5 Elements of Holiday Preparation

  •    Mikhail is the Head of Marketing at Shippo, the shipping dashboard and API that connects you to multiple carriers.

The holidays are approaching and it’s time to prepare for the rush that comes along with “the most wonderful time of the year.” Getting your shipping and fulfillment operations in order is especially important for handling more orders, increasing margins, and getting the most out of the holiday rush. We’ve put together a checklist to get you best prepared for the holiday sales spike.

1. Show delivery information early

Cost of shipping is the #1 reason for cart abandonment. Consider the types of information customers looks for when deciding to make a purchase. There are the basics, such as product details, pricing, photos - and oftentimes, customer reviews.

However, what’s often missed is the expected arrival date and exact shipping cost. According to a study by Shippo, only 33% of merchants include the expected delivery date and 64% show the item’s shipping cost right on the product page.

By prepping your customers early in the process and setting expectations correctly, you can increase conversions and use it to help you drive sales.

2. Arm yourself with carrier options

With so many orders coming in, prepare yourself by diversifying your carrier mix for cost and reliability. If something unexpected happens during the holiday rush it will be too late to sign up and ship with a new carrier when you need it the most.

Carriers are not one-size-fits-all. Cheaper but slower carriers are good for your business early in the holiday season. But as holiday delivery cut off times come, you’ll want to be able to offer services that can get orders there before Christmas morning.

Take note that certain carriers will also have additional charges around the holidays. For example, UPS will have an additional surcharge for packages sent to residential addresses between November 19th and December 2nd of 2017 and then a different set of surcharges from December 17th to December 23rd. In contrast, FedEx announced that the it will not apply residential holiday season surcharges, except in the case of packages that require additional handling or are oversized.

3. Get ready for returns

Although orders haven’t even come in yet, you should think about how you’d like to handle returns. Approx 30% of merchandize purchased online are returned, compared to 8% purchased in-person. You should take moment to consider what you’d like your return policy and process to look like.

Outline what your customers can expect, whether it’s an exchange, store credit, full refund or simply no returns. Every ecommerce store has its own preference, so don’t feel pressured to conform. Many people will be shopping with you for the first time, so be as clear as possible.

Include the specifics for your customers in the actual return procedure. Set expectations by making it clear who needs to ship what and by what date. Who pays for shipping—you or your customers? Should your customers use your packaging or their own?

If you sell internationally, you should also create a separate policy for international customers. While not as customer friendly, you might consider limiting which items can be returned and who pays for shipping.

4. Prepare your warehouse ​

Lastly, of course, get your warehouse operations ready for the holiday rush. Here are a few items you’ll want to check off your list.

  • Do you have enough packaging supplies to get you through the holidays without interruption? This includes boxes of different sizes, tapes and packaging content. Also, remember to stock up on different size boxes, as you don’t want to be paying by DIM weight for empty air.

  • Consider your order fulfillment speed. 67% of consumers expect the orders to leave the warehouse within 24 hours. Make sure that your warehouse can handle peak order volume and get packages out in time.

  • What are your most ordered items? Get the list of projected top selling products from marketing or merchandising teams. Set up a “top sellers” location near ship stations to allow for quick turnarounds for those favorite items.

Getting ready for the holidays isn’t an easy task. But thinking one-step ahead of your customers can help you ensure a successful holiday season for everyone.