GUEST BLOG: Key e-commerce and logistics trends to remember this holiday season

GUEST BLOG: Key e-commerce and logistics trends to remember this holiday season

How important is free shipping for holiday sales?

If you're like most e-commerce retailers, you've had a pretty busy year in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has turned more and more consumers into frequent online shoppers over the past months. 36% of European online shoppers think they'll keep buying more products online instead of in physical stores after the corona crisis. And with the peak holiday season approaching, things are about to get even busier.

Now's a great time to gear up your strategy to get even more out of this year's holiday boom. And the best place to start is by understanding your shoppers' expectations, so you can give them exactly what they want. At the same time, those expectations are changing in the era of COVID-19. Fortunately, a broad new study focuses precisely on what e-commerce shoppers expect right now. Here are some key takeaways.

65% of shoppers abandon carts if shipping is too expensive.

Free shipping might seem like a heavy expense for some e-retailers, but there are many good reasons to give it a try this holiday season. According to the study, 70% of online shoppers say they'll add more items to their cart to reach a free shipping threshold. That makes free shipping a win-win for you and your customers: they'll enjoy free delivery, and you'll enjoy selling more stuff.

Even if you decide to charge for shipping, just be sure to keep it as affordable as possible and communicate the costs upfront. After all, the study shows that nearly two-thirds of shoppers will click away from your store if the shipping costs are too high.

65% of shoppers abandon carts if shipping is too expensive

Think about these key shipping-related facts:

  • High shipping costs are the main driver for cart abandonment: Nothing kills the holiday shopping buzz like expensive shipping. Nearly two-thirds of online shoppers say they'll click away if shipping costs are too high.
  • 60% of online shoppers are willing to pay for faster delivery: Especially during the holiday period, fast delivery is a lifesaver for last-minute shoppers. These customers are often willing to pay premium prices for faster shipping.

So, how can you cater to your customers' wishes this holiday season?

  • Provide free shipping on orders above a certain value: This motivates most customers to add more items to the cart.
  • Offer multiple shipping methods: While you might offer free standard delivery, it's also wise to provide faster express delivery to those holiday shoppers who are willing to pay for it.

Does courier preference really matter to your customers?

Short answer: not really! Interestingly, the study found that most shoppers don't have a strong preference for one delivery company over another. Less than a quarter of shoppers say that carrier choice has a strong influence on their purchasing decisions, and only less than half say it has any influence at all. If they do have a preference, they mostly prefer national delivery companies.

Does courier preference really matter to your customers?

That's good news for e-commerce retailers. It gives you more flexibility to handle peak holiday shipping. During an average holiday shopping period, couriers expect up to three times as many parcels as usual. It regularly leads to overloads and delays in shipping.

This year, considering the higher than usual volume of online shopping, you'll need to do everything you can to ensure your holiday packages arrive at your customers in time. After all, the study also shows that your customers tend to blame you (the retailer) and not the courier when there's a shipping delay.

So, how can you put these insights into practice to keep your shipments moving?

  • Don't rely on just one delivery company. Especially during the holiday peak period, it's useful to be able to switch carriers when one network can't handle all the parcels.
  • Ensure high-value parcels. It gives you the freedom to offer a new product or refund your customers right away if something goes wrong during shipping because you know your insurance will reimburse you for the loss.
  • Keep your customers informed. If there are any delays, always keep your customers posted. Automatic track & trace notifications are a great help because they are sure to be sent out promptly.

Hassle-free return shipping is a must

So, while free shipping and courier preference may not be deal-breakers for your holiday shoppers, the research shows that one factor can really make all the difference: return shipping.

According to the research, most online shoppers now consider return shipping an essential aspect of online shopping. Especially during the holiday gift-giving season, return shipping is crucial. No one likes to get stuck with an unwanted gift that's difficult or impossible to return.

The good news for retailers is that a customer-friendly return shipping procedure can actually boost customer retention and increase repeat business. Here are some key facts from the study to keep in mind:

Hassle-free return shipping is a must

  • Returns are inevitable: The vast majority of online shoppers (84%) say they return products either sometimes or regularly.
  • A transparent policy is a must: Likewise, the vast majority of online shoppers (85%) say they either sometimes or always check the returns policy before making a purchase.
  • Longer return periods boost business: As many as 43% of online shoppers say they won’t purchase an item if the return period isn’t at least 30 days. And 32% even say they’ll only order if the retailer offers a 60-day return period or more.

Based on these insights, here are some ideas to consider when it comes to setting your return shipping policy for the holidays:

  • Why not offer free return shipping for the holidays? Free shipping is the ultimate customer-centric return policy. Try it out for the holiday period and see how it boosts your business.
  • Communicate your returns policy clearly. Since most consumers want to check out your return policy before making a purchase, display it prominently along with your product descriptions.
  • Offer a generous returns period. Give your holiday shoppers a little extra time to send back items. Offer at least a 30-day return period; ideally, make it even 60 or more days. It will make many shoppers more likely to buy from you in the first place. Additionally, you’re helping delivery companies as well. Spreading the number of return parcels over a more extended period helps parcel networks handle the volume more effectively.

Exceed customer expectations this holiday season

ChannelEngine and Sendcloud are joining forces to help you exceed your customer’s expectations! Make sure to expand your online sales on online marketplaces and give your customers a memorable online shopping and delivery experience. Automate your shipping and focus on what’s important for online shoppers. With a little luck, they’ll be back next year with an even longer shopping list.