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Top holiday e-commerce & shipping tips: Part 1

November 7, 2012

Every year the holidays are the most important time of the year for merchants, and 2012 is no different. This year, holiday sales are expected to increase by 4.1%, which is above average for the last decade. Getting a piece of this $586 billion (with a B) pie is on everyone's minds, but only those that prepare will reap the benefits.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) also reports, however, that shoppers will remain relatively conservative with their budgets this year. In order to compete, brands will have to be smart about how they set up their e-commerce and shipping infrastructure, so that they can pass on these savings to shoppers while also keeping their margins high. This means free shipping, lots of stock, and some clever marketing.

In an ongoing annual series, we'd like to share some tips that we've gathered from years of working in order fulfillment and e-commerce. This week we'll look at the first 5 tips:

1. Offer free shipping or free upgraded shipping promotions.
Aside from Free Shipping Day on Dec. 17, offering free shipping during the whole season will increase your sales and make your customers happy. Free or discounted shipping is one of the top things buyers look for when comparing different sites for the same products. The availability of multiple shipping options is also a strong conversion tool. Give your customers peace of mind by letting them feel like they’re getting a great deal, and sweeten the deal by guaranteeing shipping to arrive before Christmas day.

2. Think globally – your customers are everywhere.
Don’t limit yourself to domestic sales if a good percentage of your customers are actually abroad. You can do this by opening your own warehouse in another country or working with an order fulfillment partner (such as Shipwire!) that already has locations in many international regions. Your partner would help you package, handle, and (inexpensively) ship your products to your customers wherever they may be. This way you don't have to lease a warehouse, buy equipment, or hire personnel.

3. Diversify the channels through which you sell.
Create and update your portfolio of e-commerce channels so that your products reach the broadest audience possible. If you're selling through your own online store, consider adding social selling on Facebook, marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, or flash sales to your channels. Increase your brand's reach so you don’t miss the opportunity to sell your products.

4. Refine your checkout and automate returns.
A hassle-free shopping experience is a happy shopping experience. Make sure your checkout is easy to use and use as few checkout pages and fields as possible so customers are less likely to abandon their carts. Review your return policy to make sure everything is up-to-date, seamless and straightforward. Automate your returns if you can – your order fulfillment partner should be able to handle your returns management for you!

5. Lower your prices by lowering your shipping costs.
Your customers want good deals so if you lower your prices you'll have a better chance of attracting shoppers to your website. FitForCommerce, in their 2012 report on e-commerce, said that leading retailers are using warehouse operations to drive additional growth and profits. This means you should be leveraging regional warehouses by outsourcing order fulfillment for your best-selling products. This will allow you to cut shipping costs while offering faster shipping times, making your customers happy with both your price and speediness of delivery.

Try and put these ideas into practice this holiday season, even if you can only manage just a couple. The results will surprise you, and make your customers happy.

Keep your eyes open for Part 2 of Shipwire's holiday e-commerce tips next week, and happy shipping!

Dimitri Onistsuk

Dimitri Onistsuk is the marketing director at Shipwire, and is in charge of figuring out what knobs to turn in order to spread the word about the leader in order fulfillment. During his years working in ecommerce, shipping, and fulfillment, he has helped countless merchants sell stuff to their global customers.