After a year of uncertainty, most retailers are looking to capitalize on the merriment of the holiday season. Holiday online sales in the U.S alone hit $137.6 billion and grew by 13.3% last year. These sales were up from $121.5 billion in 2018 and $109.2 billion in 2017. A clear indication that your sales will surge in the coming months.
2020 eCommerce sales could double since most people are still hesitant to leave their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent months, many shoppers have moved online and that trend is likely to continue throughout the holiday shopping season.
Prepping for such a surge will be an uphill task as businesses will have to be ready for a big influx of orders. This will help you stay on top of mishaps such as delayed delivery times, missing packages, and high holiday shipping costs.
The Holiday Calendar
Let’s look at the crucial eCommerce dates to mark on your calendar for the last quarter of 2020.
U.S Thanksgiving- November 26
Thanksgiving is a harvest festival that commemorates when the first pilgrims shared their food with Native Americans. Today, families gather for a meal to give thanks for what they have. According to the eMarketer report, eCommerce sales reached $4.2 billion last year from $3.5 billion in 2018.
Black Friday- November 27
Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving and often marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Last year, shoppers spent $7.4 billion online during Black Friday, a strong gain at 19.6% according to data compiled by Adobe Analytics. This was the second-largest online sales of the season
Small Business Saturday-November 28
As the name suggests, Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses. It’s celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year. Reports from Adobe show that Small Business Saturday has seen $470 million in 2019 online sales.
Cyber Monday-November 30
Cyber Monday refers to the Monday that follows Thanksgiving weekend. Even though it started out in the U.S, other countries have come to embrace sales, special promotions, and deals offered on this day.
According to Adobe, last year Cyber Monday became the heaviest online spending day in history clocking in sales of $9.4 billion, a 19.7% leap.
Free Shipping Day- December 14
Free Shipping Day helps business owners as well as customers to shop from small and large online merchants who offer free shipping with guaranteed Christmas delivery.
Green Monday- December 14
Green Monday often takes place during the second Monday in December. It’s considered the biggest online shopping day because shoppers realize that they only have 10 days before Christmas to get the most out of deals and offers.
Super Saturday-December 19
This day is also known as Panic Saturday since it’s the last Saturday before Christmas. Sales on Super Saturday topped Black Friday sales by 10% in 2019. Customers spent a whopping $34.4 billion on this day alone.
Why Holiday Fulfillment is so Important
The holiday season can dramatically increase sales and this also brings a significant increase in your order fulfillment. That’s why you need to make sure that your back-end logistics are in alignment with every other part of your business.
Your eCommerce holiday strategy should include planning your inventory, storage, and packing. You need to consider hiring temporary or seasonal workers to help you manage the influx of orders. Another option is to outsource your order fulfillment to relieve you from the stress of handling spikes in holiday orders.
Holiday order fulfillment contributes to the overall customer shopping experience. If you run out of stock or fail to deliver the ordered gifts to recipients on time, you’ll end up risking losing repeat sales from customers and damage your reputation.
How to Prepare for the Holidays
To boost conversions, you have to offer your customers the best shopping experience. This process involves preparing your online store for the holiday rush, boosting your marketing efforts, and making order fulfillment a breeze.
Let’s look at each of these processes in detail.
Your online store
It’s important to first analyze your data to make better-informed decisions for the holiday season. Questions you should ask when reviewing last year’s holiday sales include:
- What was your most popular product?
- Which keywords worked for you?
- What was your average order value?
- Which traffic source was profitable?
- What did your competition do?
You should also monitor your website uptime to ensure that your site can handle traffic spikes. Run tests in advance or install an uptime monitor software.
Optimize for mobile to make it easy for customers to buy using their phones and tablets. Consider speeding up your pages for higher mobile conversions because slow pages are the number one reason mobile users complain about. A two-second page speed acceleration can boost conversions by 66%.
Create better site navigation by adding a filter option to your search results page. Add a sort by price option as well and ensure that the Search field is in a highlighted place.
To get your customers into the “holiday spirit”, change your site banners to promote any day in the holiday calendar we discussed earlier. You could also add a countdown timer to increase urgency.
You could also create holiday-focused category pages to make it easier for customers to find deals and discounts. This could include sections that cover gifts for men, gifts for women, Cyber Monday offers, Black Friday offers, or Christmas offers.
