Online Store: 10 Clever Ways To Manage Shipping Over the Holiday Season

Achieving record sales during big promotional periods – whether it’s the holiday season, Black Friday, or sales – or when launching a highly anticipated product is a dream shared by all online merchants. But the flip side of great success is the inevitable management of the shipping and fulfillment process for each of these many orders.

The good news is, if you’ve planned and planned everything well, everything should go smoothly. To help you manage your different delivery methods perfectly and organize yourself internally during busy periods, here are some tips to follow.

To prepare your business for managing mailings during peak periods, you need to take the following steps.

1. Define your shipping and delivery process

Do you know all the stages of your shipping and delivery process?

If the answer is no, now is the time to find them out – and if the answer is yes but you haven’t put it down on paper, now is the time to do so. 

Getting the process out of your head and writing it clearly will help you better educate your team members and the “volunteers” in charge during peak times. It’s also a good idea to double-check your shipping strategy to make sure it’s still relevant during the promotion period.

Define your shipping and delivery process

To know your process well, pay attention to the next orders that you ship or approach the members of your team in charge of their execution. List each step and note the time required (approximate times are sufficient).

For example, it might look like:

  • Open an order in Shopify to view it (30 seconds),
  • Gather all the items ordered in one place (1 minute),
  • Organize items by area and delivery method, such as local delivery or store pickup (2 minutes),
  • Take out the correct size packaging (20 seconds),
  • Pack the items and put them in their shipping package (2 minutes),
  • Include any “extras” in the package, such as coupons or small gifts (30 seconds),
  • Wrap securely with adhesive tape and a sticker with your brand image (30 seconds),
  • Print shipping labels (1 minute),
  • Stick the shipping label on the package (30 seconds),

As you outline the steps in your process, carefully note small incidents and the time required for each step. Is there anything you can do to simplify these steps or make them more efficient?

Reducing the length of each send by 30 seconds or one minute may seem like a pittance, but if you manage 10 shipments and deliveries a day, that’s already five minutes that you (or your team) could spend on other things.

Set up local delivery or in-store collection

Consumer behavior is changing, and so is the way you send your products to them. Options like in-store delivery and pickup allow you to better connect with your local market, giving you more control over your deliveries.

Setting up local delivery for online orders is quick and easy. You can use UPS or FedEx through the Shopify platform or use shipping apps , available on the Shopify App Store.

For local customers who want to order online and pick up their order themselves, you can offer BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store) options, such as pick-up on-site. 

This is a convenient way for customers living near your store to skip the cost of shipping and pick up in-store purchases. 

When you set up a local pickup for your online store, the shipping rate is automatically offered for free. Consumers increasingly appreciate the ease and convenience of onsite pickup and this trend is expected to continue after the pandemic.

2. Make stocks of supplies needed for shipping and packaging

With a consistent process in place, you should have a good idea of everything you need to do to complete each command.

So now is the time to start making sure you have enough stock of scotch tape, cardboard, wrapping paper, labels, to keep up with the influx of sales.

You wouldn’t want to see your shipping and delivery process interrupted because you realize that you have run out of adhesive labels.

If you are using an office printer, prepare by restocking your stock of labels to print. If you want to switch to a thermal printer for your shipments, do so now. This will prevent you from learning how to use it in an emergency.

Preparation of your order shipments

While it’s true that offering options like gift wrapping can cost time and money, it’s the kind of detail that can get a customer to buy. 

However, here too you will need to plan well in advance to ensure you have enough supplies for the entire season. 

Shopify merchants can add a “gift wrap ” option to their cart page.

3. Make sure you can meet shipping deadlines and plan for delivery delays

Carrier lead times have been affected in recent months due to the influx of online orders and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current online sales spikes rival those of the 2019 holiday season. As a result, carriers have struggled to keep pace.

Delivery times still haven’t caught up as the holiday season quickly approaches. 

