Take the guesswork out of planning for the 2016 holiday shopping season

5 minute read

Each year, more Canadians are migrating their holiday season shopping online. The surge begins during Cyber Week in November and continues to the end of December. As an e-retailer, if you want to meet market demands and remain competitive, it’s crucial to nail down your holiday strategy by planning promotions and getting your operations ready to meet the increased volume.

Source: Period based data Canada Post Parcel Data Insights – E-commerce parcel volume data compiled during Holiday 2015 (Nov 15- Jan 15)

Monitoring the 2015 holiday season pulls back the curtain on shopper motivations

Wondering where the numbers come from? During the key November through December holiday 2015 shopping season, Canada Post tracked its 72 top retailers daily. Researchers captured changes to shipping promotions, sales promotions, returns policies and shipping deadlines. The results were combined with shipping volumes to determine the volume lift created by different types of shipping promotions.

The study’s key takeaways can help you sharpen your 2016 holiday online shopping strategy. Let’s look at a few of the key findings:

Diversify your ‘free’ offering

Everyone knows that shoppers love free shipping – in fact, 63% of shoppers will complete1 their online purchase when offered free shipping at checkout. Offering free shipping and free options like ship-to-store and return-to-store across digital and brick and mortar channels is a key strategy to impress and convert customers during the lucrative holiday season.

Lesson here:

Offer free options across different channels – like buy online and pick up free in-store – to improve the shopper experience and aid conversion.

Make sure you prominently communicate shipping and cross-channel promotions to make the most of the investment made and capture the attention of shoppers.

Cyber Week is the new start of the holiday shopping season

Over the past few years, the traditional American shopping holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday have moved into the Canadian shopping landscape – both online and in-store. Many merchants have offered an entire week of tempting sales or shipping promotions – even starting before the monumental Black Friday – and Canadian shoppers have responded by opening their wallets.

It’s important for retailers to offer a competitive blend of sales and shipping promotions if they want to appeal to online shoppers during this key week.

In Cyber Week 2015

Canada Post shipping volumes increased 41% over 2014’s Cyber Week.

Parcel volumes were up 65% compared to the previous week.

Lesson here:

Capitalize on this first shopping surge of the season with a mix of sales offers and free shipping. Think big – shoppers responded massively to sales offers with unrestricted free shipping.

Be ready for higher than ever Cyber Week volumes by stocking enough of your promotional items and preparing your fulfillment operations.

Extend your shipping deadlines – and promote them

There was a noticeable shift in the number of merchants extending their standard shipping deadlines during the 2015 holiday season. Offering greater flexibility to your customers means more selling days and happier shoppers.

In the 2015 holiday season, 67% of retailers had their standard shipping deadline after Dec. 18, compared to just 24% a year earlier.

Fashion and Mass Merchants excelled at offering customers extended shipping deadlines.

Lesson here:

Review your shipping deadlines, look at your fulfillment process and work with your delivery partner to extend them as late as possible – while offering a variety of shipping speeds.

Promote your later shipping deadlines and express shipping options heavily on your site. High visibility will capture last-minute shoppers to offset the operations investment needed to implement the offer.

The holiday retail season doesn’t end at midnight on Boxing Day

A busy and successful holiday season makes a good returns plan even more important. Use the 3-week surge in returns that follows December 25 to cement your relationship with shoppers.

A simple, free returns policy can mean the difference between a shopper hitting the “Buy” button or moving on to a competitor’s site with 18% of shoppers having abandoned their purchase over concerns about the returns policy1.

More merchants offered better returns policies in 2015 – but there’s still room to improve.

75% of the merchants in the study offered a free returns option:

  • Only 28% of merchants offered the customer-pleasing free return-by-mail policy. Smart merchants will take advantage of this opportunity to shine.
  • While 64% of merchants with a store gave shoppers the option to make free returns to brick and mortar stores.

Lesson here:

As returns become easier and easier for shoppers, and their expectations for a seamless returns experience grow, merchants without a simple, free returns policy must find ways to offer one to their customers.

Find tips on how to make the most of the inevitable post-holiday season returns.

Learn how

Find tips on how to make the most of the inevitable post-holiday season returns here. Learn how reduce the cost of returns while maintaining a policy that keeps your customers coming back to your online store.

Source: Unless otherwise noted, all figures come from the Canada Post Holiday Monitoring Research 2015.

1 Source: 2016 Canadian Online Shopper Study, CPC 16-202, April 2016.

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