To make the checkout experience quick, allow shoppers to buy without leaving the product page. You can do this by using a branded button where they can buy using their preferred payment options. You could also use a CTA button that directly takes the customer to checkout.
It’s worth noting that hackers will be targeting vulnerable sites during the holiday season. It’s important to boost security in order to stop fraudulent orders. Ensure your site is PCI DSS compliant.
The marketing part
Increase your social media presence by publishing holiday-focused posts. You could boost engagement by asking followers questions about the holidays, run a contest, or provide an exclusive gift to encourage them to make a purchase.
When running PPC ads on Google Ads or Facebook, plan your advertising and budget in advance. This will ensure that you have enough time to be creative in your ad copy. Consider increasing your budget during the holiday season because bid prices may increase for certain target keywords.
In your email marketing campaigns, start communicating with your previous leads and buyers. Add deadlines in your promotional emails to create a sense of urgency that urges customers to make a purchase. Remember, transactional emails are just as important. Use your order confirmation emails and shipping emails to upsell some of your products.
If you don’t have an email list yet, leverage onsite retargeting to send timed popups to get the contact information of your page visitor. Offer discounts and other incentives to capture email addresses.
Switch up your content marketing by writing gift guides for different family members or the most popular products in 2020. You could also share tips for making Christmas memorable amid the Coronavirus or even share Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping tips to stay ahead of the marketing game.
Potential customers will reach out to brands to make sure if the product will be on time. Offer availability for any customer inquiries. Integrate live chat to provide quicker responses to their questions.
Offer gift wrapping as a value-added service to boost your overall revenue. In addition, include the option of adding a special message.
The order fulfillment part
Let’s look at some ways you can streamline your holiday fulfillment process.
Why you need to use a 3PL
Outsourcing your shipping to a 3PL will let you focus on your marketing strategy and product mix as you anticipate a volume spike. In addition, it helps you offload the stress of managing logistics by yourself.
What makes a 3PL appealing is that you won’t have to lease a warehouse or even run a distribution network. Below are some of the ways 3PL can help your business.
- You won’t have to invest in the infrastructure needed to ship goods globally.
- You won’t have to pay for warehouse equipment or if you comply with the right licensing procedures.
- You have the option of choosing your own custom packaging or going with the 3PL’s standard packaging.
- A 3PL handles large shipments for many businesses so it’s possible to get discounted rates with carriers.
It’s crucial to check your inventory levels to determine if you will be able to fulfill customer orders during the increased holiday order volume. Stockouts can lead to less revenue and unhappy customers. On the other hand, too much stock and you’ll end up paying higher warehousing fees.
That means that you have to stock up for the holidays appropriately. You can do this by:
- Examining sales data from previous holidays to predict your sales this year. You need to consider your new products, ad spend changes or new selling channels.
- How many days do you have until your inventory runs out? Establish reorder points on time.
- Speak to your manufacturer or supplier to make sure you get enough product.
Secondly, you need to track your inventory accurately. Even though you may use inventory forecasting software, the unexpected could happen. You may end up becoming a must-have gift for millennials or receive a major endorsement from a major influencer.
That’s where real-time inventory tracking comes in. You’ll be able to monitor your actual stock levels more accurately. That way, if your estimates are off, you’ll be able to examine and readjust your forecast.
Updating your inventory levels gets tougher when your team is busy. Consider setting up automated inventory management workflows to ease the burden. You’ll be able to remove products that have run out automatically. This helps you avoid disappointing your customers due to stockouts.
The increase in holiday sales also means a higher shipping demand. This invites more possibilities of shipping issues like waiting for an item for ages or dealing with delayed or lost packages.
Stay ahead of your competitors by finding the best ways to offer great deals on shipping for your customers. Making shipping a part of your marketing strategy helps you attract more business opportunities.
Make it fast and free
To make your shipping competitive, offering fast shipping is non-negotiable. Amazon has made shoppers expect instantaneous shipping that’s also affordable.
So the big question is, how do you offer fast and free shipping without cutting into your profits?
You can do this by offering free and expedited shipping to customers after they surpass a minimum spending threshold. Set this threshold at a price that’s higher than your average order value.
Another way to do this is by spreading your inventory through multiple fulfillment centers. This makes ground shipping less expensive. You could also consider outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL and cut down on shipping costs while extending your reach.
