As students of all ages return to school, small businesses start preparing for a test of their own: the holiday shopping season. For many online retailers, the holiday season generates big business. In fact, holiday sales for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers climbed to an impressive $105 billion in 2015, and Forrester Research expects overall online sales to grow 11 percent in 2016.1,2
As an online retailer, your holiday season test results depend on customer satisfaction during every step of the shopping journey, not just when they click the pay button. You want to grab and keep your customers’ attention starting from when they’re perusing your site for the right product all the way to when, how and where the package is delivered.
When you make it easy for your customers to purchase your product and give them control of their shipping, you’re well on your way to establishing a loyal relationship with them. We can help make that happen. So while you formulate plans for the upcoming season, see How the Holidays Arrive.®
Get great results
Prepare now for the upcoming holiday season by maximizing your efficiency and minimizing your stress; it pays to start gearing up now. Here are a few lessons on how to achieve your best holiday season yet:
1. Watch your processes
When the orders start flooding in, you’ll want to respond like a well-oiled machine. That means having a thorough understanding of how every aspect of your order fulfillment system comes together. Pay close attention now to how long each step takes. Are there ways to accomplish the same tasks faster?
For instance, switching to an automated system can save you from re-entering the same data later. The more items you’re shipping, the more the time savings will add up when you need it most. Develop best practices for operating with speed and accuracy, and teach them to your employees. (Check out how Seismic Audio simplified its shipping process through automation and stayed in control of its fast-growing business with FedEx® Compatible.)
2. Stimulate customer loyalty and retention
Your relationship with your customers is based on how happy you make them, from the beginning of their online shopping journey to the end. Since you can’t give them face-to-face attention like your brick-and-mortar cohorts, you have to depend on making their shopping and shipping experience extraordinary. When you give customers more than what they expect, you’re developing a long-term relationship that surpasses the holiday shopping season.
Customers want control over their shipping and convenient delivery options. You can give them both at no additional charge to you or them. Let them select whether they want their packages delivered to them or to a FedEx location where they can pick them up on their schedule within 5 business days. This is a safe, secure solution for high-value shipments, temperature-sensitive items that shouldn’t be left outside on a front step or busy customers who won’t be home to receive their packages.
- At the time the order is placed. Hold at FedEx Location is a secure and convenient delivery option for customers who know at the time they place their order that they want their shipments delivered to a FedEx location.
- When plans change. Redirect to Hold gives your customers the ability to redirect their shipment to a FedEx location after the order has been placed and once it’s with FedEx for delivery — even after the shipment is already on its way.
Redirect to Hold is dynamic in that it’s triggered once your customer’s shipment is in place. You can easily add this option to your site via FedEx Web Services by going to the FedEx Developer Resource Center on fedex.com.
While both options provide great value for your customers, with Redirect to Hold you’ll benefit even more: Not only will you experience fewer customer service calls from shoppers who need to redirect their shipment, but you’ll have an opportunity to create a second touch with shoppers — and the more touches, the more potential you have to make additional sales. Plus, you’ll see an increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty because of the value-add options you’ve provided them.
3. Check it off
Mistakes, whether they’re skills-based or knowledge-based, can cost your company time and money. Besides making use of an automated system, one way to avoid errors is to develop a routine before the holiday rush begins and implement it via a checklist.
In The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande explains how this type of system greatly cuts down on mistakes in complex, high-stress situations. He cites a case in which Dr. Peter Pronovost instituted a very simple five-step checklist to reduce central line infections at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (One step reminded surgeons to wash their hands with soap before surgery.)
Over just two years, the infection rate dropped from 11 percent to 0 percent, saving the hospital an estimated $2 million in the process — and saving an estimated eight lives. Pronovost’s approach was inspired by a pilot checklist, but you don’t have to be a pilot or a surgeon to benefit from keeping track of the basics when hectic conditions arise.
4. Anticipate your needs
The last thing you want is to run out of crucial supplies just when business is heating up. Look to previous years to decide what to order well in advance, and pay attention to current trends in your industry to try to foresee what may change this year.
Were you swamped last year? Even if you’re normally a one-person operation, consider hiring some temporary part-time help this holiday season. Pay attention now to the parts of your workday that would be the easiest to delegate to another person, whether it’s packing boxes or answering phones. Come December you could hire a high school student or college student home from break who is looking for short-term work. Even a few hours a day could make a real difference in your productivity and your stress level.
5. Court early birds
One way to keep this busy selling season manageable is to spread it out a little. The National Retail Federation reports that in 2015, the average holiday shoppers have completed only 53.5% of their holiday shopping by Dec. 15.
When asked about the delay, 28.8 percent of survey respondents said their friends or family members hadn’t given enough information about what they wanted, while 22 percent said they were holding out for the best deals.3
While planning your marketing efforts and holiday specials, consider appealing to these shoppers well before the final days of December. Put together an online holiday gift guide of your products with suggestions for the whole family, and share it on your blog or other social media.
Or offer discounts or incentives to customers who place their gift orders before a certain date. One crowd-pleasing possibility: free shipping. FedEx SmartPost® combines the network of FedEx with the cost savings of the U.S. Postal Service to provide a shipping solution for low-weight packages so economical you can absorb the cost and pass the savings on to your customer.
Have a merry selling season
For more tips on how to have the best holiday shopping season possible, check out Plan, Prep, and Be Merry, a step-by-step look at optimizing your business for the holidays.
Find information on the holiday pickup and delivery schedule, last day to ship and the money-back guarantee on Holiday Shipping 2016.