If you’ve ever wandered through a shopping centre in the lead up to Christmas, you’ll notice that patience is thin and expectations are higher than ever. And it’s no different in the online world. For many online businesses, the holiday period is the most wonderful time of the year. Some online retailers can do a third or more of their annual sales in the lead up to the festive season. And while the opportunities are great, so is the chance of error, especially when it comes to shipping.

Lost packages, unrealistic shipping times, sneaky shipping charges and accidentally leaving invoices in the box can all squash the holiday the spirit and leave you with an irate customer.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a holiday season from hell:


Keep the Surprise

While we’re usually huge advocates of custom-branded shipping boxes, when it comes to the holidays, bold branding may ruin the spirit. Last year, retail giant Amazon copped some flack for ruining the Christmas surprise after packages were shipped without any wrapping or cardboard box to conceal the contents.

To avoid a flurry of disappointed customers and keep the holiday spirit alive, switch to plain packaging during the holiday period and opt to email invoices instead of attaching them to the box.

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Set Realistic Expectation

There’s nothing merry about a holiday gift arriving after the holiday. To avoid delivery disappointment, clearly display any pick, pack and dispatch cutoff times on your website, checkout, email signatures and social media accounts. As a rule of thumb, cutoffs for last minute delivery will need at least 7 working days ahead of the holiday. To keep your customers in the loop and avoid disappointment, make sure you’re using real-time tracking and notifications.

Shipping aside, make sure your stock levels are accurately represented on your website. Overselling is generally poor form, but given what’s at stake over the holiday period, out-of-stock products can do some real damage to your brand reputation.

For stores that play their cards right, the holiday period can be a conversion goldmine; aside from the immediate revenue, there’s an excellent opportunity to build repeat customers. However, for stores that drop the ball, you may not only lose a customer but also hurt your brand.


Sort Your Promotions

It’s a fact that free shipping converts online customers and increases average order values. For many eCommerce businesses, offering free freight is a no-brainer, but, in reality, many don’t know how to manage the process and track costs.

The key to free shipping is planning. Start by working out what type of shipping promotion you’ll offer. Popular options are free shipping with every order, free shipping over a certain threshold, free standard shipping or free shipping on your next order.

Once you’ve got your promotion, you’ll need to make sure your store is set up to manage complex shipping rules and carriers.


Return to Sender

If you’ve recently purchased something online, you may have gone through the checkout to verify your address from a drop-down list. Address verification is necessary because if the order is shipped to the wrong address, someone has to pay for redelivery and the costs can quickly add up.

Most eCommerce platforms like Magento, Shopify and BigCommerce have address verification plugins which enable autocomplete of Shipping and Billing Addresses and remove data entry errors.

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If you’re expecting a cracker of a holiday season, make sure you’ve got ample shipping supplies and a few extra helping hands in the warehouse. Lastly – don’t forget the tape.


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