Holiday Shipping Survival Guide for Small Business Owners
The following article is Featured Guest Post from eShipper, a one-stop shop for shipping born in Canada, giving small business owners access to the best shipping & fulfillment solutions.
Although it would seem natural to pour all your efforts into online promotions, giveaways, and incentives, holiday-themed webstore design, social media outreach, and email marketing campaigns galore, you should take care of something that may otherwise be treated as an afterthought: shipping.
Some of us may balk when we see holiday decorations for sale in October, but we also know that businesses do it for a reason–it works. Last year, holiday sales amounted to as much as $886.7 billion, a 14.1% increase since 2020. Holiday spending is expected to continue to grow this year–by 15.5% in the case of online shopping. If you want to get a good-sized slice out of that gigantic pie, now is the time to take action to boost your holiday sales.
Getting Started with Shipping
In those final moments of the purchasing journey, shipping is what will make or break the sale. Maybe you’ve done everything right: A customer saw your social media post, shared it with friends, clicked through to your store, browsed your attractively presented product line, picked a few favorites, and added them to their shopping cart. They are so close to hitting the “Purchase” button.
But wait–the customer is suddenly having second thoughts. The holiday shipping charges seem excessive, and the only delivery option states that it will take up to five days for the order to arrive. In less than a minute, your potential customer has abandoned the cart and moved on to a more accommodating competitor.
As many as 48% of shoppers do the same thing when they think the holiday shipping costs are too high. The truth is that shoppers may like surprises during the holiday season, but nothing sends them running in the opposite direction like a surprise at checkout. That’s why it’s essential to display shipping charges early in the checkout process; if you don’t, you run the risk of watching your potential customers head for the virtual door.
More importantly, you have to give customers control over speed and price, so they have the power to decide how and when they receive their orders. Close the sale by offering what they want: free or flat-rate shipping and several delivery options. From standard shipping to air shipping, next-day delivery, and everything in between, your customers have never had more options to get their order how they want, when they want.
Top Shipping Tips
Every time you package up your product and send it away you have to think of the person opening it on the other end. This is a continuation of the customer experience, even once they’ve left your site. So now that you know how to achieve success on your end, let’s look at some of the ways to give your customers the best experience possible.
- Use free shipping. Everyone else worth competing with is already using it. Free shipping doesn’t have to cost you, just factor it into the price of your product. After all, 90% of shoppers say free shipping is their number 1 incentive to shopping online.
- Consider the unboxing experience. The excitement of opening a gift sometimes rivals the gift itself. Tap into this excitement when you package your products. Making them personal with a handwritten note and your customer’s name takes a couple of minutes and makes them feel that much more special. At the very least you can have the notes printed and hand-sign them.
- Prepare for returns. Make sure you are clearly communicating your policy with your customers. You don’t want them to meet any unexpected fees. If your margins allow for it consider covering all of, or some of, the holiday shipping fees. This will make returning customers more likely. If your margins can’t handle that extra cost, don’t sweat it. Just make sure that your customers know this before they purchase.
- Set up order tracking. People are impatient when their expectations haven’t been managed. Having package tracking lets people follow their delivery every step of the way.
- Set up a FAQ about delivery. Regardless of how much you prepare for the holiday rush, there will be customers who still reach out for questions. Try to anticipate the questions ahead of time and have a FAQ available so customers can answer questions themselves.
Some of their questions may be:
- What is your return policy?
- How much is shipping?
- How long will delivery take?
- Can I get expedited shipping?
- Do I have to be home to sign for my package?
These are all necessary keys to shipping and delivery success for the holidays, but none of this information is really new.
Using Shipping as a Marketing Tool
The fact is that free shipping is a powerful motivator that can increase conversion rates and grow your average order value, so if you’re able to offer it, make sure you display that right on your homepage. And if you’re able to offer next-day delivery–even if it’s not free–make sure you display that as well. It’s all about managing (and meeting) customer expectations.
Remember that clarity from the get-go, along with a smooth shipping process and the right mix of delivery options, will help your customer march all the way to the other end of the sales funnel.
If done right, shipping keeps customers coming back. The holiday season is your opportunity to stand out from the competition. So, make sure those last-minute orders take the fast route to their end destinations. Your customers will thank you for it, and so will your bottom line.
Not sure how to find the best carriers and get the most competitive rates? Contact eShipper to get started!