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Karin Ballestrazze
 
November 3, 2014 | eCommerce , Fulfillment/Shipping, General | Karin Ballestrazze

Preparing for the Holiday Season, Part II

Access to quick, cost-effective shipping can make or break customers' decisions to buy wine online during the holiday season. While clients may be more forgiving of delays during the rest of the year, there is very little room for error after Black Friday. A sincere email can alleviate tensions for normal delays, but when it comes to shoppers not having their gifts for others in time, your winery will likely lose customers. Some shoppers may encounter your online wine store for the first time during the holidays, and this can be an opportunity to build lasting loyalty if you offer them an excellent wine shipping experience. 

Wineries should view the 2013 holiday shopping season as a valuable lesson for the improvements that are needed this year. Many merchants offered last-minute shipping promotions in the shorter holiday season, and this strategy ended up exploding in their faces because of severe winter weather and a lack of capacity from the major parcel carriers. A large number of packages arrived after Christmas Day, and shoppers were quick to cast the blame on both carriers and retailers, according to Multichannel Merchant.

"A lot of people blamed the shorter holiday season, but this one is tight too, exactly 28 days," John Haber, founder and CEO of Spend Management Experts, told Multichannel Merchant. "People understand the calendar and how it can impact customers. A lot of what happened last year was self-inflicted, with orders not processed in time to get out the door, and shippers not figuring carriers' schedule or overcommitting."

Fortunately, there is still time left to prepare operations to avoid a similar situation this year.

What you can do to offer a great ecommerce fulfillment experience
Part of the issue last year was retailers offered some unrealistic cut-offs for holiday deliveries. You can better guarantee shipping if you move the date up. Wineries also need to effectively manage customer expectations. Free shipping will be offered by the majority of large retailers, but this isn't an option for wineries. However, shipping-included promotions can create a slight increase to the average order size if you apply a qualifying threshold. Customers may be more likely to add another bottle of wine to their shopping carts to meet the limit because they will feel like they are getting a tangible benefit.

Communication is key for handling shopper expectations during this busy time, a press release from Unishippers reported. You should tell customers when to expect packages and update them in case of any delays over email. This can put shoppers at ease because they don't have to call to track down information. In addition, it's crucial to be aware of UPS and FedEx's schedules to avoid over-promising to customers. Knowing the deadline can help you avoid issues in mid-December.

How you present shipping costs make a big difference, since excess charges during checkout are one of the major causes of shopping cart abandonment. You don't want to lose sales during the lucrative holiday shopping period. Displaying shipping costs as customers add items to their carts prevents any unexpected surprises at the end of the transaction. While many studies have indicated that shoppers overwhelmingly prefer cost-effective shipping compared to fast delivery, this may vary during the holidays. Some consumers may procrastinate until the middle of December, leaving them with no choice but to shop online and pay for express delivery. You can better accommodate customers by offering multiple shipping options. 

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