Make Sure Delivery Isn’t Your Weakest Link This Holiday

Eric Pong

With less than three weeks to Black Friday and the ‘official’ start of the holiday shopping season, both major retailers and smaller eCommerce businesses are faced with the ever-shortening lead times on holiday shopping.

With the ups and downs of retail in 2015, analysts predict Q4 will have the strongest growth in retail sales of the year, around 5.8%. But that’s nothing compared to the 13.9% growth predicted for eCommerce businesses.

It’s the biggest growth year for the industry since 2011.

To position themselves for increased sales, businesses must continuously improve their offering. Many focus on site design, marketing and other front end components of the business. While this is essential, it also means they tend to disregard one of the most crucial parts of the sales equation.

The fulfillment stage, a.k.a last mile delivery, which has always been the retail industry’s weakest link.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best product, the slickest site or the best social media campaigns; it will come to naught if the delivery experience is typically poor.

This holiday period, like every other holiday period, there will be a shipping network bottleneck:

One industry report shows that with the anticipated growth in holiday spending, major shipping companies haven’t increased their capacity. With major retailers already signing up for this limited capacity, it leaves independent retailers in the lurch.

While the prospect of holiday profit may sound bleak, it is still attainable. By implementing the following strategies for delivery success, you’ll increase the chances of having a profitable holiday season:

First, take Stock of your Situation

Assess your current strengths and see what can be used to improve your service.

What is your current capacity for production and guaranteed delivery? If your suppliers can’t accommodate all your orders, don’t promise customers large quantities; the same goes for shipping.

It’s the holidays and consumers will be spending a lot, but don’t be one of those retailers who makes ambitious promises simlpy to capture last-minute sales. The bad reputation from constantly defaulting on said promises, will linger longer than the holiday period.

Major carriers warn retailers against 11th-hour delivery promises, as they lead to wide-spread shipping delays. One way to do this assessment is to analyze the performance data from last year’s holiday sales, as it can help with forecasting and planning.

Extend Cut-off Periods

First figure out the cut-off dates for Christmas delivery; then work out a way to extend them. Sounds impossible, right? Especially for products that need extras like personalization, special packaging etc. But the payoff is worth it.

An extended cutoff period will lead to more sales:

 About 15% of shoppers wait till the last two weeks of December to start buying gifts.

It can even be used to create a competitive advantage. Work with your fulfillment partner to make cut-offs as late as possible.

Use Free Shipping Offers

As Christmas approaches, more consumers want faster and more reliable delivery; and they expect it to be free also.

Retailers that don’t provide this, report a larger number of abandoned carts due to perceived high shipping costs. With 86% of holiday shoppers saying that free shipping is important (up to 50% of shoppers will add extra items to their cart to qualify for free shipping), offering it is a foregone conclusion.

Smaller retailers can offer free shipping by partnering with other companies to offset the cost, offer free shipping with minimum thresholds or as part of an exclusive member program.

Always Keep Customers Informed

Regardless of the stage they’re in, on the customer journey, it’s is important to keep customers in the know.

For businesses that sell across international borders, it’s important to remind your prospective customers of the size of the holiday shopping window.

While holiday sales in the USA start in November, and run till Christmas, it’s not the same in parts of Europe:

In Sweden, for example, the biggest sales occur after Christmas, and run on till the New Year.

This can affect perceived delivery dates, so keep prospects informed.

For customers who have already shopped, keeping them in the loop from the initial purchase to when items are picked and shipped is just as important. This can be done by sending email updates, you can also include an option to track the order.

Find out how to Automate your Aftership Order Fulfillment Tracking with the Aftership + Floship Integration here!

Find the Right Fulfillment Partner

All these strategies can only work if you’re working with the right fulfillment center.

A paradox in eCommerce is that ‘successful delivery begins before an order is placed’.

The last mile is just as important as the initial product sourcing. Find a fulfillment center that enables daily check-ins, easily co-ordinates with your suppliers, offers extras like value-added services. These features are important to creating the best-possible shopping experience for your customers.

More companies are using faster shipping and delivery in their strategy, as these are parts of the customer shopping experience that can make or break a sale.

With the increase in sales expected, are you prepared to claim a slice of the eCommerce profits?

Yes, the mad rush throughout the holiday period makes the process more difficult, but any difficulty can be avoided by thinking ahead.

Need help with fulfillment this holiday season?

Floship has you covered–contact us HERE.

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