Between the impact of COVID-19 and recent changes and cutbacks at the USPS, retail analysts all agree that there is going to be extra strain on shipping companies. Exactly how big of an impact, nobody knows for sure, but some prognosticators are predicting we may see as many as 700 million gifts arrive late this holiday season.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) released a survey in September that found 43% of consumers in the United States planned to wait until November to begin their holiday shopping, and 59% indicated that they will shop more online. In another survey, 55% of respondents said that this year they will only shop online.
For ecommerce business owners, these numbers mean there is a possibility of seeing more returns due to delays, lost packages, and customer complaints. There are some steps merchants can take now to reduce customer service impact over the holiday season.
Promote Early Shopping To Your Customers
The earlier you can get your customers placing orders, the less likely they are to be negatively impacted by the holiday rush. You can run promotional campaigns encouraging early shopping.
Ideas like a Pre-Black Friday sale have been successful for merchants the past few years.
Educate your customers about what is going on right now with shipping. A simple email and/or additional web page on your site can explain to customers that this holiday season is the most unique one we have faced. Online shopping is at an all time high, which is putting stress on the capacity of shipping carriers. If they want to ensure that gifts are received on time, order early.
It is also a good idea to promote a “last day to order” on your site to give shoppers a reasonable deadline and expectation of when they can place orders to ensure they arrive before the holidays.
Empower Customers With End-to-End Order Tracking
The first step in keeping customers satisfied this holiday season is getting them to order early, but it doesn’t stop there. Once the package leaves the order fulfillment center, give your customers the ability to track their order from the moment it leaves until it arrives at their doorstep.
Many shipping carriers already have these services built in for free. For example, FedEx Delivery Manager® and UPS My Choice® are free tools offered to customers that gives them real-time updates on their orders.
One of the best options these tools offer is the ability to update delivery instructions. If a customer is not going to be home when a package is to be delivered, they can request it be held at a pickup center, delivered to a trusted neighbor, or delivered on another day.
Letting your customers take control of their orders like this will drastically cut back on the number of customer service inquiries you will receive about order delivery statuses. It can also have a direct impact on packages being stolen off of customers’ doorsteps, which unfortunately is still happening.
Hire More Staff
If you need to, just like brick and mortar retailers do during the holiday season, hire additional staff to help with order processing, customer service issues, or order fulfillment. There are always people looking to take on extra part-time or full-time work over the holidays.
It’s also not too late to look out outsourcing all or a portion of your order fulfillment to a third-party logistics company.
Plan Now for a Successful Holiday Season
The 2020 holiday season is going to be unlike any holiday season we have been through before. The uptick in online shopping due to the Coronavirus Pandemic has already put a strain on shipping carriers this year. Recent changes at the USPS have made it a less reliable source of ontime shipping, which is going to put even more strain on other carriers.
Retailers who prepare now for the new holiday ecommerce challenges and set the proper expectations with customers and shoppers, could see their biggest holiday season yet.