Cyber Weekend 2020 — AKA the powerhouse virtual duo that is an eCommerce-driven Black Friday and Cyber Monday — is right around the corner. While you personally may just be beginning scouring the web for the very best deals on holiday gifts, merchants are now entering the home stretch of their holiday preparations.
But how does one prepare for a holiday season unlike any other? Black Friday tips from previous years seem obsolete and archaic when no one will be lining up at 2 a.m. for literal doorbuster deals. Instead, this year, people will be accessing deals with the flick of a thumb or click of a button, probably from bed. Somehow, that doesn’t seem too bad. It’s no wonder that 47% of Americans say they only plan to shop online for gifts this year, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult.
In the following Black Friday guide for merchants, we’ll provide insight on how to make the shopping event run smoothly for your eCommerce business including how to communicate with customers, the importance of deadlines, why returns are marketing, the pros and cons of instituting seasonal Black Friday free shipping and how Easyship can help you reach your bottom line around the holiday season.
1. Be Transparent and Upfront
No one likes to be surprised — especially when making big purchases around the holiday season. That’s why it’s so important to be transparent and have an open line of communication with your customers throughout the entirety of their purchase experience. Not only does this build trust, but it also sets the foundation for a lasting customer-merchant relationship.
It’s always important to communicate with your customers about dates and rates, but even more so around the holidays. Think about it like this: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest holiday shopping events. And when customers turn to your eCommerce store, they're placing their trust in you and your team to complete their order in a timely manner, delivering their goods in pristine condition. If you fail to do so or if you fail to do so and don’t compensate for any bumps in the road, and it could lead to an irreparable rift in the merchant-customer relationship.
2. Set Shipping Deadlines
We’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: Many people ordering gifts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With holiday cheer at stake, it’s important to set clear deadlines early and upfront. These deadlines typically stipulate the last-day a person should order something if they’d like it to arrive on key dates.
Not sure where to start? Don’t sweat it. The major domestic couriers typically set their own deadlines for “the last day to ship,” announcing them sometime in October. The following are the deadlines for 2020:
Of course, your store’s deadlines are up to your own discretion. You may need to extend the delivery lead time due to the time it takes to produce products, source goods or to just for expected delays. Whatever the case, the name of the game here is managing customer expectations. Consider being flexible and setting staggered ship-by dates for customers who are local, domestic and international.
Once you set these dates, share them widely on your website, email promotions and even social media. By leveraging these dates as a Black Friday marketing tool, you can encourage customers to make purchases far before the cut off, avoiding any belated arrivals.
3. Offer Multiple Shipping Options
Who doesn’t like choices. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your check out was like a limitless à-la-carte menu courier options, allowing customers to choose what looks best to them? Well, when working with a third party shipping partner life could, indeed, be that way.
Offering multiple couriers and shipping options is an advantage. Some customers, for example, are willing to pay extra for expedited shipping. Others don’t mind ordering ahead of time for a lower rate. Whatever the case, the choice of how much a customer pays and when goods are delivered should be up to the customer. That sense of agency and feeling of control further solidifies the customer-merchant relationship. To get a sense of how rates differ and why different services appeal to customers, go ahead and poke around on our free shipping rate calculator.
4. Lock Down Your Return Policy
It’s nice to imagine that the customer journey ends with the checkout process, but that’s almost universally not true. Aside from the unboxing experience, many customers will continue on their journey making eCommerce returns. But that’s not always a bad thing. If handled properly, it can actually strengthen their relationship to your brand. Seriously: 96% of customers won't purchase from your store in the future if they have a bad experience with returns — meaning it requires a lot of money and work on their end.
How is this possible? Like all things, through transparency. In this case, specifically through transparency in the return policy, which should be clearly laid out in your brand’s shipping policy. If you don’t have one yet, no worries. You can get started with Easyship’s free shipping policy generator, easily customizable to your needs. Make sure that your return policy is elaborate and clearly defines all the conditions and charges associated with the return process, like shipping and restocking fees.
Simply drafting a policy isn’t enough. Make sure that it’s accessible to customers. You can be sure to include it as the fine print to any and all deals, emails and product pages — think of it as an extension of your Black Friday marketing plan.
5. Consider Free Shipping
As any small business owner knows, everything is marketing. Including how you ship. Of course, there’s the branding and design aspect, but that’s a given. These days, free shipping isn’t seen as a bonus, but a barrier to purchase. Bear in mind, nine out of 10 customers say it’s a deciding factor when they shop online. And that is especially true around the holidays, as people will seek out Black Friday deals that include free shipping.
However, any small business owner also knows that free shipping adds up fast. The business cost of shipping without charge, which has been normalized by big box companies, is unsustainable. So what’s an eCommerce merchant to do? Well, there are several courses of action. Here are some ways you can make Black Friday free shipping happen:
- Free shipping on best-selling items
- Free shipping on high-value “bundles” of items
- Limited-time-only Free shipping during the holiday season, beginning on Black Friday
- Raise product prices to accommodate for the business cost of free shipping
- Make free shipping available to customers who spend a certain amount above average (ie: Free shipping on orders over $100)
While certainly not a definitive list, the above-mentioned strategies are commonly used methods that help to absorb business costs.
When it comes to Cyber Weekend, the best thing you can do for the health and success of your eCommerce store is to plan, plan and plan some more. The strategies outlined in our Black Friday guide to shipping are a good place to start. Of course, you can always add additional tactics or combine any number of these offers as you see fit.
Nervous about all the hubbub around Black Friday? Sail through the tides of international eCommerce with Easyship. By partnering with the leading couriers to offer over 250+ shipping solutions, globally, we do all the heavy lifting for you. We also give you the opportunity to gain a personal, competitive edge by creating branded tracking emails and packing slips, providing your customers with a genuine, branded experience.
Sign up for an Easyship account today to supercharge your holiday shipping!
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