7 Questions Merchants Need To Ask Themselves

Sep 12, 2018

It’s the end of the year, and there’s a slew of online shopping opportunities coming up in the e-commerce peak season.

Shopee’s 9.9 Super Shopping Day, 10,10, Shopfest’s Perfect 10 Sale China’s Singles Day’s 11.11, 12.12. Things have never looked brighter for the end of year shopping season in Asia.

On the other side of the world, things are no different. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day all have consumers searching for the next grand bargain or excellent deal for gift-giving, renewal or to reward themselves after a hard year of school or work.

As online retailers, this is understandably a critical time for your business. When 40% of GMV (Gross Monthly Volume) is generated in the last three months of the year, you need to ensure you’re firing on all cylinders here. We at Parcel Perform have compiled a handy checklist of things to make sure you have ready as you get prepared for the uptick in shopping volume over the last quarter of the year.

Are you ready for your e-commerce peak season?

1. Can your logistics carriers handle the increased parcel volume quickly and efficiently?

With higher traffic and orders come increased demands and strain on your logistics carriers during the peak season. Customers order last minute, yet expect them to be delivered on time, sometimes within the same day. They are also sometimes willing to pay a premium for same-day delivery.

Your store may offer these options. However, is your carrier also prepared to keep in line with his service level when volumes increase? Without ensuring a proper logistics set up early on, your sales campaigns and holiday gifts won’t reach their intended recipients on time or in prime condition.

It’s therefore essential to consciously evaluate your carriers. Are they prepared for the last spike in delivery demand at this time of the year? Assess the following areas early on, the service surely won’t get better when things get tight:

  • How often deliveries arrive on time

  • How often goods are damaged during shipment

  • How responsive and friendly is their customer service to requests?

Also, read this article: 3 Customer Service Questions You Need To Ask Your Logistics Carriers Before Working With Them.

2. Is your return policy easy and convenient?

An easy to understand returns policy is crucial for customer retention.

Remember that unlike brick-and-mortar stores, online consumers don’t get to see or feel the physical product before purchases. All they have are your product photos and descriptions to make decisions. If they aren’t given an avenue to return their order if it doesn’t fit or otherwise meet their expectations, they will be less likely to buy.

When as many of 91% of consumers say a store’s return policy was essential in making purchase decisions and 15% of online shoppers abandoning cart when faced with an unclear return policy, don’t neglect this area of your e-commerce business when gearing up for a high volume season.  

What should go into your returns policy?

  • Specified warranty period, returns period and exchange period

  • Provide a number for customer support

  • Simple, short and customer friendly

  • Provides return-specific links and FAQs

3. Do you have adequate customer service staff and service channels ready?

With the uptick in volume always comes rising customer service requests. Businesses can expect to handle up to 80% more customer inquiries and complaints compared to an average period.

The holiday season means phones are ringing non-stop, email inboxes are full, and support ticket volumes will creep up. 91% of consumers surveyed during a study by CorvisaCloud say customer service departments should be better prepared for the holiday season.

How are you going to cope? Fret not; preparation is key to handling this season.

First off, review call performance and analytics from previous holiday seasons to get an idea of call volumes to expect. If available, beef up the resources you have, promote self-service avenues like FAQ pages on your website, email communications, and social media. Also, consider managing your customer’s expectations by saying they may expect higher wait times.

Also, read these articles for more customer service tips:

Building Emotional Relationships With Your Shopify Customers is Key To Retaining Them – Here is How.

How To Do Customer Service Issues The Right Way With Disney’s HEARD Framework

Effects of Estimated Delivery Date on Customer Satisfaction

How to retain customers in 2022?

4. Is your website ready for the high traffic season?

Remember, for your customers to find and buy your shopping deals, your website has to stay active. Ask yourself this critical question: Can your site handle the increased traffic of the holiday season?

The holiday season also means your online store will also have thousands of more people browsing your website, saving items and checking out.

In the midst of all the marketing campaign planning and strategizing, ensure your web infrastructure and hosting plans are ready for the uptick in volume.

  • Are there traffic limits on your hosting plans? Consider upgrading them during this time to avoid site downtime or slowdowns

  • Check if your hosting plans include failover capacity – which means your site will be switched to another server if your current one goes down. These measures prevent your site from going down if there are any issues on your host’s side.

  • Ensure your pages are loading fast. When customers aren’t willing to wait more than 3 seconds for pages to load, speed is critical. Optimize product images, minimize unnecessary redirects or third-party scripts to ensure your site is as speedy as it can be.

5. Have you assessed your mobile customer experience?

Is your shop mobile-ready? If not, you may be missing out on a significant sales channel and interaction point. Also, we’re not just talking about a mobile-optimized website.

Consider this: Instagram’s data shows 84% of smartphone users in the US browse, research and compare products via mobile browser or mobile app. An astonishing 36% of online sales in Q4 2017 are on mobile.

With this, beyond the website, also think about these other elements of the customer’s mobile checkout experience:

  • Is every step in your checkout process necessary?

  • How long are your form fields?

  • How will your site navigation work on different devices?

  • Are clickable elements easily tappable on smartphones?

  • How will grid layouts and images change on smaller screens?

6. Are you ready for last-minute shoppers?

Ah, procrastination.

It happens to the best of us. So your customers are no different. Alternatively, perhaps they’re on the lookout for holiday bargains and flash sales – often waiting till the eleventh hour to do so.

Did you know up to 40% of customers will wait till the last ten days before Christmas to buy gifts? People are searching for suitable, affordable gifts to buy quickly. Here are some suggestions you can easily implement to help them out:

  • Curate more ‘gift-worthy’ products and items for your target customers

  • Provide a special last minute delivery options to ensure they get their products on time. Believe us, they won’t forget this special treatment and love you in the long run.

7. Do you have parcel tracking set up?

Customers want to know where their parcels are so they can feel more secure while doing their gift planning or last-minute shopping during the holiday season.

When 93% of shoppers expect to receive proactive shipment and delivery updates, and 40% of online shoppers say they check an item’s order status at least once a day, a majority (67%) of consumers loved the ability to track their deliveries themselves. (Source: 2017 State of E-Commerce Delivery Report).

It’s clear retailers who give their customers the ability to track their parcels differentiate themselves from those who don’t. How then, do you get started with parcel tracking?

  • Provide your customers with their very own branded environment to track their orders instead of sending customers away to an external carrier page

  • Set up personalized, proactive delivery email notifications delivered in your own brand and in your customer’s own language

In Conclusion

For retailers, the sales and holiday season can be a time of undue stress or a season bristling with opportunity. While we get busy planning for year-end marketing campaigns, supply chain, and inventory management, let’s not forget about the more foundational aspects of an online store. These seven questions will have you covered to make the most of your end-of-year holiday promotional spree!

For more exclusive reports, insights, and interviews on the latest updates in e-commerce and logistics, follow us on LinkedIn or join our community as a member.

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