Experts predict that the 2021 holiday season will be another record-breaking selling period. As reported by Deloitte, retail and distribution holiday sales are expected to fall somewhere between $1.28 to $1.3 trillion during the November to January timeframe. With eCommerce sales expected to increase 11-15% during the 2021-2022 holiday season, it is no secret that preparing for this massive spike in consumer spending is well worth the time and preparation. 

With residual supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, labor shortages, and higher average order volumes, getting your products into the hands of happy customers this holiday season requires streamlining a handful of eCommerce and logistical touchpoints. As we quickly approach black Friday and thanksgiving, the following tips will work to mitigate these potential delays and complications so that you can enjoy this special season, like so many of your customers will. 

Meet shipping carrier deadlines to ensure packages arrive before December 25. 

Whether you are on track for a record-setting holiday season or not, getting your products to customers in the expected time frame is of the utmost importance. While it may be hard to predict shipping carrier delays, be transparent about shipping costs and deadlines so that customers are on the same page. 

Every holiday season, carriers update their shipping deadlines to ensure timely delivery for specific holidays and dates: 

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Fast-shipping or no shipping.

Every year, while countless among us vow to finish Christmas shopping well in advance, there will always be those last-minute purchases that you can only hope will arrive by Christmas morning. While it is true that expedited same-day or next-day shipping can be more expensive, offering this option to customers can make a huge impact on your bottom line. Even if it’s not quite up to Amazons’ speed, acting as quickly as possible when it comes to fulfilling and shipping orders keeps customers happily satisfied, as speed and efficiency guide the majority of online purchases. If you cant offer this speed and efficiency customers require they will end up looking to other competitors. 

Be smart about what to buy when. 

Start shopping now for those items you absolutely need. If your list is full of popular high valued items, it’s never a bad idea to get a head start. For example, if you’ve had your eye on that new game console for your kids, always act sooner or later. In this day and age, even popular brands like Adidas, Crocs, and PlayStation are still working to combat chain obstacles in matching the current market demands. According to Adobes Holiday Shopping Forecast 2021, expect apparel, sporting goods, baby products, and electronics to be the most influenced by supply chain shortages. 

Offer incentives. 

Given extra or additional fees are the number one reason for cart abandonment at checkout, try offering reasonable incentives within your control like free shipping. Especially when it comes to low-priced or small items like a $20 purchase, forcing customers to pay half the price of the item in shipping costs will deter them from purchasing with you and motivate them to look elsewhere. Similarly, offering free shipping over a certain threshold will increase the average order values and keep customers happily coming back and spending more. 

Set up cart abandonment. 

Given, global cart abandonment over Black Friday weekend can top 70%, allocating some time and energy to lowering this percentage is well worth the investment and effort. Simply being upfront about shipping costs and motivating customers to return to your store through friendly reminders or emails can work wonders in recovering some of your store sales. More than that, eCommerce platforms like Shopify offer an inside look at abandoned checkouts to find patterns that might suggest why your customers aren’t completing orders. This makes it easy to export abandoned checkouts and manually email a customer a link to their abandoned cart so that they can complete their checkout at a later time if they choose.

Accommodate order changes.

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to make errors or mistakes when shopping online. It’s normal for customers to accidentally purchase the wrong size, forget to add a discount code or miss an item they wanted entirely. As a merchant, accommodate these changes and keep customers in the loop through automatic order notifications. Giving shoppers the exact record of what they purchased with the current status of their order helps illuminate potential errors and/or desired changes to be made. If a mistake was made Shopify allows you to create a better and more memorable experience by fixing the order before it’s sent, which ultimately reduces the amount of effort allocated to returns later on. These automated notifications not only keep your customers in the loop but help develop complete transparency throughout the entire fulfillment process, from receiving to delivery.

Prepare for an influx of returns.

National Return Day, or the day that buyers return the most items fall on the 2nd of January. While you can expect an influx of returns once January rolls around, an extended holiday shopping season will bring in a higher volume of returns from December to February. Holiday return rates often top 30%, compared to 10%-15% the rest of the year. This is especially present in the apparel industry. Understanding returns are a critical part of the buying process, and that most shoppers won’t purchase a gift unless there is the option to return it is crucial. Establishing a clear and concise return policy and management strategy should follow three simple steps, streamlined based on the customer and business needs.  

Step 1: A customer initiates a return

The first step involves the customer beginning the return process, guided by clearly outlined instructions often included in the physical shipment packaging or an online policy. Through this, the customer can give some context as to why they are making the return. Including a survey or method for collecting feedback in the process can help you focus on preventable trends patterned through the data insights.

Step 2: The returned product is received

A customer will then send the item to a predetermined location like a fulfillment center, retail location, or eCommerce warehouse. The team or individual in charge of returns will decide what to do with the product, whether it be: restocked, repaired, recycled, quarantined, or donated. 

Step 3: The return is processed

Once the item is received, it’s important that whatever refund a customer qualifies for is issued promptly, so the process moves as quickly as possible. If the customer requested an exchange, ship out the updated item asap. If the returned item is suitable for resale, mark it as available inventory to not lose out on a potential sale.

Get creative 

From custom packaging to marketing to diverse shipping options, the holiday season is a great time to stretch gift-giving ideas. Implementing something as simple as a holiday subscription model where customers receive monthly items can make the perfect gift. Especially if the subscription starts after the holidays, there is no worrying about whether something will arrive on time or not. Similarly, another solid non-product bet for the holidays are gift cards or gifts of services and experiences. Who doesn’t love a good spa day or a trip to Disney? 

Conclusion

All in all, 2021 has been quite the year for eCommerce and online shopping. As businesses and products continue to flood the digital landscape, it pays to prepare and plan your strategy accordingly. Ready or not, the holiday shopping season is among us. While it’s difficult to be 100% prepared, hopefully, the steps laid out above come in handy. 

For more information on creating memorable shipping experiences and optimizing your comprehensive fulfillment strategy get in touch today. At Drive Fulfillment, we believe that no two customers are the same, and neither are their fulfillment processes. As a result, we build customized solutions optimized for your business, no matter the size. For more information regarding tours, pricing, shipping capabilities, or explore 6 Benefits of Outsourcing eCommerce Store Fulfillment, contact us, or visit the Drive Fulfillment blog today.