The holiday season is often a busy time for entrepreneurs. With customers buying a tremendous number of gifts, business owners are likely feeling the stress of the shopping rush, and they want their items to arrive on time and in pristine condition.
Avoid falling into this end-of-year stress zone by streamlining your shipping process and making your brand appealing to customers.
Online entrepreneurs follow different standards from brick-and-mortar shops, which can work to your advantage. The ease of online shopping draws in customers who don’t have the time to trek through stores and outlets. Turn this festive season into your best quarter yet by checking out some tips on handling orders.
Stock your inventory
Many businesses have a few popular items that always sell the most. Stock and pre-package these to save time on procuring products you know people will buy. When people start ordering those items at higher rates, you can quickly put them in the mail and send them on their way. Look at your selling and inventory trends from previous quarters to help decide which goods to produce more of.
Include your budget when predicting how much to stock — you may need to adjust your plans to accommodate holiday discounts and free shipping.
Establish your ship-by dates
Each carrier has deadlines for the latest dates to ship packages and have them arrive by Christmas. Check out what these days are so you’ll know when to get your goods in the mail. Set your own ship-by dates within these timelines to give yourself some flexibility, and be sure to share them with your customers on your website and social channels.
For example, if FedEx’s ship-by time for two-day early morning parcels is Dec. 20, your company’s deadline could be Dec. 18. That way, you have a few extra days to fix any potential processing errors.
Look out for peak rates
Shipping rates typically increase during the holiday season. Your carrier may charge you more to ship packages with them, especially if you’re sending a next-day or two-day parcel. Peak dates for UPS occur throughout November and December into early January.
Keep in mind that shipments through UPS are subject to increased charges depending on weight and additional handling. Large packages have a peak surcharge of $31.45 per box, while goods requiring extra processing go up to $3.60.
Offer discounts and goodies
Be inventive about how you offer discounts during the holidays. Many large businesses do this because they can afford to slash their prices and get customers in the door. However, smaller companies have to take careful consideration with their options.
If a discount is going to cost you more money than you’ll make, it’s better to skip it. However, you may have ways to offer lower costs without hurting your bottom line.
For example, consider incorporating free shipping by analyzing your average order value and offering it at a certain price threshold. You can also give free or reduced shipping by adding some of the cost to the item’s list price.
Some companies also add freebies to their orders to impress customers and entice them into making a purchase. Include something related to your brand — such as an earring holder if you’re a jewelry company. If your budget doesn’t allow for extra goodies, a handwritten thank you note can go a long way.
Implementing an address verification system will ensure your packages ship to the correct locations, reducing the number of returns. Your software will compare the customer’s billing information to the address associated with their bank account.
This process generates a code that the bank sends back to you. If your system sees that the addresses don’t match, it’ll reject the transaction. Many online merchants use this tool to prevent fraud while ensuring orders reach their intended destinations.
Inform your customers
Transparency is essential whenever you engage with your customers. Inform them of how long it’ll take for their shipments to arrive and give them tracking numbers to follow the process. Provide them with a list of your ship-by dates so they’ll know when to order if they want their package by Christmas.
Confusing and unhelpful customer service can deter potential customers from a brand they would’ve otherwise patronized. Always reach out to buyers and provide them with the necessary info for making informed purchases.
Set up a smooth return policy
You want every customer to be satisfied, but sometimes returns happen. Have a clear return policy to let shoppers know when and how they can ship items back. You’ll also need to manage things on your end by ensuring your return facility — and the processing itself — is equipped for incoming shipments.
No one wants to send back a product only to wait weeks to receive their refund. Make it easier for customers by including return shipping labels with each order and providing swift money returns.
Celebrate the holidays with easy online ordering
Ship orders with ease, earn money and maintain your holiday cheer this season with these helpful business tips.
Keep your cool throughout the shopping madness and supply your customers with the products they know and love. An effective shipping strategy will leave you with satisfied customers, allowing your business to end the quarter on a high note.
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Source: Start Up Nation
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