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The 2017 Holiday Online Retail Season Is Almost Here: Are You Ready?

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By now, online retailers should be done with their holiday fulfillment planning and anxiously awaiting the surge of eCommerce activity that’s just around the corner. If you’re still trying to pull together some last-minute preparations, however, take a minute to read our earlier post, “7 Fulfillment Steps to Take Now for Q4 2017”.

Most online retailers should also know by now that holiday surcharge pricing has been announced by some carriers. UPS will add a 27-cent surcharge on all ground packages delivered between Nov 19 – Dec 2. Between Dec 17 – 23, an additional 27 cents will be charged for ground shipments, 81 cents for next-day air and 97 cents for 2-day or 3-day delivery. Large-package surcharges are also in effect. FedEx will not surcharge got small package deliveries but will for oversized packages. USPS will not have holiday surcharges. And looking ahead to January and February 2018, new rates will go into effect for all carriers.

Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation (NRF) announced that it expects 2017 holiday retail sales to reach $682 billion. That’s an increase of about 4% from 2016. And every year for the past several years, a bigger share of those billions comes from online sales. This year is no exception. 2016 online sales reached $92 billion – that’s a 20% increase compared to 2015. Time will tell just how much 2017 will generate.

Online retailers and fulfillment companies are increasing – in some cases doubling – their workforce in advance of the holiday shopping season. Amazon recently announced the hiring of 120,000 new employees in their fulfillment centers, which nearly doubles their full-time employee count. But they’re not the only one getting ready for the Nov-Dec rush.

Once retailers have finished prepping their holiday sales operations – from inventory management and warehouse modifications to shipping and returns – there’s still time to put a few final plans in place to help make your 2017 online holiday sales the best you’ve ever had.

Optimize Your Website

In a 2016 NRF survey of over 2,000 holiday shoppers, 54% said they started their holiday shopping research in October (some even sooner). Make sure your website is ready now for increased traffic, and make sure your top-selling and most anticipated holiday products are clearly promoted and easy to find on your site. A customer’s online holiday shopping experience can make or break future orders, so make sure their sales transaction is a pleasant one.

Develop Offers

Having a flash sale or some other limited-time promotion – like a percentage off your purchase, or a free gift with purchase – can be great ways to drive holiday sales. Free shipping is another effective way to draw customers to your site, although it’s not as attention-grabbing as it once was, as more shoppers expect it and more retailers offer it.

Whether it’s an email campaign or a social media ad blitz on Facebook or Instagram, make sure your message is reaching your audience at the right time, in the channels where they’re most engaged. User-generated content is also something to consider for your holiday marketing strategy.

Leverage Product Reviews

Product reviews are becoming more important for retailers with each passing year. In their 2016 survey, NRF said 75% of shoppers considered product reviews to be important when choosing what holiday purchases to make from online retailers. Make sure your product reviews are updated and clearly displayed on your website – especially reviews for your most popular products.

Communicate Your Returns Policy

Having a good returns policy in place before the holiday rush is critical. It should be generous, transparent, and offer have a clear way for consumers to reach you, whether by phone or email. And when email inquiries come in, respond in a timely manner. An all-around solid returns policy can lead to increased sales, especially from shoppers who might be on the fence about purchasing. If they have peace of mind knowing they can easily return their order or reach out to you with questions, they’re more likely to buy it.

The PFC team wishes you a great 2017 holiday sales season!

About Promotions Fulfillment Center

At PFC, our clients’ success is our number one priority. Since 1974, PFC has delivered outstanding quantifiable results, with turnkey solutions in fulfillment, rebates, sweepstakes, and contact center – all backed by leading technology. Brands that partner with PFC have historically achieved considerable cost savings in excess of 35% and have significantly improved their program ROI. Want to learn more? Email us at info@pfcfulfills.com or call us at 800-493-7063.