The holiday shopping season is definitely a make or break time for eCommerce store owners. But one of the most under planned and forgotten aspects to strategizing this time of year is shipping.
Why is this? Well, most online stores are more focused on building buzz and web traffic instead of how they actually plan to get the orders to customer doorsteps. In turn, this creates a situation where you can easily have a lot of unhappy customers who are disappointed when the gift they ordered doesn’t arrive quite on time.
Thankfully, with a little bit of planning and communication, you can continue to delight shoppers. Here are a few of the most important Christmas shipping deadlines to keep in mind for this year’s holiday season.
2019 Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Before we discuss how to make this season an easy one for shipping, we need to first cover some Christmas shipping deadlines. A few of the most important holiday shipping deadlines to remember for USPS, UPS, and FedEx are:
USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines:
- Retail Ground: Saturday, December 14th, 2019
- First Class Mail: Friday, December 20th, 2019
- Priority Mail: Saturday, December 21st, 2019
- Priority Mail Express: Monday, December 23rd, 2019
UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines:
- Ground: Friday, December 13th, 2019
- 3 Day Select: Thursday, December 19th, 2019
- 2nd Day Air Services: Friday, December 20th, 2019
- Next Day Air Services: Monday, December 23rd, 2019
FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines:
- SmartPost Services: Monday, December 9th, 2019
- Ground: Monday, December 16th, 2018
- Home Delivery: Monday, December 16th, 2019
- Express Saver: Thursday, December 19th, 2019
- 2 Day Services: Friday, December 20th, 2019
- Overnight Services: Monday, December 23rd, 2019
Of course, it is important to remember that these are just basic guidelines for getting orders fulfilled and sent to customers so that they are delivered before Christmas Day. There are always extenuating circumstances including weather and carrier issues that can cause these dates to fluctuate. If in doubt, contact the carrier directly for details.
How to Use Christmas Shipping Deadlines to Your Advantage
Now that we know what our actual deadlines for Christmas shipping are, let’s look at a few ways you can use them to your advantage. Shipping should always be considered a major part of your marketing strategy and there are certain benefits to including information in your various campaigns.
For example, it’s always a good idea to add basic marketing verbiage about free or flat rate shipping on individual product pages. This is a great way to advertise that you offer this service while shoppers are mentally trying to calculate the total cost of the product. Remember, some people who shop online keep notes or a mental tally of what they’re spending for each friend or loved one as part of an overall budget.
You can also give last-minute shoppers the feeling of comfort and security by making deadlines clear. Utilize things like popups and email marketing campaigns to remind customers that they have to order before a certain time period to be able to have their product by Christmas Day. While this type of urgency does sound like it would have an opposite effect, there’s a good chance that knowing right away whether or not it’s worth it to place the order will actually make the process less stressful.
Also, make sure to always include shipping deadlines in all of your emails, both transactional and promotional. The more you can press urgency with your customer base, the greater the chance you'll have that these deadlines are being met. You can also stand above the competition by offering free expedited shipping when final ship dates are getting down to the wire. This is a great way to give customers who haven't purchased yet an advantage to buy from your store versus another one that's charging a huge amount for fast last-minute shipping.
Another option? Consider being one of the first eCommerce stores in your area to provide same-day shipping. That’s right! That means your customers would get their orders within a few hours of ordering. There are certain limitations to this process—including being limited to the same metropolitan area—but it does act as a great bonus for any other sales
Why Cutoff Times Are Important for Holiday Shipping Deadlines
It’s also important to remember order cutoff times when advertising shipping deadlines. Why? You want to be able to give your team a chance to fulfill and pack the order accordingly.
For example, say a customer expects FedEx Overnight Services but places their order at 11:59 PM on December 23rd. See the problem here? There’s no chance for you to get the item pulled, packed, and ready to go to FedEx if timeframes cut that close.
Thus, it’s better to choose cutoff times and clearly state them on your eCommerce website accordingly. Think about what your staff is actually able to handle and then use limitations such as 9:00 AM or noon, or even 3:00 PM. Again, clarity is super important here and helps your shoppers know exactly what to expect.
Other Ways to Maximize Your ROI and Make Shipping Easier
There are other ways you can maximize your return on investment and make the shipping process easier. For example, make plans to spread your inventory out among warehouses in different regions to make the actual cost and time of shipping lower. You can also opt to work with a third-party fulfillment company on a temporary basis for the season to help alleviate some of the hassles associated with handling the task in-house.
What Do You Do Once the Holiday Shipping Date Has Passed?
One question many eCommerce store owners have is what they should be doing once the holiday shipping date has passed. The great news is that you don’t have to stop selling!
Instead, offer instantly downloadable or delivery by email gift cards as an alternative. You can also opt to run specials for after Christmas delivery where shoppers’ patience is rewarded with an extra ten or twenty percent off their order. There are multiple ways to make campaigns like this work, so feel free to put your own special touch on this and make the recipe for success your own.
These tips are just the icing on the cake when it comes to mastering shipping strategy for the 2019 Christmas shopping season. Our knowledgeable and talented team here at CAKE is ready to answer any questions you have or help you come up with a plan for your unique online store. Please contact us today for further details.