December is fast approaching and for many retailers, it’s one of the most important trading months of the year. You’re not the only online retailer preparing for the holiday season, so you’re going to need to work hard to stand out from the crowd.

One area that is often overlooked is shipping. Shipping is far too commonly considered nothing more than a byproduct or necessity of selling online. This is a bad move for online retailers as shipping plays a much bigger role in your business.

Shape your shipping into something great, and it becomes a valuable part of your overall product.

Don’t forget that December 14th is home to Green Monday. Falling on the second Monday of December each year, Green Monday is often the busiest online shopping day in December. Make sure you’re ready to handle a last minute surge in Christmas shopping. Customers see Green Monday as their last chance to order and receive holiday gifts safely in time for Christmas.

Free Shipping puts you ahead of your competitors

Offering free shipping will not work for every business. Make sure your margins can carry the cost of shipping your customers orders for free. Perhaps you will need to restrict free shipping to a minimum quantity or order value. If you have room for free shipping, then great! Free shipping can be the deciding factor when customers are trying to decide between ordering from you or a competitor.

December 18th is Free Shipping Day. The premise is simple - Offer free shipping (usually on everything) and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. Free Shipping Day only gives you a few days to get your orders on your customers door steps in time for Christmas. So, make sure your carrier has the necessary timed services to prevent disappointing your customers. Taking part in Free Shipping Day is an excellent talking point and a great way to increase customer interaction on social media!

Free shipping helps your store stand out and puts your brand way up in the customer's mind ahead of your competitors who are not offering free shipping. Free shipping has been shown to increase customer loyalty.

If you are offering free shipping, make sure it is clear before customers hit your checkout page - you may be losing customers who don’t make it as far as the basket because they assumed you don’t offer free shipping.

The take-away for stores offering free shipping is simple; Don't forget to use free shipping in your on and off-site marketing, as well as in your social marketing campaigns. 

Offer customers a choice when it comes to shipping, with live rates

Great customer service does not end at answering the telephone and responding to presales and aftersales enquiries, it extends to shipping too. Offering your customers a choice when it comes to how and when their order is delivered goes a long way towards providing superb customer service that won’t be forgotten.

As an online retailer, your job is not done until the order has safely and timely arrived with the customer.

Don’t be afraid to offer paid alternatives to free shipping. It’s all about choice. Be as flexible as possible when it comes to shipping your customers orders. A well-stocked delivery option selection at checkout time is key to putting customers in control of their own delivery.

Are you shipping with the right carriers?

Providing a wider selection of delivery services can work in your favour from a financial standpoint too. Get into negotiations with your existing carriers as well as potentially new carriers. You may be paying more than you need to be!

In the UK, Royal Mail’s prices are hard to beat on lighter consignments. On the other hand, consignments that weigh more than 2kg can be a little more expensive. Get several carriers onboard and provide live rates on your checkout to give your customers absolute control and value for money. 

Visit Brightpearl’s App Store to find out about integrating your inventory management software with Shiptheory or other fulfillment platforms.

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About the Author

James has been helping retailers automate their shipping since 2008 through the development of shipping integration software. James is a co-founder of Shiptheory, a cloud based shipping platform that provides smarter shipping integration for retailers of all sizes.