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Make Sure Delivery Isn’t Your Weakest Link This Holiday

Practical tips to help you deliver on customer expectations

Retailers see 20% of annual retail sales occurring between Black Friday and Christmas, and, this year, there are only twenty-six shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas, just one more than last year, and five fewer than 2012. Though, to be fair, as usual, 50% of shoppers will finish their shopping in the last two weeks of December.

This compressed holiday sales season is not the only thing upping the ante for retailers. eCommerce sales are expected to push to 8.4% of retail sales this year, and mobile commerce is expected to grow 37.3% with 61.9% of shoppers buying on a mobile device. Retailers need to be ready to fulfill all of those orders, in a shorter period of time.

To make the most of this holiday season, it’s important to keep in mind consumer expectations and hot buttons:

  • 96% of shoppers said “guaranteed delivery dates” are important when deciding which online retailers to shop during the holidays
  • 56% of shoppers say they’re concerned about order cancellations and back-orders after their 2013 experiences
  • 42% of Customer Service calls during the Holidays relate to shipping and delivery

Bottom line: Customers are doing more online shopping and they want free or reasonable shipping costs. Retailers are leaving money on the table when they can’t accommodate.

Turning Coal Into Gold
Keep in mind these four key success tactics to ensure that you deliver on your brand promise this holiday season:

  • Coordinate with your fulfillment center and dropship partners
  • Play it smart with late shipping cutoffs
  • Take a strategic approach to free shipping
  • Communicate clearly, early, and often

Coordinate with Your Fulfillment Center and Dropship Partners
Successful delivery begins before the order is ever placed. If you coordinate your annual capacity and investment planning, create a centralized partner communication portal, and enable daily check-ins with your fulfillment centers and dropship partners, you’ll be better able to meet customer demand and expectations.

Plan out and share your Holiday forecasts (including inventory and orders), extended service hours, new order processing schedules, delivery guarantees, free shipping offers, list of “hot products”, and last day to order dates (these may vary by product). Daily check-ins should include KPIs for fulfillment, freight, customer service, technology and payment, and marketing. Coordinating daily can help you make critical adjustments to your strategy as soon as possible.

Play It Smart with Late Shipping Cutoffs
Work with your fulfillment provider to extend order cutoff times as late as possible. The time of year can affect shipping choices, especially around the holidays when consumer expectations rise. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, consumers want fast, reliable delivery options—and more often than not they expect free delivery. The use of express shipping during this time can increase as much as 129%, so it’s more important than ever to play it smart with shipping. You can save as much as 30%+ by delivering to service level rather than type: i.e. 2-day rather than air or ground.

Other ways you can streamline shipping include moving “hot products” to one area to be easily accessed for packing, and utilizing your in-store inventory if you have it. Like in-store pickup, ship-from-store capabilities turn your brick-and-mortar stores into strategically placed local warehouses that can get products to customers quickly. eBay Enterprise clients have seen ship-from-store increase retail sales more than 20%.

Strategic Free Shipping
54% of shoppers abandon carts because of high shipping costs and 58% of shoppers have added to cart to qualify for free shipping, so it’s worthwhile to strategically use free shipping offers during the Holiday season. Here are some ideas to compliment holiday favorites like free shipping at specific cart value thresholds:

  • If you have a high AOV product, consider partnering with financial and technology companies to offset the cost of free shipping
  • If you have a low AOV product but are part of bigger brand: consider partnership opportunities around sister brand product launches
  • If you are a company with a valuable consumer demographic, consider inbox campaign partnerships with complimentary brands

Communicate Clearly, Early, and Often
In the busy holiday season, be less concerned about customer fatigue, and more concerned about getting important information and offers to your customers (because your competitors will as well). Definitely keep your site updated and leverage your social media sites to communicate shipping times, delivery dates (“Guaranteed to get there by”), and promotions, but make sure to prominently feature your store locator, if you have them, especially if you offer in-store pick up and ship-to-store. Local stores are a great way to meet last-minute shopping demand as well as to encourage sales (78% of U.S. digital shoppers bought in-store after browsing digitally).

For additional ideas and best practices to help you cut through the noise this holiday season and keep your brand top of mind with customers while maximizing sales, see the eBay Enterprise 2014 Holiday Commerce Marketing Guide.

Sources

About Mark Capalbo, Director of Sales, Strategy & Client Services
With more than 15 years of experience in the apparel and footwear industry, Mark has served as a strategic consultant for a number of eBay Enterprise’s most recognizable brands, including Sony, adidas, BCBG, Cost Plus, Levi’s, & Quiksilver. He has an array of experience leading all facets of omni-channel businesses. Prior to EBAY Enterprise, Mark spent six years at Nike, where he was responsible for directing Nike’s US ecommerce business.

Make Sure Delivery Isn’t Your Weakest Link This Holiday

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2014 Holiday Commerce Marketing Guide

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