Essential Holiday Shipping Tips for Small Businesses
In 2016, retail e-commerce sales during November and December reached a massive $63.1 billion. That’s a lot of sales, and e-commerce is becoming more and more competitive each year. If you want your small business to perform well this holiday season, you need to have a solid shipping plan in place. Customers won’t be keen to buy from a company with unclear shipping times, expensive delivery costs or poor packaging, so every detail counts. You’ll need to make cut-off times clear, offer competitive prices, package items carefully, and be ready to process returns. Want to know how to succeed at holiday shipping this year?Keep reading for our top tips.
1. Make Your Delivery Cut-Off Clear
What’s the point in ordering Christmas gifts if they don’t arrive in time for the big day?
Providing a clear cut-off date for guaranteed delivery before Christmas is absolutely essential and will save you dealing with complaints and returns down the line.
Display your cut-off dates prominently on your website, make them clear during the checkout process, send them to your mailing list, and share on social media.
This serves a dual purpose, as it keeps customers informed and creates a sense of urgency that encourages them to take action right away.
Compare quotes from different couriers to find the most competitive options with the best delivery times.
2. Advertise Special Offers for the Holidays
Two companies have the item you want, and only one offers free shipping…
Which do you choose? The free option, of course.
9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the number one incentive to shop online more, so it’s a great way to lure people away from brick-and-mortar stores.
Creating attractive shipping offers is also an excellent way to stand out from your competitors and attract new customers.
If you use selling platforms like eBay, offering free shipping can boost your position in listings, so it’s a great way to get more views.
On top of that, offering deals like, ‘Free holiday shipping on orders over $50’ is a smart way to encourage customers to add a few extra items to their baskets.
In many cases, offering discounted holiday shipping can be more enticing than actually reducing the price of what you’re selling.
Before you decide to offer a price discount, look at adding shipping offers instead.
3. Know the International Shipping Rules
Are you shipping to foreign countries?
It’s really important that you’re clear on the rules and regulations for each location you ship to, or you could be hit with delays and other issues.
For example, if you’re shipping to countries in the EU, you should be aware that customers are allowed 14 days to return unwanted goods.
You should also be wary of shipping items like lithium batteries, nail polish, aerosol cans, lighters, and other goods that could be considered dangerous.
Take care to thoroughly research before sending packages, and always clearly declare their contents. This cuts down on customs delays and ensures packages reach their destinations on time.
4. Wrap Items Carefully
Does Santa deliver broken presents?
No – and you shouldn’t either.
Being busy during the holiday season shouldn’t be a reason to slack on packaging, and getting a good system together before the holiday rush is a smart move.
Here’s a simple guide to good packaging:
1. Wrap items individually in bubble wrap or tissue paper.
2. Choose an appropriately-sized box with as little empty space as possible.
3. Fill the empty space with packing peanuts, scrunched up brown paper, or airbags, leaving the item no room to slide around.
4. Place a shipping note with address, order details, and returns information inside the package.
5. Add any flyers, promotional materials, or vouchers to the package.
6. Close package securely using staples, packing tape, or glue.
7. Affix ‘fragile’ or ‘this way up’ stickers to the outside of the package if needed.
9. Securely affix shipping address to the front of the package.
If you’ll have multiple different employees dealing with shipping, putting together a simple guide makes sense. It ensures consistency and prevents staff from missing a single step in the packing process.
Poor shipping can cost you a fortune in returns, so make sure you get it right.
5. Provide Tracking Information
Is there anything worse than waiting for a parcel with no idea when it’s going to arrive?
While tracking is important all year round, it’s particularly crucial during the holiday season, when customers will be waiting anxiously for gifts, decorations, and other time-sensitive items.
It’s good practice to offer tracking on all orders and provide the customer with all the details they need to check on the progress of their delivery.
If your budget won’t stretch to offering tracking on every order, be sure to offer it as a paid option when customers check out.
Tracking parcels means you won’t have to deal with as many calls to your customer service department, you’ll have fewer complaints, and you’ll create a better experience for the customer.
6. Be Prepared for Returns
It’s been found that shoppers return nearly $70 billion worth of purchases during the holiday season, with clothing, games, and jewelry all being high risk.
No matter how wonderful your products are, you can be certain that you’ll be dealing with some returns post-December.
Having a solid returns procedure in place allows you process claims quickly and efficiently, keeping customers happy and reducing problems for your staff.
If you’re worried about being bombarded with loads of returns all at once, try offering a longer returns period. This gives you more time to process everything and means customers don’t have to rush.
Now You Know How to Succeed at Holiday Shipping
Messing up your shipping during the holidays will waste your time and money and won’t impress your customers.
Get it right by offering competitive shipping offers, knowing the laws around international shipping, packaging items carefully, providing tracking details, and being ready to process returns.
Prepare properly, and you’ll give Santa’s elves a run for their money!
Finding a good courier service takes a lot of the stress out of holiday shipping, so contact us today and let’s discuss your needs.