Offer same-day shipping
56% of online shoppers expect same-day delivery. 61% of customers will pay more to receive their purchases on the same day. Furthermore, 64% of millennials will make a purchase when same-day delivery is offered.
Google gets 34% more shopping searches on Christmas than Black Friday. This means that you still have an opportunity to boost holiday sales by enticing last-minute shoppers with same-day shipping.
To provide same-day delivery, set a cutoff time that highlights the latest time a product can be ordered to be delivered on the same day.
Limit same-day delivery to the customers who are close to your fulfillment centers. Do this by targeting zip codes that are closest to your inventory.
Make your shipping options your selling point
To highlight your shipping options, display them in your meta description. It’ll act as a mini-advertisement to your potential customers. It also instantly shows them what to expect before they even click on your product page.
The next step is to include shipping options on your product pages. A majority of customers will find your website through your product pages. Last-minute shoppers won’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how long their purchase will take to reach them.
Returns are unavoidable, especially during the holidays. Items break, others don’t fit, and some products may get damaged during transit. It’s good to be prepared for returns. Studies show that more than five million packages get returned in the first week of January.
Manage customer expectations by being straightforward about your returns process. Communicate your return policies across your website. If you work with a 3PL, understand your options when it comes to returns.
Similarly, you need to monitor your return rate and how it impacts your margins. You might end up revisiting your return policies and have customers cover return shipping costs.
Holiday Fulfillment Checklist
To make it easier for you to keep track of your holiday fulfillment planning, use this checklist.
- Prepare and update your inventory
- Meet with your 3PL to discuss your holiday fulfillment needs
- Check IT systems for uptime and optimize for mobile
- Optimize product description
- Hire additional staff to assist with the holiday rush
- Deliver your inventory to your 3PL
- Have your goods ready for shipping on events listed in the holiday calendar
- Train seasonal staff and prepare full-time employees to handle heavier volumes
- Plan out your holiday ad, email, and social media campaigns
- Plan for gift giving and create custom holiday packaging
- Map your returns process
NextSmartShip is Here to Make this Holiday Season Stress-Free
NextSmartShip provides a simple yet reliable order fulfillment strategy that takes care of all your behind-the-scenes work for you without having to increase your prices to unacceptable levels.
It’s headquartered in China-the global manufacturing hub. If your manufacturer is in China, NextSmartShip has an order fulfillment center in Shenzhen that only takes up to 3 days to ship goods from major factories.
Below are ways NextSmartShip will reduce all the order fulfillment hassles for this holiday season.
Inventory and order management
NextSmartShip offers efficient inventory management with its simple-to-use inventory management system. Inventory information gets synced in real-time ensuring that your stock is updated so you don’t run out of stock or oversell products.
When you get orders, you’ll be able to sync them to NextSmartShip’s fulfillment system with just a few clicks. Then it does the heavy lifting for you such as picking, packing and shipping your orders on the same day.
Multiple shipping options for different destinations
NextSmartShip provides multiple shipping options based on your needs. It has partnered with different couriers and has the ability to use different routes and destinations.
Affordable shipping fees
Its multiple courier options ensure that your packages are shipped by professionals and customers get their packages on time no matter the destination. NextSnmartShip ensures that you find the best combination that will help you and your customers save money on shipping.
90-day free warehousing
A low warehousing budget is extremely useful for your eCommerce business. The worst thing that can happen during the holidays is you not having enough inventory to meet order spikes.
NextSmartShip offers the 90-day period that follows the eCommerce retail storage cycle as well as Amazon’s FBA storage policy. Once a batch of inventory isn’t sold within three months, it’s time to test other products or adjust your marketing.
Register a NextSmartShip account today and you’ll get an exclusive offer for this holiday stock-up season. Get more special offers at discounted rates when you recommend NextSmartShip to a friend.
Global fulfillment centers
Apart from the warehouse in Shenzhen, China, NextSmartShip has more warehouses in Hong Kong, Europe, Australia, and the U.S(New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austell). You’ll get 60-day free storage in these warehouses.
You’ll be able to offer 2-day shipping to your customers and get real-time updates to restock during the peak holiday season.
Are you concerned about your eCommerce holiday order fulfillment capabilities? Contact us today to take advantage of our offers and learn more about partnering with NextSmartShip because fast and reliable order fulfillment protects your online reputation and saves you stress, time, and money.Get Custom Solutions