There’s a lot to consider during the holiday season. Between order volumes, marketing efforts, and inventory management, the shipping process can sometimes become an afterthought. It’s important to remember that shipping can play a substantial part in earning positive customer reviews, creating a perception of your brand, and building repeat business – all factors that will pay major dividends for the remainder of the year.
Today’s Holiday Workshop is all about simple yet powerful tweaks you can make to your shipping process that will help make this holiday season your best yet!
Table of Contents
1. Know Your Deadlines
The holidays are a time of increased activity for shipping carriers. Delays, misdirections, and unexpected issues are more likely to occur. Many customers are willing to tolerate shipping issues during the rest of the year, but the holidays (particularly Christmas) are a different story. In order to avoid negative reviews and other symptoms of holiday malcontent, start by establishing these 2 sets of deadlines:
Deadlines set by your shipping carrier(s)
To combat shipping concerns, many shipping carriers have established deadlines for the last possible date an order can ship and still reach the recipient by a specified date. Be sure you have these dates marked in your calendar. This handy article from Bonanza partner ShipStation lays out 2019 December deadlines for the various types of USPS, UPS, and FedEx shipments in the US. It also contains links for UK and Australian-based sellers.
Excerpt from ShipStation’s '2019 Holiday Shipping Deadlines for the US'
Your ‘Order by’ deadlines
Once you know your shipping carrier deadlines, establish the last possible date an order can ship to arrive by a particular date. For example, if your handling time is two days and your carrier guarantees delivery within ten days, your 'order by' deadline for Christmas Eve might be December 12th. Don’t forget external factors, like handling times for unique items or longer lines at shipping facilities. It’s also wise to give yourself some wiggle room for the possibility of shipping carrier errors.
Once you have your 'order by' dates set, be sure to broadcast it everywhere so that shoppers can’t miss it — and stick to those dates. Include the date in each item description and your Bonanza booth details.
- Pro tip: Consider how you might be able to use these deadlines as a marketing technique in your social media strategy. A sense of urgency can help increase conversion. One example is a post stating, “Tomorrow is the last day to order and still receive in time for Christmas!”
2. Reducing Shipping Costs
A reduction in your shipping costs is a win-win for both you and your customers. It might enable you to make item prices more competitive, widen your profit margins, or even allow you to consider free shipping. Here are some tips on how to bring shipping costs down:
- Remember the story of Goldilocks. Make sure you have the perfect size box for the order — too big, and you might be paying more for shipping than necessary; too small, and the item might be damaged in transit (see our next tip).
- Pack your item securely. Extra packing material is a small price to pay compared to replacing a damaged item. Not only will you have to pay for the damaged item, a new replacement, and double shipping fees, but the customer is less likely to leave a favorable review. It’s better to get things right the first time.
- Time equals money. You can save it by purchasing postage directly on Bonanza. You can also set up a pre-paid shipping fund on Bonanza for maximum convenience with minimum cost. We even waive the cost of the credit card processing fee for sellers with a Bonanza membership (Gold or higher).
- Buy packing products in bulk. As Bonanza partner 71lbs notes, this typically reduces the cost per unit. Having a larger supply on hand also means consistency in quality, whereas smaller orders can run the risk of a change in the overall product. Bonus for the planet: Larger orders mean fewer shipments of packaging supplies, which helps reduce your own carbon footprint.
It’s wise to shop around to ensure you’re getting the most competitive rates from your shipping carriers, but the wide variety of options can make this tricky. Check out the Bonanza partner page for trusted companies that provide software to make this easier.
3. Using the Unboxing Experience to your Advantage
Every customer is a potential repeat customer, and the shipping process is an excellent opportunity to ensure that your business is memorable. But how do you stand out in a sea of online retailers? We asked Bonanza partner noissue (makers of affordable and eco-friendly brand packaging) for their advice.
“According to Forbes, between 60% to 80% of customers will not go back to the same business to shop, even if the product was satisfactory. Why? If there was no ‘wow’ factor involved in the brand experience, it’s unlikely they will remember you,” says Beth Owens from noissue. “Brand recognition is also the key to building trust, and ultimately loyalty, in your customers.” This is the power of unboxing: using curated product presentation as a post-purchase marketing strategy.
Beth explains further: “Premium brand experiences are usually seen as the domain of established, luxury brands that already command high brand recognition. But ecommerce sellers can also leverage this strategy. Additions such as branded tissue paper or boxes and free samples might seem small, but it speaks volumes to consumers about why your brand deserves their support. It creates a highly engaging ritual that reinforces to customers that they made the right choice by supporting your brand over the holidays.”
What if you already have some sort of package design? “Giving your packaging design a seasonal refresh is a brilliant way to grab consumers’ attention during the holidays - especially on your social media feeds. Holiday packaging both enhances the appearance of your products and provides a neat reminder that the festive season is fast approaching.”
