Christmas Shipping For Retailers: All You Need To Know For 2019

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Getting your retail Christmas shipping strategy in place is key for holiday success. To ship your customer’s all-important presents, party outfits, or table wear in time for their preferable delivery date is a true marker of Christmas shipping success. In such a saturated industry, you need to make sure this is achievable to keep ahead of your competitors and keep your customers coming back to you well into the new year.

The Christmas season is crazy for retailers – busy is good – it means more sales, but you’ll also be dealing with high order numbers and even higher customer expectations. As the big day draws closer, you need to take the necessary measures to communicate Christmas shipping information with your customers so as to not leave anyone disappointed. Use this time to delight your customers and excel expectations. You’ll not only see an increase in profits but higher customer retention levels as you head into the new year.

This short and concise guide is to help you effectively plan how to go about dealing with Christmas shipping for the upcoming holiday season while at the same time keeping your customers happy.

You’ll also find our super useful reference guides to our courier’s last Christmas shipping dates below.

What delivery options will you be offering?

Think about what delivery options you currently offer and how these will work for Christmas shipping. Click and Collect, lockers, in-store collection, next day and nominated day… there are so many avenues to go down. Finding the sweet spot of what works well for your company and what your customers are going to use is fundamental.

Be transparent

Transparency is crucial when it comes to conveying Christmas shipping options and retailers need to be upfront and honest. Not just to manage customer expectations but to also ensure you and your employees aren’t dealing with avoidable pressures from complaints or extra queries. To do this, your website needs to be as informative as possible; display your Christmas shipping dates and options clearly. Put a banner at the top of your homepage for easy access, and have the information accessible on product pages and delivery info pages.

Keeping this information up to date is also important to keep on top of – are there changes or courier delays you need to make customers aware of? How about international shipping? Delegate the ownership of this to a person or team so that you know these are treated as a priority – the knock-on effect to your business from misinformation or delayed deliveries is something you don’t want to incur if you don’t have to.

Displaying stock availability and supplier information where applicable will help manage customers’ expectations; if you’re having to wait on stock yourself, make this clear on your website.

Delivery as a sales driver

You can use your delivery options as a way to boost sales by creating a sense of urgency. Displaying the delivery availability times such as ‘order by the 15th to get this in time for Christmas’. Make this information available next to all delivery options so that shoppers can weigh up which is going to be the best delivery method for them. Consider offering in-store collections where you can – this is a great way to delight last-minute shoppers! Being able to collect in-store may help them get the almost-forgotten presents and avoid any disappointment!

Keep customers in the loop

Integrating with courier tracking puts less pressure on your other channels of communication as it enables customers to access the information themselves. They’ll also feel more in control of the process. Can you use SMS and email delivery tracking updates? Getting notifications on the delivery progress is a really nice touch and you’re bound to delight your customers by providing these.

Factor in peak shopping days

There are a number of peak shopping days interspersed throughout the holiday season – you need to be aware of these and factor them into planning your Christmas shipping in advance. With Black Friday falling on November 29th this year, the peak shopping season is slightly shorter than normal. Be sure to communicate and encourage early shopping to your customers so as not to be disappointed.  Keep in mind your stock and fulfilment planning so you can prioritise and structure effectively to meet higher demand.

Small Business Saturday: 7th December

This is great for smaller and independent retailers to drive sales and brand awareness. As many consumers will opt to shop with independent businesses at this time, you need to plan for higher volumes of orders to process and send out when it comes to considering your shipping plan.

Panic Saturday: 21st December

The last Saturday before Christmas there is always a surge in purchases as Christmas day is on the horizon. The chances are that this will be too late to meet Christmas shipping deadlines with your couriers, so if you have a store too – prepare to cater for an increase in footfall or click and collect in-store orders. You can also offer website deals for shoppers who may have missed this and can’t get into the store to entice conversions. An integrated system that works to keep track of your website and in-store stock levels in real-time is going to be invaluable for seasonal events like this!

Christmas Eve: 24th December

Here come the last, last-minute shoppers. This is, of course, way too late for deliveries but you can cater to this group of customers with in-store collections and store shopping. Go the extra mile here and delight them with some festive treats and seasonal extras.

Crisis management

Even for the most prepared of retailers, disaster does sometimes strike. Every business can benefit from establishing what to do when things go awry and putting a plan in place. Hopefully, you won’t need it but it’s best to be prepared in case you do. If delivery or shipping issues occur, how will you handle it? Take charge of the situation, even if you could pass the buck to the courier – it’s best to show your customers how much you value their custom by helping manage the problem where you can. Train frontline staff on how to handle issues, communicate any issues on your website and social media. Be upfront and proactive in the resolution, working with the customer and courier where possible.

Important Christmas shipping dates for retailers

Royal Mail: Last recommended shipping dates:

  • 2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For post by Wednesday 18th December
  • 1st Class and 1st Class Signed For and Royal Mail Tracked 48 post by Friday 20th December
  • Royal Mail Tracked 24 post by Saturday 21st December
  • Special Delivery Guaranteed post by Monday 23rd December

DPD: Christmas Schedule:

  • Wednesday 25th December - Closed
  • