7 Things to Do to Improve E-Commerce Fulfillment During Christmas

The holiday season is one of the wildest when it comes to shopping and shipping, so all fulfillment processes must go smoothly. But how to manage the volume of shipments and orders? And what to do in case of delays or unforeseen events?

Christmas is usually associated with positive feelings and emotions, the exchange of gifts and reunification with family and friends. It is therefore not surprising that the entire month of December is spent buying gifts and sending products. E-commerce will play a key role, so a negative purchase experience could cause an economic and, even worse, a reputational damage. Despite the great number of orders and shipments to be managed, customers still expect timely and problem-free deliveries. Probably even more so than usual.

In this article we will see how to get ready to face the holiday season, how to manage shipments and returns and how to satisfy customers in such a challenging time. So, here are 6 things we need to do to prepare our e-commerce for Christmas.

1 – Carefully manage the timing of shipments

Compliance with deadlines is essential, especially during Christmas. Unfortunately, however, unforeseen events can happen, so it is better to be prepared to manage any delay. Usually, couriers and postal services release information with deadlines that e-commerce sites must meet in order to guarantee delivery by certain dates or specific times of the year. The current health situation and the increase in raw material costs are putting a strain on logistics, so it is better to be cautious and anticipate these dates as well. A customer who receives a package earlier than expected might be pleasantly surprised, one who receives it late won’t.

2 - Prepare labels, boxes and packaging

It can be useful to create packages or labels in advance for those products that will surely see an increase in sales, in order to have them immediately available when they are needed, optimizing process times. Another good practice is to stock up on envelopes and packaging containers in advance and directly through the postal service you will rely on for shipping (such as UPS or Amazon), in order to speed up the process.

Furthermore, since it is Christmas, a themed packaging will certainly please the customer, who could perhaps reuse it for other gifts. In any case, it is advisable to implement the possibility of allowing customers to choose the desired type of packaging and indicate whether it is an order that will have to be packaged as a gift or with standard packaging.

3 - Optimize the e-commerce

Besides all the best practices to optimize an e-commerce, during the holiday season it is useful to pay attention to other details too.

Adding the precise weight of each product helps customers not only to know the shipping costs, but it will allow them to prepare themselves in advance in case they will need to transport the product later. This practice will also allow you to prepare the labels and shipping documents immediately, without having to update or correct the weight at a later time. In general, unexpected shipping costs can have a negative influence on conversion rates, so it’s better to be transparent early on.

Another aspect that could interrupt the purchasing process are delivery times that are not aligned with customer expectations. It is therefore important to communicate this information clearly and precisely, perhaps by indicating a deadline by which to conclude the order for a delivery without delays. In fact, according to Shopify, communicating delivery times when customers are preparing to place the order improves conversions and increases the trust placed in the e-commerce. Not only that, from a re-marketing perspective it is also useful to send a reminder to users who have interrupted the purchase process, in order to inform them of the deadline for placing the order if they want to receive it by Christmas.

Finally, to ensure that customers find what they need immediately, it is always good to have quick links to FAQs, delivery options, contacts and order tracking in the e-commerce footer.

4 – Improve customer service

Providing assistance to customers is pivotal, especially during the holiday season: problems with orders in such a period could irreparably damage the relationship between a user and the e-commerce. Likewise, it will be necessary to clarify any doubts as quickly as possible. A very useful tool for this purpose is a live-chat, which allows you to answer all users’ requests in real time.

As already mentioned, another way to optimize customer service is to constantly update the e-commerce section dedicated to FAQs, so that customers can find comprehensive answers to all their doubts. This information can also be summarized in other sections, for example in the product data sheets and on the check-out page. Social channels and emails are also a useful tool, especially if we want to process requests quickly.

5 – Choose the best shipping method

In general, e-commerce offers three types of delivery: free delivery, flat rate shipping and exact cost shipping.

Shipping costs are one of the main reasons why potential customers interrupt the order they are placing, so offering free delivery is certainly the best way to entice users to purchase. However, this could be problematic in terms of margins, so an equally valid strategy could be to provide free shipping but with longer delivery times and a paid shipping option with fast delivery times. The flat rate, on the other hand, allows you to largely cover the shipping costs that you will have to face without, however, discouraging the customers (provided that the rate is clearly highlighted immediately). The third option is the riskiest one, because the cost of shipping is calculated based on the weight of the order, the place where it will have to be shipped and delivery time, therefore it is not possible to inform users in advance but this option allows the retailer to fully recover all costs.

Finally, it is possible to offer a collection and pick-up service in large cities: in this way the products will always be sent to the same place, where the customers will then pick them up. This option is obviously not always viable but, if it is, it would help both e-commerce sites and users to cut costs and optimize delivery times.

6 - Manage returns effectively

Among the various processes related to fulfillment, the management of returns and refunds is one of the activities that requires greater attention and the ability to know how to interact with a dissatisfied customer. In fact, about half of users perceive product return practices as a negative experience, so it has to be managed in the best possible way.

One aspect that should be taken into consideration is the precise and clear communication of all policies relating to returns and refunds. A dedicated page is certainly useful (and mandatory in some countries) to provide the customer with all the details. Having return and refund policies that are unambiguous is a must. These conditions will depend on which practices you choose to adopt. There are, in fact, three main ways to manage returns:

1. The customer bears the shipping costs 2. The seller bears the shipping costs 3. Both parties share the shipping costs

The best strategy will depend on factors that must be calculated singularly for each e-commerce: refunds and free returns generally leave a positive memory in the customer but can entail higher costs. Charging users, on the other hand, allows you to cover expenses but will likely cause discontent. Whichever option you choose, you will need to inform your customers on the matter as clearly as possible.

7 - Rely on a professional fulfillment service

Relying on a professional fulfillment service brings numerous advantages and is often the quickest and most helpful choice to ensure that orders and requests received are processed in a professional and timely manner.

Warehouse management, the preparation of shipping documents, compliance with bureaucratic regulations and the management of returns are extremely important, especially during Christmas. All this requires time, precision and specific skills that could be underestimated, causing problems in the fulfillment process which will then result in delays and errors in order management.

IFS Italy offers a professional and competitive fulfillment service, thanks to exclusive agreements with the main postal and delivery services. For more information on IFS fulfillment services, you can download the brochure or visit the fulfillment & e-commerce section.