In case it seems too early to be thinking about the holidays, she adds, “Consumers are highly organized when it comes to their gifting obligations. According to Facebook’s annual survey, 1 in 5 consumers start their holiday shopping in October. So, it’s well worth planning your festive unboxing experience sooner rather than later.”
We asked Beth to share a few specific ways that sellers can give their packaging a festive makeover without breaking the bank:
- Offering some season’s greetings: A handwritten note makes all the difference when you are trying to build trust and loyalty in your brand. Such personal interactions are a rarity in eCommerce and make you far more memorable. This also allows you to capitalize on your small business status very effectively, by making the people behind your brand much more tangible to your customer.
- Gift with purchase: Adding a free sample to your orders is an easy way to increase the value perception of your brand. It’s also especially fitting during the holidays when gifting is one of our top priorities. Depending on your brand’s capabilities, you can use a customer’s order history to tailor a sample directly to their preferences. Otherwise, even a more generic item such as chocolate or candy canes is a lovely addition.
- Custom tissue paper: Getting some custom tissue printed with a fun seasonal design is a brilliant way to delight your customers upon delivery. Gift-wrapping is an immensely valuable service to your customers over the holidays. It can also be used to line the inside of boxes or liven up gift bags.
- Custom stickers and packing tape: Custom branded boxes can be a big expense for small businesses, but this doesn’t mean that you need to leave your boxes unbranded. Some festive branded stickers or packing tape are an easy way to liven up plain packaging and give your customers a nice surprise.
As mentioned earlier, noissue is the perfect place to get custom packaging materials like these. And because they’re a brand partner of ours, you can use the code Bonanza10 for a lifetime discount of 10% on items from noissue.
4. More Holiday Shipping Tips
If you’re still looking for ways to improve your shipping during the holidays, here are some other things to think about:
Consider ways to offer free shipping
As Bonanza partner Shipworks notes, “Free shipping may be edging closer to table stakes in the minds of many consumers, but they’ll still be delighted to see that you offer it, particularly if you’re a niche business offering products they likely can’t find everywhere.” Similarly, if you are not the exclusive seller of your items, free shipping might be the factor that makes a customer decide to buy from you. There are some clever ways you may be able to work it into your holiday plans and increase conversions. Here’s advice from Shipworks:
- Start with the best rates. Offering free holiday shipping eats into your margins, of course. So starting with the best shipping rates from your carriers makes this less of a burden. As we mentioned earlier, shipping software like Shipworks can help you find these.
- Compare rates between carriers. Comparing USPS, FedEx, and UPS based on size, weight, and destination will allow you to optimize your holiday shipping to make sure you’re not overpaying and diminishing your overhead when it comes to shipping.
- Consider tiered approaches. You don’t necessarily have to offer free shipping outright. Consider offering it for orders over a certain amount, or for orders that include higher margin items. Many customers will be willing to add another item or two so they can hit the free shipping threshold.
- Consider changing up your strategy as the season goes. Start with cheaper options with longer delivery times when you’re further away from the holiday cutoff, then consider offering more expedited options for free as you get closer to the holidays. Procrastinators will thank you (and remember you) for saving the day, while early-bird shoppers don’t squash your margins by selecting expedited options unnecessarily.
“When your customer opens the box, there should always be a packing slip that accompanies their items,” Shipworks recommends. Even if you don’t plan to customize your packaging, as noissue suggested earlier, packing slips are an opportunity to make your brand memorable with some custom festive messaging. You could also include a coupon for their next purchase, or a recommended product to encourage repeat business.
“If the buyer indicates that the item is a gift, you can use that as a messaging advantage,” Shipworks adds. When you know something is a gift, that means it might be going to a recipient not familiar with your company. Invite them to become a customer with a special first-time offer. This helps turn the holiday shipping season into a customer acquisition season!
Handling post-holiday returns
Let’s face it – approximately 30% of online purchases are returned, and that number tends to increase after the holiday season. While it can be hard not to feel disappointed with a return request, there are ways to make the most of it.
It’s worth reaching out to the customer to determine the nature of the return. Usually the reason for a return is outside of your control, like “The item didn’t fit.” However, sometimes you can get helpful insights about ways to improve their buying experience. Showing empathy and listening intently will show them you care about fixing what went wrong, and you might still be able to garner positive feedback from the transaction.
Bonanza also offers tools that can be helpful in mediating a situation with an unhappy buyer. You can use the Customer Marketing Tool to send a discount code to the buyer. If the return had nothing to do with you as a seller, sending a coupon could encourage them to shop with you again.
We recommend checking out the rest of this article for helpful tips on handling post-holiday returns on Bonanza.
Take your shipping to the next level
We hope these tips help you fine-tune your holiday shipping for maximum effectiveness and brand recognition that lasts the whole year round. Cheers!