The holiday season is approaching, and 2018 is expected to be bigger than ever for ecommerce. Statista reports holiday ecommerce growth is projected to gain 15% this year. This means even more items being shipped between the peak months of November 2018 through most of January 2019.

To prepare for the holiday rush, UPS has hired 100,000 seasonal employees to handle the extra work, a sizable increase of 5.3% from last year. Rival shipping company, FedEx, says it’s hired 55,000 more workers, a 10% increase from last year. And the USPS has already begun their hiring spree and is expected to bring on at least 25,000 seasonal workers to help get packages delivered to doorsteps before the yuletide.

With major shipping companies reporting they’ll be transporting more than 750 million packages between now and Christmas, it’s shaping up to be a record-setting year. Make sure your online store is prepared with these tips that’ll ensure you’ll be ready for the influx in holiday purchases, so you can own it this holiday season.

Consider Offering Free Shipping

It’s a harsh reality, but most products that people are buying online can be found on sites that offer free shipping. Yes, they will end up paying more, but the products themselves hold tangible value for customers while shipping does not.

You can offer free shipping in a few ways that will not cut into your profits, such as spending minimums or order-by dates. Zappos is a well-cited example, increasing their product costs but offering free shipping. The result? $2 billion in annual revenue.


Integrate a Free Shipping Threshold

Looking to get more sales over the holiday season? Then you’ll want to consider adding something into your marketing plan that’s rather simple: it’s called a free shipping threshold.

What is it and how does it help you get more sales?

A free shipping threshold is an assigned average order value that customers must meet to get free shipping on a purchase. It’s commonplace at many ecommerce stores you’d visit online, and it works something like this: “Get free shipping on orders of $50 and up!”

  • As USPS reports, 88% of customers are likelier to place an order when free shipping is offered at time of checkout. So, cash in on this healthy statistic by integrating a free shipping threshold into your online store to generate more sales.
  • A Marketing Land report adds the final proof of concept here, finding that 9 out of 10 shoppers say free shipping is the leading factor in them closing the deal or abandoning the shopping cart in favor of another merchant that offers it.


Outline Your Shipping Policy

Did you know 28% of cart abandoners do not purchase because of unexpected shipping costs? If you choose not to offer free shipping, make your shipping policy easy to find on your site so your customers will be informed.

By clearly outlining your shipping policy, you won’t leave customers wondering. Any time a consumer has to stop and ask a mental question about an online purchase, it creates doubt, which increases abandonment.

The goal with increasing conversions, though, is to instill confidence, something that is more easily done when your shipping policy is clear as day.


Offer a Hassle-Free Returns Policy

The most beneficial way to assuage your customers’ purchasing concerns is to create a returns policy that makes it fast, easy and simple for customers to send a product back.

  • UPS reports 81% of customers desire an easy returns policy, and that is backed up by the 100-million Prime subscribers who get free returns to Amazon.
  • The same UPS report also finds that over 60% of shoppers read your return policy before making a buying a decision, and that most of them aren’t going to make a purchase unless returns are easy.
  • Even better is this UPS stat: 40% of customers are likely to repurchase from your store at the time of making a return if the process is hassle-free. So, start viewing returns as a way to gain high-value, second-chance sales that resonate with your customers and feed your bottom line.

The reality here is simple: while returns may feel like a pain point for your online store, making them easy for your customers is a smart way for you close more deals, reduce cart abandonment and improve loyalty and retention.


Stock up on Supplies

Now that your store’s policies are optimized, it’s time to think about getting all your orders out the door.  Being well prepared will enable you to cut through the clutter once your world turns upside-down when fulfillment time comes.

  • The simplest way to know what your supplies look like is by conducting a fulfillment inventory audit in advance. Make a checklist and ensure that you’re going to have enough supplies to send out orders based on historical data from your last holiday season.
  • Go the extra mile here and adjust your inventory by at least 10% more than the previous year to accommodate for increased sales; or compare your statistical numbers and adjust accordingly if business is booming year-over-year.


Streamline Your Fulfillment Process

In par with stocking up on the extra supplies you’ll need to fulfill all your holiday rush orders is: efficiency. Assess your pick and pack process from top to bottom. You’ll assuredly derive a few new methods of fulfillment that you can save you time and, ultimately, money as you prepare the hordes of outbound orders that stream in from holiday shoppers.

In many cases, e-tailers are using a two-method system for fulfillment. They print the shipping label and the packing slip/invoice as two separate pieces, which means it takes more time to prepare packages.

Instead, consider shifting this to a one-system method by using all-in-one shipping labels with packing slips included. This simple switch can slash fulfillment time by 20% or more, enabling you to get more packages out faster and accurately during your peak sales days.


Leave Yourself Extra Time

Just as airlines pad their estimated flight times to avoid the bad press if they are behind schedule, ecommerce sites can plan for the holiday rush and (possibly) longer shipping times. This goes alongside of your shipping policy, which you can update to include seasonal shipping rates and time estimates. This way, your customers will rave when their shipments arrive “early.”

  • Adding an extra estimated day or two to the delivery date gives shoppers a reasonable expectation as to when they can receive the goods they’ve purchased from your online store.
  • In addition to this, lots of online stores offer a delivery guarantee for customers to increase confidence and reduce abandonment rates at time of checkout.
  • This is commonly seen at marketplaces like Amazon, where the shopping cart informs consumers of the order-by date to receive packages in time for the holidays.

This simple feature has been shown to dramatically increase conversion rates, namely because shoppers want to know that the gifts they’re buying for loved ones will be under the tree come Christmas morning.


Offer Multiple Shipping Options

Studies have found that average order value increases when customers are offered multiple shipping options. Without a doubt, most consumers choose the economy shipping option when free shipping isn’t offered, but plenty of customers want other options to get their packages delivered faster, too.

According to the 2016 State of Shipping In Commerce report:

“All retailers surveyed reported that increasing the number of shipping options at checkout helps increase sales (86%), reduce cart abandonment (75%), meet customer expectations (86%), meet shipping deadlines (84%), and ship to a wider geographical area (78%).”

And there you have it: these rock-solid numbers prove that by making a simple change to your shipping options, you’ll stand to reap strong rewards. What’s not to like?


Rate Shop Like You Mean It

One of the biggest pain points for online retailers during the holiday shopping rush is the cost of shipping and how it factors into their bottom line and profit margins.

Just ask Amazon, which is striving to create its own logistics network to reduce shipping costs because they’re planning on spending $21 billion on shipping in 2018!

Here are some rate shopping tips to help you cut costs this year:

  • The best way to reduce your holiday costs this year is by rate shopping for the lowest price before you send packages out.
  • The only way to successfully do this is by using shipping software that lets you compare rates in real-time before you generate shipping labels.
  • Taking this extra step on certain packages will result in an average costs savings that adds up fast and helps you pad your profits while meeting the demands of your customers in a timely manner.

If you need help with rate shopping, Practical Commerce has an excellent guide they offer Here.


Think Outside of the Box

The holidays are hectic for online retailers. It’s during this critical time of the year that you generate the most profits, though. By thinking outside of the box and preparing well in advance for the surge in sales that are certain to come, you can handle your holiday shipping in 2018 like a real boss and forget about how stressful the past three months were while sipping a margarita when you’re on vacation somewhere warm come January.



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