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How to Ace Shipping This Holiday Season

by James Messer
As the holidays quickly approach, it’s important to start finalizing your shipping strategy.

You don’t want to wait until the busiest time of year to figure out what shipping options you’ll provide, if you’ll charge for shipping or how you’ll handle returns. These are critical pieces of the business that can make or break a sale. In fact, 88% of customers say that shipping directly impacts whether or not they will be a repeat customer.

Luckily, our friends at ShipStation have put together a list of best practices so you can not only survive holiday shipping, but thrive.

Build a Schedule

One of the most important components of a positive shipping experience is on-time arrival. Timing becomes critical during the holidays, especially since 40% of customers are still shopping within the last 10 days of the season. This means you have less room for error and need to know the exact day and time orders can be placed to get to the end customer before the holidays.

The infographic below shows shipping deadlines for the US, but you can also see deadlines for the United KingdomCanada and Australia.

Determine How Much You’ll Charge for Shipping

As you probably know, free shipping has become wildly popular in eCommerce, and more and more customers are starting to expect it. Here are a few ways you can offer free shipping during the holidays without breaking the bank: 

  1. Set a buying threshold: Offering free shipping may not be feasible for items with low profit margins, but you can incentivize customers to add items to their shopping cart to obtain free shipping. Some common thresholds are $50, $75 or $100. This strategy has two main benefits: It encourages additional purchases, and it allows you to make up the shipping cost within the purchase so you don’t take as hard of a hit.  
  2. Incorporate shipping cost into price: If you want to offer free shipping on all of your products, you can offset the cost by increasing your products’ prices. For this method to be effective, make sure you run some data on the average cost of shipping per product first so that you don’t actually lose money on the sale.
  3. Offer multiple shipping options: Providing a few different shipping options is a great way to ensure that you’re giving your customers a service that meets their needs. We recommend having at least one express option (you can charge a premium for faster service), a standard delivery option and a free slower option. That way, no matter what your customer’s preference is, they can pick a service that works best for them. It also helps that 75% of customers opt for more premium shipping options when buying gifts during the holiday season. 

Establish a Robust Return Process

Consumers want their online shopping experience to resemble the brick-and-mortar store experience as much as possible, which means returns should be just as simple online as in store. With 72% of shoppers saying that return policies directly influence their online purchasing decisions, providing a seamless return process is more important than ever. One way to do that is to allow customers to process returns themselves, without having to speak to a customer service rep or wait for an email to come through. 

Providing a self-service landing page for returns not only saves your customer service reps time but also keeps your customers satisfied. We recommend including a link to the returns page on the customer receipt and having it prominently displayed on your website for customers to access anytime.  

Customers also want to be able to return products free of charge. While this can be difficult/expensive to offer, buyers may forego making a purchase if returns aren’t free. Try offering free returns up to 10 days after the date of purchase or some other threshold. That way, you’re providing free returns but you won’t have to pay for all returns that are processed. 

Use Shipping as a Marketing Tool

Shipping isn’t just a way to get products to your customers; it should also be part of your overall marketing strategy. Think of multiple ways to help your business stand out during the holidays, even after your customer has made a purchase.

  • Branded tracking pages and emails: If you don’t already offer delivery tracking to your customers, you should seriously consider adding it. It will cut down the number of customer service inquiries you receive, plus it adds another touch point for you to engage with your customers. ShipStation found that people click on tracking emails an average of three times per order! That equals three more times your brand can be seen and interacted with. Make the most of your tracking emails by including your logo, social media platforms, special promotions and recommended products from your website.  
  • Branded packaging: Customized or branded packaging is another great way to keep your company top of mind with your customers. Compared to other marketing activities like email promotions, which have an average open rate of about 15%, packages have a 100% open rate. If you don’t want to spend money on customized boxes, try getting a roll of tape or tissue paper with your logo on it. 
  • Branded inserts: Custom packaging costs can add up, so another way to stand out without spending too much is including a small insert in each package. This can be as simple as a thank-you note or a printed story of how your business got started. Small personal touches like these show your customers that you care about them, which increases their loyalty to your brand. 

For more branding tips, check out ShipStation’s free Brand Your Shipping eBook.

About the Author
James Messer is a copywriter at ShipStation, a web-based shipping solution that helps eCommerce retailers import, organize and ship orders efficiently. With more than 160 shopping carts, marketplaces, carriers and fulfillment services, you can streamline shipping wherever you sell and however you ship.

This content was brought to you by Cin7 Inventory Management.