Guest post by Easyship
The holidays are always a magical time of year.
That is, unless you’re in eCommerce!
As many online merchants have found out the hard way, the holiday shipping season turns out to be a lump of coal for all too many reasons. eCommerce companies often struggle to fulfill and ship out the massive volume of orders in a short amount of time, keep track of their inventory management and handle the inevitable deluge of product returns after the holidays just when everything seems to be finally winding down.
Fortunately, the holiday shipping season doesn’t have to be a real Grinch for your company. By following a few simple tips, you’ll find that your business can fulfill and ship orders much more seamlessly and smoothly than you realize. To that end, here are eight holiday shipping tips to help your eCommerce business!
First, it’s very important to prepare your inventory for the rush of the holiday shipping season and manage any inbound shipments from vendors effectively. Take a hard look at last year’s data and try to gain any insights from what worked and what didn’t, study industry trends and try to accurately forecast this year’s demand.
For best results, compare and select your couriers carefully and be as specific as possible regarding any inbound shipment dates. Having a well-stocked inventory well before the holidays is always key!
Don’t worry - there’s nothing wrong with starting to think about post-holiday returns already!
In fact, the earlier you start developing a returns process, the better. Retailers often overlook the returns process when preparing for the holiday shipping rush and, not surprisingly, are caught off guard by the torrent of shipping returns following the holidays.
Be sure to polish your product listings so that they’re clear, accurate and up-to-date. Having a dedicated returns policy page on your website that spells everything out in simple English is also critical.
Another good idea is to include prepaid return labels, instructions and packaging in your shipments to customers to not only make the returns process faster and more seamless, but also to boost your brand and improve the customer experience.
It’s also hard to overstate the importance of proper planning and budgeting well in advance of the holidays. Draw up your holiday shipping budget weeks in advance and carefully take into account how it can impact your company’s bottom line. It’s also important to note any residential address surcharges that may be implemented by couriers during the holiday season and take their financial impact into account too.
Clear, consistent communication is key!
Let your couriers know of any changes to your business during the holiday season immediately, especially concerning your shipping schedule. Likewise, let your customers know well in advance of any changes that may impact them. If an outgoing order of shipments has been delayed due to issues like inclement weather or backlogged inbound shipments, let them know right away via email, social media and blog posts.
When it comes to holiday shipping, time is critical.
Don’t delay with getting any shipments out. Ideally, any orders should be fulfilled and shipped out immediately after they’re received. Waiting will only cause a serious backlog that will make both your courier and customers very unhappy!
Since couriers handle a huge volume of orders during the holiday season, the risk that your shipments will end up damaged inevitably rises.
As an insurance policy of sorts, always protect your shipments adequately with extra packaging like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, styrofoam and the like to protect them better. Yes, it may add a bit to your shipping costs, but the added expense will still be less than dealing with the repercussions of a shipment delivered seriously damaged to a customer!
Speaking of insurance, investing in actual shipping insurance isn’t a bad idea either!
Sure, the chances that your packages will be delivered damaged in the grand scheme of things is fairly small even in the craziness of the holiday shipping rush, but why take the chance? Seriously consider investing in shipping insurance—especially for more expensive and larger shipments—as a hedge against the risk they may end up lost, stolen or damaged while enroute to customers.
Finally, managing customer expectations effectively is crucial.
Make sure your shipping terms are crystal clear regarding delivery times, shipping costs, order deadlines, returns policies and the like to avoid any misunderstandings with your customers. In addition, keep your website’s FAQ section up-to-date and contact customers via email regarding things like order and shipping confirmations as well as any major policy changes that may impact their orders.
Plan Ahead This Holiday Shipping Season
‘Tis the season for stress and chaos for any online merchant, especially startup companies with minimal experience shipping out a large volume of products in a short timeframe. However, by preparing well in advance, communicating effectively and managing your inventory smartly, your eCommerce business can head into the upcoming holiday shipping season feeling a little more cheerful!
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