These delays impact traders with respect to manufacturing, ordering from suppliers, and order fulfillment.

You obviously won’t be able to predict delays, but it’s best to keep up to date with carrier delays and updates. 

At each peak, they communicate the shipping deadlines to guarantee delivery before public holidays or the end of the year.

4. Define your delivery and shipping strategy in times of high demand

Your process is established and you are fully stocked. The next step is to define the details of your relationship with the customer, and more specifically to determine the shipping costs.

The most common options are free shipping, flat rate shipping, and flat shipping. Here are some tips to help you determine which one is best for your business.

1. Free shipping costs

Shipping costs are the reason most often cited by Internet users who abandon their cart. Offering free shipping is therefore a smart way to use a compelling offer to improve conversion rates without relying solely on promotions.

That said, it’s not always the cheapest option, even with the discounted rates you get through UPS, and FedEx with Shopify. 

If you want to offer the shipping cost to everyone, you need to understand how it affects your margins and what costs you need to cover, including the shipping costs for your heaviest items and the shipping costs. ‘shipping to the most distant destinations.

However, it is possible to find a good compromise.

For example, you could offer free delivery only to some of your customers. 

Consider sending a free shipping code to your current customers to encourage them to repeat their orders or offering free shipping over a certain amount, which will increase the value of the average cart.

However, when you offer the shipping cost, you should pay attention to the shipping deadlines. 

If you are only considering free standard shipping, then you will need to be clear about expected delivery dates so your customers can order on time, for the holidays.

2. The fixed shipping costs

If you want to offset some of your shipping costs while not scaring your customers off when it comes to finding out about shipping costs, a flat-rate shipping policy might be the way to go.

With the shipping plan, set a price that will cover most of your shipping costs, and be prepared to cover the cost of particularly expensive shipping options or items.

Your customers will always know the shipping costs upfront, and you will always recoup the vast majority of your shipping costs, everyone wins.

3. Fixed shipping costs

Thanks to the fixed shipping costs, customers will know the shipping costs for their order upfront, so no surprises at checkout.

Keep in mind that cart abandonment rates tend to increase around Black Friday and the holiday season, and shipping costs are one reason. 

Rest assured, imposing a fixed shipping cost doesn’t necessarily put buyers back. 

But it’s important to be aware of the potential impact they can have and put a plan in place to win back customers who have abandoned their cart.

4. Offer different delivery methods to your local customers

When your customers are based near your business, then you can consider offering them unique and local delivery methods. This can speed up your processing time and create a better customer experience.

While encouraging local sales with fast, free (or affordable) delivery and pickup options.

When you set up local delivery, the customer will find out the terms when they pay. You can use a geolocation radius or zip code to decide how far you are willing to go to deliver orders. 

You can also set your shipping price, require a minimum order amount, and create a message indicating how and when you will deliver.

With the in-store pickup option, your customers can avoid shipping costs and pick up their online orders in-store.

Either way, these options are a great way to avoid delays and shipping costs while making your life easier.

5. International shipments

International shipping can open your business to new markets, but it requires a good understanding of the tariffs and related taxes in each country where you will be selling your products. 

You may not be doing international shipping right now because it seems complicated and expensive to you, but it is not as complex as you might think. In addition, customers are increasingly likely to shop outside of their borders. 

If you plan to expand your audience, an international shipping strategy is a great way to do this.

If you’re new to international shipping, pick a few countries to get started and learn the shipping process to each one. Check the countries you ship to, as well as the shipping options available on your store so customers can find the right information.

5. Calculate the weight of your products regularly

By calculating the weight of your products on a regular basis you allow customers to know the exact shipping costs during the checkout.

This is a good thing for them, but it’s also good for you: you will be able to quickly print accurate shipping labels for each order because you will not need to update or correct the weight halfway. course.

Do you need to know how much each product weighs? No problem. You have plenty of time to order a parcel scale before Black Friday and the holiday season.

6. Communicate about your shipping costs and delivery methods

We know that unforeseen shipping costs can hurt your conversion rates, but the question “How much will it cost?” isn’t the only pressing question your customers have about shipping during peak periods. 

The question “Will my order arrive on time?” is just as important.

Don’t be afraid to communicate “too much” when it comes to these two questions, as the answers are essential for anyone considering buying from you.

Your international customers will appreciate the information just as much as your domestic customers, and you will empower them to make better purchasing decisions.

Beyond using email, here are other ways to get this information to the right people, at the right time during Black Friday and the holiday season:

  • Add a banner promoting the prices, options, and shipping times you offer. Too much information for a banner? Create a link to a blog post or a page dedicated to shipping costs.
  • If you have a shipping deadline, add a popup window to make sure buyers are in the know. (Popups only annoy if they’re unnecessary, and making sure orders arrive before the holidays is essential to your customers during Black Friday and holiday periods).
  • Add an image to your homepage or a section dedicated to the shipping information.
  • Share your shipping information on social media. Even if you don’t get free shipping, deadlines are a great thing to promote on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Send a reminder email to everyone on your list – and anyone who has abandoned their cart – on the last day they can expect to receive their purchase before the holidays. You can opt for other email reminders, but this one is a must. You will most likely find a lot of undecided people who are on the verge of buying but need a final push to complete their purchase.
  • Update your FAQ page. If you don’t have one, now is the time to write one that answers some of the most common shipping questions. People will naturally go to this page to find answers to their questions if they can’t find the information elsewhere. This will allow you to unblock your customer service.

Along with your website, product pages, and checkout page, it’s important to give customers multiple opportunities to get the answers they need. 

This could be email or social media support, live chat, your shipping policy page, help center, or FAQ.

Many customers will check a store’s shipping policy or FAQ page if they have a shipping question. 

Populating this page with the correct information helps customers find answers quickly and reduces the need for them to contact you.

Creating a page on your shipping policy is very easy to do. Create a new page on your Shopify store, add a link to the page in your footer, and make sure to include information about:

  • Shipment tracking,
  • Delivery options and times,
  • Returns and refunds,
  • Customs fees and international shipping,
  • Lost or damaged packages.

The details of your policy depend on your company, your products, and your margins, but having a place of information to direct your customers to is the first step in good delivery management.

7. Prepare your return policy

Another aspect of shipping management that you will need to keep in mind during a busy period returns. When planning, you will need to pay special attention to return shipping costs.

While the average return rate is generally around 20%, it can reach 30% around the holiday season. Having a strategy that takes returns handling into account and clearly communicated to your customers can help you create a smooth and seamless process.

There are three main ways to manage the cost of return labels:

  1. Your customer pays the return costs,
  2. You pay the return shipping costs,
  3. A combination of both.

Which strategy is best for you will depend on your margins, as well as the estimated return price, but keep in mind that return prices can be high during the holiday season. Whatever decision you make, be sure to communicate your returns information as clearly and prominently as your shipping rates – this will save you time and make the job of customer service easier.

Your current shipping policy page should contain all of the information you want to provide on returns. Specifically, there are two big questions you will need to answer if you are offering feedback:

How much does it cost to return an item? Free return shipping is quickly becoming a fundamental expectation. While not financially feasible for all businesses, sharing your returns strategy and costs – whether it’s a flat rate, exact cost, or free shipping – on your policy page, will help you anticipate issues.

Do you offer returns, exchanges, or… both? By answering this question upfront, you will avoid disappointment later, even if you don’t plan to offer either of these options. This way, customers will at least be informed in advance.

Note that FedEx and UPS allow you to provide return labels to your customers.

8. Think about the unboxing experience

After all the energy you have spent organizing your shipments, it would be a shame to disappoint your customers when it comes time to unpack. With a little planning, you can make this an enjoyable experience for your customers.

Want your customers to share their experiences on social media?

To encourage sharing on social media, consider choosing packaging that looks like you, add a small giveaway or a call to action asking people to share their experience. 

It can be as simple as a little card, a hashtag, and a (polite!) Request to post to their social media if they like your products. 

Posts from happy customers are a real guarantee for future buyers, but remember to obtain permission before reusing any content created by a third party.

Asking your customers for social media posts is a great way to get user-generated content that you can re-share and schedule for weeks to come.

Do you want to retain your customers?

If you want to retain your customers, consider adding samples of your other products or including a discount code valid on a future order. 

For example, you can offer a code offering free shipping on next purchase or a 10% discount for a new purchase during sales.

Knowing that a lot of your purchases will be gifts can also help you define your strategy. For example, try including two coupons – one for the person who made the purchase and one for the recipient – to potentially get two customers for the price of one. 

By including samples, you allow someone who may never have bought from you to experience your products!

Want to stand out?

As a small business, one of the advantages you have over your larger competition is the ability (and willingness) to do things on a more personal basis. 

If you want to make a strong impression during promotional times like Black Friday, the holiday season or the sales, remind your customers that they are supporting real people with their purchases by including a personalized touch like a note. handwritten thank you note.

Whatever unboxing experience you want to create, you need to make sure you have the necessary tools before you ship your orders, which is why it is important to plan your material orders well in advance so that everything arrives on time.

9. Set up order tracking

Once your customers have finalized their order, they only have one thing in mind: when is it going to arrive? You will necessarily be asked this question, even if you have clearly communicated the estimated shipping times. This is why it is very important to provide shipment tracking for each order, as soon as possible.

The more effectively you communicate the available order tracking options, the less likely you are to have questions from concerned customers. Adding tracking numbers to all orders can save you a lot of questions!

Another option is to add or customize an order status page on your store. After adding a tracking number, your customers can view shipping updates from their order page.

By showing tracking information where customers are likely to look – for example, post-purchase emails and your order status page – many customers will be able to answer their questions on their own and have peace of mind, even in the event of a shipping delay.

10. Anticipate questions from your customers

Whatever prep work you do to meet the influx of orders, some customers will contact you. 

Your team will likely be at its peak. It is therefore a good idea to provide guidelines and pre-established answers to the most recurring questions and problems. This will allow your team to be efficient and maintain a consistent customer experience.

Whatever the problem, it’s important to have empathy for your customers. Tailor your responses and tone to your mood. 

A customer who has just made a purchase may share with you their uncertainty or frustration about whether they will receive what they paid for within a reasonable time frame. 

Understanding the frustration he may be feeling goes a long way in turning a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

Take, for example, order tracking. When customers contact you to resolve an issue, first confirm that their transaction has been completed and the order has shipped. Then you can send them the tracking information and instructions directly.

To anticipate any questions concerning the follow-up of orders, remember to communicate:

  • The day you shipped the order and the estimated delivery date,
  • A direct link to the tracking page of the carrier you used.

If you haven’t shipped the order yet, let your customer know and tell them the expected delivery dates. If you don’t have tracking information available, set up a reminder to follow up with it once you have it.

Customers wait for their order to be delivered on a given day – while monitoring its status day by day – while on your end you also wait for the carrier to deliver it. But delivery delays can not always be controlled, so your best option is to be ready to reassure your customers when the announced deadlines are not met.

Busy times often cause delivery delays, so you will need to look into these issues as well. If you are not able to offer solutions for missed deadlines, it is important to state this in your shipping policy.

Even if there is nothing you can do, it is good to do what you have in your power to compensate for the delay in the shipment, for example by offering a refund of shipping costs, a discount, or a gift card.

Organize the logistics today to ensure your success

As a small business getting ready to jump into the deep end of Christmas sales, it’s important to get your logistics in place well in advance of the shopping season. 

This will help you create an optimal experience for your customers, and more enjoyable for you and your entire team!

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