in the world of ecommerce. If you’re worried about the costs of “free shipping” there are several different strategies you could try. For example, try setting the free shipping threshold above your average order amount to increase the amount people spend when making a purchase on your site. When executed properly, consumers will be more likely to add items to their cart to meet the minimum and it becomes a win-win.
Be aware of holiday surcharges
UPS recently introduced an additional surcharge for residential shipments during their peak season. The charge applies during two of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and for the week before Christmas. We don’t have to tell you that these are very critical parts of the year for your online orders. These charges can add up quickly and cut into your profits for the season. The good news is, FedEx won’t be following in their footsteps. The UPS competitor is only implementing an additional surcharge for oversized packages and special handling. Evaluate how you’re shipping out customer orders now and make any necessary changes before these times hit.
Set up a streamlined returns process
With increased holiday sales comes the inevitable – returns. According to a Narvar Consumer Report, 74% of customers said return shipping fees will prevent them from making a purchase. On the flip side, 72% said that a “no questions asked” return policy would make them more likely to buy from a retailer. The influence of the return policy on the purchase decision is undeniable. Make your return policy as customer friendly as possible and communicate it clearly at the beginning of the shopping experience. Also, take proactive steps like providing return labels in the original order and offering in-store returns so it is less of a headache for you and your customers.
Striking a balance with inventory, preparing your online store for increased traffic, and being mindful of your shipping options over the holidays can help make your season bright. When you work with PartnerShip, our shipping experts will help you with routings and ensure you’re receiving competitive pricing on your inbound and outbound shipments so you can focus on your business. Contacts us for a free shipping analysis to see how we could help you.