The holiday season is peak season for most e-commerce businesses. Purchases skyrocket, returns can get a little out of hand, and the demands on almost every area of your business increase exponentially.
Many think peak season is sandwiched between Black Friday and Boxing Day, but it actually starts earlier and ends later each year. In 2017, nearly 75 per cent of Canada’s online merchants offered pre-Black Friday sales,¹ and peak season lasted long after Boxing Day due to increased volumes of returns.
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This year, Canada Post anticipates that peak season will kick off on November 11, 2019 and last until at least January 12, 2020. Is your business ready for it? If not, you risk losing potential customers to your competitors.
To compete this holiday season it’s critical to prepare your promotion strategy, operations and inventory early. Here’s how to gear up for the holiday rush now:
Meet your customers’ growing expectations
Shoppers’ expectations are on the rise. They heighten during the holidays when most people are tight for time and shopping for others more often than themselves. They are under tremendous pressure to find perfect gifts for their friends, family members and colleagues.
Want to meet their rising expectations? Here are four things most online shoppers want:
- Certainty around product availability. Make sure your potential customers know if a product is fully stocked, low on inventory, or completely sold out.
- Delivery estimates. Shoppers want to know when their package will arrive – especially during the holiday season when timing really counts. Work with your delivery provider to display accurate shipping times, and don’t forget to factor in fulfillment on your end.
- Shipping options to suit their needs. Some shoppers need their orders to arrive quickly, but others are willing to wait in order to save money. Offer a variety of shipping costs and speeds to satisfy them all.
- A clear, simple and upfront returns policy. 79 per cent of online shoppers will stop shopping with a merchant after a bad returns experience.2 Make sure your returns policy is visible and customer-friendly.
Run holiday promotions
Promotions can make or break your holiday season. Everyone is competing for shoppers’ attention, so you need to do something different to stand out in the crowd.
Consider offering a product promotion. You could offer customers a significant discount on a particular product or group of products – for example, 40 per cent off everything. It’s a great tactic if your goal is to move a lot of inventory or sell out-of-season or high-inventory products. Bear in mind that a promotion like this will impact your profit margin per piece.
Shipping promotions are worth their weight in gold. If your business can offer a promotion like free shipping with a minimum purchase, you will encourage loyalty and prevent cart abandonment. This ultimately leads to significant ROI for your business. 85 per cent of Canadian online shoppers will shop more often with retailers that provide free shipping.3
The holiday season is a great time to acquire and retain customers with a special promotion. In order to ensure your promotion reaches your desired audience, create a targeted direct mail campaign. They elicit 39 per cent more attention than digital campaigns alone and 40 per cent higher brand recall when a piece of direct mail follows an email.4
Effective direct mail is an art, so let someone else be the artist. Canada Post’s Smartmail MarketingTM solutions offer flexible and affordable direct mail solutions that take the guesswork out of DM to maximize your campaign’s impact.
Optimize your operations
When the holidays are in full swing, there’s no time to wing it. You want your business to run like a well-oiled machine so you can meet demand. Following these tips will help you ensure your back-end operations run smoothly when you’re up against high order volumes:
- Stock up on products. Forecast your top sellers based off of last year’s sales.
- Optimize your fulfillment space. Make sure you have enough space to fulfill quickly, safely, and efficiently.
- Staff up. Hire seasonal staff to meet increased demand.
- Enable in-store pickup to make receiving a breeze. Allow customers to visit your physical stores to pick up their online orders instead of having them shipped. This can help reduce bottlenecks.
- Prep your packaging. Make sure you have all the packaging supplies you might need on hand to fulfill an influx of orders. You can strategically pack your orders to make your customers feel extra special. Consider stocking special materials that will enable you to include things like handwritten thank you notes, branded boxes, and product samples.
Partner with the right delivery provider
Your delivery partner will represent you in the final mile, so you need to choose one that will uphold your high customer-care standards. Canada Post provides extra support for customers during the holidays to help you meet your goals.
We scale during the holiday season in order to serve your customers better:
- We hire more than 4,000 seasonal workers and double our transportation capacity
- Our customer service hours are extended
- Delivery is expanded to weekends
- We expand our network with temporary pickup locations.
If you plan on partnering with us, and want to ensure that your shipments enter our network efficiently and get to your customers without hassle, here are a few tips to follow:
- Always use proper labelling
- Pre-sort your parcels
- Print off your shipping manifests
- Schedule drop offs or pickups
These are just a handful of the measures you can take to have the best holiday shipping season possible.
With the right policies, preparations, promotions and partners in place, your business will ace the holiday season.
1 Canada Post. Holiday Monitoring Study, 2017.
2 3 Canada Post. 2019 Canadian Online Shopper Study, April 2019.
4 Canada Post. Connecting for Action, September 2016.
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