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3 Shipping and Packaging Rules for the Holiday Season

From cost to timekeeping, having a strategic approach to ensuring the ultimate shipping experience, can mean turning seasonal shoppers into loyal customers, eager for more. Peak season is the most challenging time of the year for merchants and their shipping partners, because of the massive volume fluctuations. But it’s also the most vital time to get this part of the customer experience absolutely spot on.  

#1 Get serious about organisation and strategy

Shipping can make or break and eCommerce business. And that’s because of the impact it can have on customer experience, and on the way it can hit your profit margin if you fail to map it out anything less than meticulously.

NetsDespatch commissioned independent market research company, Opinion Matters, to survey over 1000 UK adults who regularly shop online. Part of the research focussed on the impact peak has on customer’s expectations of shipping. The research showed, for instance, that there’s a tipping point when customers are much more willing to pay for speed, obviously making sure they receive their items in time to wrap and give before the big day.

In order to achieve success, merchants and their carriers need to be agile. They need technology and data to deliver that information, and they need a seamless process that ensures customers get their products on time without the slightest hassle. To achieve this though, there needs to be stringent organisation behind the scenes, including:

  • The rearranging of stock, so that items that are likely to be ordered together are close to one another, and that the products in the highest demand are the easiest to get to
  • Making sure that all products are where they should be, and that all the packing team know and understand the layout
  • Labelling all products with unique product numbers, as this can be quicker and easier than continually checking product names
  • Ensuring that stock levels are stringently monitored. This will save time looking for products that aren’t there, and obviously also diminish the risk of having to inform a customer the item they ordered is in fact out of stock

#2 Offer free shipping

Costly shipping is one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment. It’s simple, when shoppers are presented with unexpected costs they leave without completing their purchase. No doubt you’ll have experienced this before yourself as a consumer: you find an item you want to buy, and you click Add to Cart. But when you go to checkout you’re presented with additional fees and charges related to shipping, that weren’t clearly pointed to on the original product page. Feeling disappointed, you leave to take your business elsewhere.

Adding free shipping is a surefire way to improve your conversion rate. Of course, it’s not worth doing this, unless you can make it profitable, and whether you can or not depends on your products and business model, but as some general rules:

  • Establish a free shipping threshold – meaning, what price a customer has to spend in order to qualify for free shipping
  • Include restrictions and make these clear on every page – so if you only ship within the UK, clarify this at every touchpoint
  • Test with higher product prices – as it may be that charging marginally higher for your products, but offering free shipping, works best for conversion

Never rely on straightforward maths when predicting what your customers will prefer: a free shipping offer that saves a customer £6 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by £10. So sometimes offering free shipping may have a greater perceived value than a monetary discount, even if the discount actually means a lower overall cost to the customer. By testing, you can find the optimal free shipping threshold that works.

#3 Set yourself apart with packaging

Remember that first impressions count. And not only does packaging protect your product, it’s the first thing that your customer sees in person from your eCommerce business, and so it’s vital you get it right. When eCommerce was in its infancy, packaging was simply a way to receive a product purchased online, but now customers are looking for packaging and presentation to all be a part of the shopping experience, and they know what good, attention to detail, looks like.

The best at this, see their packaging as a marketing channel. To make sure you’re going beyond your customer’s expectations, consider:

  • Box – The first thing to consider is the main external shipping box. Having your own branded box can make the difference. Our clients Indigo Furniture pride themselves on their own branded packaging and delivery, making sure they’ve brand control over every part of their customer experience
  • Tissue Paper – Wrapping your products in tissue adds a sense of premium around your product. Custom-printed tissue paper, even more so. New parents get a sense of luxury and care when their package from The Essential One turns up, carefully in tissue and boxed for added protection
  • Product Samples – Based on your customer segmentation data, you could also consider including a sample that is likely to cross-sell the customer by introducing them to new products. Our clients Neom Organics send free samples to all customers spending more than £60 on their site, and when they arrive, along with their beautifully packaged product, the customer’s expectation is certainly surpassed
  • Free gifts – Wiggle, for example, give you free Haribos, a nice touch that keeps customers excited and makes sense for their high-energy brand

Free, fast, and thoughtful shipping in eCommerce aren’t nice-to-haves, but absolute musts in order to protect and promote your profit. And never more so than at peak periods, when the competition for customers is exaggerated so fiercely. The key challenge for merchants is to properly forecast the spike in volumes and prepare to handle the influx across departments.