August and September are the months for e-commerce retailers to refine their Christmas retail and sales strategy. Here are five things you should tick off your Christmas list now.
It might seem a long way off, but Christmas is less than 15 weeks away. For e-commerce retailers, this means your festive season strategy and planning should be well underway. We speak to Ben Franzi, General Manager of Global eCommerce Platform Sales at Australia Post to find out the five things you need to tick off your Christmas list sooner rather than later.
1. Start talking to your partners and suppliers – now
We all know how it goes – one minute the first blossoms of spring are just appearing and it seems like the next second it is Christmas Eve. In e-commerce retailing, in particular, the last months of the year can pass in a sales blur.
Ben Franzi, General Manager of Global eCommerce Platform Sales at Australia Post, says the postal giant launched its Christmas strategy in May and that it forecasts the remaining months of the year to be “very busy” for online retailers.
Your should have already ordered your festive season stock, but there are plenty of other areas that need your immediate attention.
First, get in touch with your delivery partners to discuss deadlines and cut-offs, and to find out what special services they may be offering this year.
Ensure your warehousing plans are in place. Advise your warehousing partners of your expected sales spikes and increased volumes and ensure they have the right capacity to handle these.
Meet with your website developers and IT consultants to ensure your IT plans are solid. Your website and systems need to have the capacity to handle a spike in orders. Discuss whether you would like, or need, any additional API or widgets to be integrated into your shopping carts. “Not doing enough website planning or having inadequate IT systems in place is likely to result in a poor customer experience,” warns Franzi.
2. Work out your Christmas delivery deadlines
E-commerce retailers need to have a clear understanding of what the cut-off dates are for Christmas deliveries and which dates they should start moving to Express Post or a courier option.
“We [Australia Post] will be doing deliveries right up to 24 December,” says Franzi. “While Express Post offers a next day delivery within the guaranteed Express Post network, this service can also be used as a faster non-guaranteed option once the regular parcel post last posting day has passed.”
“Some retailers will be taking orders on 23 December and they could still get their deliveries done with Express Post, but they need to know their options and the costs associated with them.”
Express Post delivery cut-offs
14 to 20 days before Christmas Eve – is the minimum time e-commerce retailers should allow for overseas shipping to arrive during the pre-Christmas period. Depending on the destination, this could take up to four weeks.
Early-December – the cut-off for some remote domestic locations is earlier in December, and retailers should check with Australia Post for the exact cut-off dates.
16 December – this is the cut-off day for Express Post parcels to be lodged in metro areas to get to remote interstate destinations.
19 December – this is the cut-off day for Express Post parcels to be lodged in metro areas to get to regional same-state locations.
22 December – this is the last posting day for all parcels lodged for delivery within the Express Post network allowing for items to be collected from a Post Office before Christmas, in the event the recipient is not home.
23 December – for orders taken on this day, or Christmas Eve, e-commerce retailers would need to consider a courier option such as StarTrack.
3. Which delivery options will you offer over the festive season?
Think through the delivery options you want to offer your customers in the run-up to Christmas.
While you may normally offer a choice of two or three options, such as standard, express or courier, you might want to reduce the number of delivery options as you go into the second half of December.
“You might want to switch your standard delivery options off or limit the choices, to ensure that you can deliver on your delivery promise,” explains Franzi.
Decide what day you will move to express delivery options and make sure that decision is communicated to your team and your delivery partners.
4. Will you offer free shipping?
Some e-commerce businesses will offer free shipping during the festive season. Now is the time to do your sums and work out if you will be one of them.
Franzi says this decision very much depends on your business, your volumes and your customer expectations.
“There is no doubt that free shipping drives volumes,” he says, “but it can also eat into profit margins. It is a good marketing tactic provided the ‘free shipping’ offer is genuine and transparent for customers, as we know that not being upfront with shipment costs results in cart abandonment.”
He advises e-commerce retailers to think carefully about which products lend themselves to a free shipping offer. For instance, you might want to base free shipping on a threshold – if customers spend $100 or more, they get free shipping.
“While speed of shipping is a strong marketing offer,” says Franzi “recent research shows people are happy to wait up to 8.5 days for delivery of their purchase if the shipping is free.
5. Will you offer a choice of delivery locations?
Franzi adds that now is a good time to consider whether you want to offer more choices around delivery locations for your customers.
“At-home delivery simply doesn’t suit everyone,” he says. “Australia Post has an extensive parcel collection network, so you could look at offering your customers greater delivery choice and flexibility by enabling them to collect their parcel from a parcel locker or from their local post office.”
Australia Post has over 180 locker locations nationwide and more than 720 Australia Post locations in its parcel collect network, including some that are open on a Saturday.