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Free, Fast and Other Considerations for Holiday Shipping

Posted on 11.21.2016

What do consumers want free and fast? Shipping, of course, which is not new news for e-commerce retailers, but shoppers’ propensity toward the latter may come as a surprise, particularly when it comes to their willingness to spend more for it, and repeatedly. 

A recent Dotcom Distribution study indicates that 87 percent of online shoppers say the amount of time it took to receive an order would influence their decision to shop with a retailer again. 

What’s more, consumers value fast delivery so much they're willing to spend more for it according to the same study. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of shoppers would pay more money to get same-day delivery if they needed a package by a certain deadline (like a holiday). Consumers are often anxious to receive shipments, with 21 percent of online shoppers saying they’d like the most insight while their product was in transit.

More than a Number

During the holidays transparency will help ease consumer concerns about massive shipping delays of holidays past like in 2013 when weather delays and a spike in online sales created one crisis after another for the major shipping companies. Since then, retailers have been better prepared for shipping bottlenecks, extending promotional days (like early Cyber Monday deals or even Black Friday in July type promotions), but as late as holidays 2015, FedEx deliveries were impacted due to heavy storms.  

Consumers don’t care what gets in the way of their package being delivered on time, they only care about tracking its progress and it arriving as expected, which is why they want control over seeing where the shipment is at all times.

The Weather War Room

FedEx certainly doesn’t want to be caught in the social media firestorm of upset consumers, and is promoting its Global Operations Control Center (GOCC) in Memphis. The 15-person meteorology team is the largest in-house meteorology department in the express cargo industry, and the second-largest staff among all U.S. airlines. This group operates 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and is critical to coordinating the complex movement of tens of millions of shipments and thousands of flights every day, according to UPS. 

“Even during the roughest of winter weather, the FedEx weather team keeps the company’s planes – and millions of holiday packages – moving safely through the skies each and every day,” FedEx said in a statement. “In fact, the department tracks the location of every FedEx airplane currently in the sky and can work with the GOCC team to reroute when necessary.”

The team tracks weather conditions around the clock – and the GOCC is staffed 24/7. They monitor trends from around the globe on massive, color-coded “War Board.” This includes everything from winter storms to tropical hurricanes and even volcanoes. 

According to FedEx, this technology and the team’s expertise gives FedEx forecasters a major role in critical decision-making that affects not only the on-time delivery of packages, but also the safety of 400,000 FedEx team members around the world. 

Shipping (and its costs and speed) will no doubt be another storyline unfolding this holiday season, as even more transactions are made online. Adobe predicts 57 total days this holiday season (Nov-Dec) will exceed $1 billion in sales, 53 of which will be consecutive days (that's a 71 percent year-over-year increase).

Quick Hits: Shipping Advice

+ Offer free shipping anyway you can: a minimum purchase (consider $10 more than the average order value), a promotional code that appears when a person is about to leave the website, a retargeted ad with a shipping promotion, an email to loyal customers with the offer (they’re going to be of higher value than new customers, anyway), free shipping with loyalty program sign-up, etc. Free shipping shouldn't be the only option, however. Promote faster delivery with paid options. 

+ Communicate shipping costs as soon as possible in the shopping journey. 

+ Include a timer of sorts that indicates when a person needs to order by to receive their items by. To encourage them to buy quickly, consider adding some “fear” factors.

+ Consider premium packaging whether it’s a branded sticker or adding nice tissue paper, the extra touch doesn’t go unnoticed by recipients who willingly share packaging photos on social media. Premium packaging even encourages brand loyalty with 40 percent of shoppers (surveyed by Dotcom Distribution, which provides fulfillment services) said they would be somewhat more likely or much more likely to purchase from a retailer again if they ordered a package online and it came in a gift-like or premium package. This is up from 29 percent in 2015 (likely due to the role “unboxing” videos and other user-generated content has played in the last year).

+ Keep users informed every step of the way: send an order confirmation email and let them know you’ll be sending another email when the items ship, then send that email with a clickable tracking number and be sure to partner with a carrier that provides real-time updates and push notifications. 

+ See the journey through: When the order has been delivered, ask them about the process and the product to see if there’s anything that can be improved. Don’t be afraid of customers’ transparency as it is exactly that which consumers are expecting from you. 

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