The 2020 holiday shopping season is an intense time for both retailers and shoppers. There’s a lot to do and high expectations for everyone. If all goes as it should, people all over the world will wake up on Christmas Day to find special gifts from their family and friends waiting for them.
While this Christmas is sure to be unlike any other, some things never change. You want your gifts to make it to their destinations on time and intact. For retailers who ship packages from a warehouse that receives orders from multiple point of sale systems as well as an ecommerce platform, meeting these deadlines can get complicated. Inaccurate inventory counts missed communication with employees and customers, and inefficient packing and shipping support can turn that Christmas cheer into a holiday nightmare for customers who are anxiously waiting for a gift to arrive in good condition and on time.
Relax! We’ve compiled a few strategies retailers can use to get their entire business through the busiest shopping season of the year.
A look at ecommerce of Christmases past
Since the 1990s, online shopping has been chipping away at the retail landscape, carving out its own space from being an online supporter of a traditional POS retail business, to becoming an equal profit-making partner in the company. Along the way, shoppers found that doing business virtually is a convenient and secure way to purchase products from their personal devices. Likewise, retailers found new branding opportunities and an increase in overall profit for their company, especially when business at their streetside stores was affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.
But the advantages of online shopping rely on a reliable packing and shipping process that will protect their purchases all the way to their final destinations. With the help of a customized integration tool that brings all your company’s business activity together into one system, you can streamline that process and create the communication links that will cut down on the workload, meet your customers’ expectations, and improve your bottom line.
The 2020 holiday shopping season
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an exponential growth of ecommerce shopping that can no longer be seen as a small part of a retailer’s business. Experts are predicting a 35.8% increase in ecommerce sales this holiday season, translating into an increase of $50 billion in sales when compared to 2019. And, while in-store sales are set to decline by 4.7% to $822.79 million, that loss is expected to be overshadowed by the expected strong online performance, resulting in a slight 0.9% overall gain in consumer spending.
So, if you haven’t already updated your shipping process to support this growth, don’t wait any longer. Here are a few tips to get you started.
A shipping strategy for the busiest time of the year
Proper planning prevents poor performance, so having a smoothly running, flexible process prepped and ready to go is the foundation of good shipping strategy.
1. Prepare your warehouse
Review your product lines to find which items have the potential to run out and ones that should be part of a sale. Keep your inventory counts updated with an automated, customized system that is shared across your entire business to provide accurate, real-time information to both your employees and your online customers. Make sure your inventory is stored in a logical way that your employees and the shipping company can easily process orders, and reserve extra room for returns and special orders.
2. Gather all relevant information
There are a lot of details that go into each order, such as when and where to deliver it or special packing instructions. Your check out process should include areas for all these questions to be answered to ensure proper delivery. A second follow-up page should prompt the customer to confirm all information is complete and correct, as well as provide a final cost that includes shipping and handling charges, taxes, and duty amounts for products being sold overseas.
3. Provide clear communication
Ensure there is clear communication between your POS system, your ecommerce platform, the warehouse, and your customers that is specifically tailored for your unique business. An RD-Ice integration tool can be customized to provide specific instructions on packaging and deliver automated messaging, lessening the workload of your employees and guaranteeing that the message is correct every time.
4. Optimize your shipping and handling processes
Review your shipping processes with your employees to ensure everyone is confident in the process and can accurately complete an order and competently work with the shipping companies. Utilize an address verification system to confirm the customer’s entered address is registered with major shipping carriers. Ecommerce stores can use this verification process to reduce the number of checkout errors and increasing conversion rates in the process.
5. Work with the carriers
Customers don’t always separate the retailer from the shipping company, making it extremely important that you know how your shipping companies interact with your customers. Understand their policies regarding their interactions with customers to make sure that your promise of superior customer service is extended all the way through to delivery. Request information about timelines, special instructions, and bonus programs they may offer during the holidays and set up automated shipping shortcuts with rules that bypass negotiating the rates so you can apply the same charge to every customer.
6. Offer same-day shipping
Sometimes the tipping point on whether or not a customer will purchase a product from your ecommerce site, rather than going to another online store, is determined by how fast they can get the package. In fact, it’s estimated that the decision to buy based on rush shipping options is up to 46% for last-minute online shoppers this year. With a promise of same-day shipping, you can provide them with the extra incentive to buy from you.
7. Prepare for last-minute shipping demands
Changes to shipping requests and last-minute purchases are a sure bet during the busy holiday shopping season. Be prepared to handle these sudden changes to current orders with an integration tool that keeps you up to date in real time for that end of season rush.
8. Don’t forget returns
Preparing a system to handle returns efficiently is imperative to keeping strong relationships with your customers. Your ecommerce site should have an easy return process in place, with printable labels and a quick drop off at their local shipping center. Refunding the money should also be swift and hassle free, with regular updates provided automatically throughout the process.
Improve the shipping process with a RD-Ice integration tool
Customers remember where they get great service. Providing them with reliable, responsive customer service with shipping options that fit their needs is the best way to leave them feeling like they were treated with the same level of service online that they would receive at their favorite neighborhood store.
Give yourself, your employees, and your customers the gift of confidence in 2021 by connecting your business with a Retail Dimensions RD-Ice integration tool. It will bring all your sales activity from your POS system and ecommerce platform together to provide real-time information that will deliver superior customer service during the retail’s busiest season of the year.