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9 Ways To Improve Order Fulfillment During Holidays

By FedEx | November 24, 2023

Navigate the holiday e-commerce surge successfully by getting your packaging and shipping right, while optimizing returns for long-term customer relationships.

Shoppers have higher expectations during this period, which has important implications for repeat business.

As the year-end shopping season kicks into high gear, e-commerce businesses are now focusing on fulfillment—the complete process of receiving, packing, and shipping online orders. All the advanced preparation, from optimizing website capacity to refining supply chain management, has led to this final stretch.

And the stakes are really high. For the recently concluded Singles’ Day promotion earlier this month, the estimated sales across major e-commerce platforms in China amounted to US$156.40 billion. Sales volume for the Black Friday, Christmas, and Lunar New Year seasons are even more significant, making the next few months critical to the bottom line of e-commerce businesses.

Shoppers also have higher expectations during this period, which has important implications for repeat business.

According to a 2023 study by supply chain software provider Voxware, 69% of 500 survey respondents said they were much less or less likely to patronize a retailer in the future if an item they purchased was not delivered within two days of the promised date. And interestingly, 86% said their expectations for correct and on-time delivery were even higher during the holiday season.
Shoppers have higher expectations during this period, which has important implications for repeat business.

Family of four doing Christmas shopping in the snow

There are typically four approaches to order fulfilment. Businesses can handle it in-house, outsource to a third-party logistics provider, opt for drop shipping (the item is shipped by the manufacturer), or combine some of these approaches into a hybrid model. While outsourcing allows you to focus on other aspects, like selling and production, internal fulfilment offers you more control over the process and can ensure an optimal customer experience.

If you’re fulfilling orders in-house this peak season, here are nine tips to help you get it right and build strong customer relationships that keep shoppers coming back year after year.


Perfect your packaging


1. Ensure protection


The primary purpose of packaging is to protect the product during shipping. Make sure you use the most robust packaging for your products, whether it’s material that can minimize shock, reduce potential leakages, or even deter tampering and theft. Get up to speed with best practices for packaging—here’s a handy guide from us.


2. Practice sustainability


With consumers preferring sustainable goods and packaging, consider using FedEx’s sustainable shipping supplies, provided for free, such as our Reusable Padded Pak. Businesses can also track their emissions with FedEx Sustainability Insights.
Male online shopper chooses sunglasses on laptop screen with FedEx Reusable Pak on lap

If your business participates in a carbon-offsetting scheme or offers an eco-friendly returns policy, make sure to communicate that on your website. Sustainability can be a building block in forging stronger customer relationships.

RELATED: How to delight customers during high demand


3. Boost your brand


Well-designed materials and collateral like personalized thank-you notes can reinforce your company’s brand identity and build customer relationships. And, for the holiday season, attractive gift-wrapping might just give your business the edge when customers are comparison shopping.


Prioritize efficient shipping


4. Find a reliable shipping partner


When it comes to holiday shopping, customers just want to know that the gift they ordered for that special someone will arrive on time and in good condition. During this period of increased demand, make sure you have a reliable shipping partner.

Building trust also extends to promptly addressing customer inquiries about shopping deadlines and options. Communicate timelines clearly at all critical touchpoints and monitor feedback channels like social media reviews to troubleshoot any issues proactively.


5. Offer a variety of shipping options


Discounted or free shipping is a big influence on shoppers’ purchase decisions. According to a study conducted by Statista, 61% of shoppers abandon their cart due to high shipping costs, while providing diverse delivery options can foster higher customer loyalty and repeat business.
Female FedEx courier delivers parcel to white house with festive wreath in snow

Don’t forget to cater to those last-minute shoppers—make sure you can ship these orders on time, and you’ll be able to capture this revenue too.

Offering international shipping is another way to diversify your options, and can help expand your market too. One way to manage your shipping costs and broaden your delivery options is to use FedEx International Economy, which offers more affordable shipping rates.


6. Focus on flexibility


From juggling overseas trips to shopping for presents, the peak holiday season is a busy time, so offer flexible and convenient delivery options to meet customers’ needs. For instance, FedEx Pickup Planner allows customers to easily schedule and reschedule pickups, and FedEx Delivery Manager gives residential customers more control over when, where, and how they receive their packages.


Optimize your returns policies for long-term success


7. Prioritize clarity and consistency


To minimize the likelihood of returns, make sure product details and photos on your website are clear and accurate. Your returns policy should also be communicated consistently across all touchpoints, from checkout pages to confirmation emails. Earn your customers’ trust through unwavering transparency.
Person seated in car checks photo of parcel delivered on mobile phone

8. Create a friction-free returns experience


Designing a customer-friendly returns process goes a long way towards building up goodwill. For example, consider extending your returns deadline beyond the festive season, when people will have more time to make their returns.

And choose a shipping partner that understands how to make returns fast, easy, and flexible, anywhere in the world. With FedEx® Global Returns, for instance, managing the returns process is fuss-free for e-commerce businesses, thanks to customizable return label options and support from our experienced Customs team available every step of the way.

RELATED: An SME playbook for delivering winning customer experiences


9. Review and reflect


What can you learn from the returns process through customer feedback? Make sure you collect reviews to identify and address weaknesses in your business operations, especially in customer service.

Remember, every peak-season transaction can be the beginning of a long-term customer relationship. With effective after-sales strategies such as troubleshooting returns problems and making product recommendations based on holiday purchases, there’s every reason the next sale can happen much sooner before the next peak season.

Are you ready to start shipping peak season orders? Sign up for a FedEx account and unlock shipping discounts now.
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