FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog

4 Steps to Holiday Success for Your Business

November 18, 2014

Written by Cindy Chang

When it comes to holiday shopping, Black Friday tends to dominate the headlines. But Cyber Monday is gaining ground. According to research from the comScore digital analytics agency, U.S. Cyber Monday sales totaled $1.735 billion in 2013, an 8 percent jump over 2012. And that was only the start — comScore reports that total online holiday sales reached a record $46.5 billion last year.

Without question, this is good news for e-commerce retailers. But the holiday shopping rush also presents a number of challenges, particularly for smaller companies. Here are four steps to help you gear up for the months ahead.

1. Assess your website

Yes, it’s still early, but chances are good that your customers are already working on their holiday lists — and probably even doing some comparison shopping. Given that, now is the time to make sure your website and systems are ready. One key step: Test your servers to see if they can handle spikes in demand. If not, make adjustments or upgrades.

Another step is to examine your e-commerce systems. How streamlined are they? Multiple steps on your end can add up to inefficiencies that slow down your ability to deliver on time.

While you’re at it, evaluate your shopping cart and checkout procedure. A 2014 study by Internet Retailer, commissioned by FedEx, found that 45.5 percent of all retailers have a cart abandonment rate of 25 percent. Why? The reasons include everything from complicated and/or slow checkout processes to security concerns to shipping costs being revealed late in the checkout process (a last-minute surprise that no one likes).

Here’s another point to consider: A recent IBM report found that 2013 holiday mobile e-commerce sales jumped by more than 55 percent over 2012. It’s safe to assume that more of your customers will be using smartphones and tablets this year, so you need to ensure your site is optimized for mobile shopping.

FedEx offers a pair of solutions that can support your e-commerce needs:

  • For growing businesses, simplicity is key — the more efficient you are, the more profitable you are. And if you’re looking for simplicity, fedex.com® Integration Manager has just what you need, at no charge. This solution allows you to consolidate orders from all your online stores into one manageable shipping center — making it simple to manage orders, create and print shipping labels, and track the status of your shipments. 
    • For businesses that need multifunctional software, you can find third-party applications with built-in FedEx functionality using FedEx® Compatible.  With more than 65 FedEx Compatible solutions, you’ll be able to invest in software that helps:
      • Manage shipments using your existing software.
      • Ship with more than one carrier from a single shipping system.
      • Utilize special functionality that’s not available through FedEx® proprietary shipping solutions.
      • Perform back-end integration coding without extensive IT resources.

 

2. Be clear about deadlines

If there’s one thing that unites holiday e-commerce shoppers, it’s this: They all want their packages to arrive on time. You can make it easier for them to plan purchases and understand their shipping options by placing deadlines prominently on your site. Note the last day(s) to place orders so the packages will arrive in time for the holidays. Consider using a countdown ticker. Another option: Alert customers about key dates via email reminders, which can also double as strategic promotional messages.

Two more tips to help you avoid delays:

  • Inform your carrier about any expanded holiday-season shipping requirements.
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar location, consider shipping items directly from your store. Doing so may save time.

For more information and key dates, check out the 2014 FedEx Holiday Service Schedule.

 

3. Stock up

Having enough product inventory to meet holiday demand is critical. Review your 2013 inventory levels and then factor in potential e-commerce increases for this year. At the same time, don’t forget to stock up on shipping and packaging supplies such as boxes, tape, and envelopes. You can’t fulfill an order if you don’t have the materials to ship it.

And make sure you have the right types of packaging on hand. Products that get banged up during transit will quickly erode the brand loyalty you’ve built up with your customers. If you’re looking for expert analysis on packaging your products, the FedEx Packaging Services Team offers complimentary engineering, testing, and information services that can improve your packaging strategies and save you money.

 

4. Use returns and labels to your advantage

Returns are a common part of holiday shopping. How common? A FedEx survey found that one-third of U.S. shoppers will return at least one gift after the holidays. User-friendly return policies and processes can be a powerful way to build customer loyalty. In fact, comScore reports that 80 percent of online shoppers are likely to buy an item if they can return it for free.

“User-friendly” is the key here. Make sure your return policies are easy to find and written in easy-to-understand language. Another option is to provide prepaid return labels. FedEx offers two solutions:

  • A FedEx Print Return Label, which you include with the customer’s package.
  • A FedEx Email Return Label. Here’s how it works: You email customers a password-protected fedex.com URL and barcode alternative. They can choose to print the return label from their computer or present the barcode on their mobile device at a FedEx Office location to have the label printed at the counter.

For more information on returns, check out this article on the FedEx Small Business Center. It features details on how you can turn customers who are making returns into repeat customers.

Another option is the Clarus Return Saver program. While it’s designed for consumers, e-tailers can also benefit from it — at no additional cost. Here’s how it works:

  • It’s subscription-based. Consumers sign up and pay a flat annual fee of $49 (Terms, conditions, and weight and dimensional limits apply.)
  • Members have no annual limit on the number of returns covered by the program.
  • Members receive free return shipping via FedEx Ground whenever they return online purchases from any retailer, for any reason, as long as return authorization is received.
  • Returns must be dropped off at one of the many convenient FedEx Office® Ship Centers nationwide.

Finally, here’s another useful option: eCom Label Solutions, available exclusively for FedEx customers. The six-panel labels are customizable and allow you to offer coupons, recommend products based on a customer’s buying habits, promote social media campaigns, and much more. To learn more, go to fedex.com/us/ecommerce/ecom-label-solutions.html.

For even more information — including tips, success stories, and solutions — on how to navigate the shifting world of e-commerce, go to fedex.com/ecommerce.

 

 

 

 

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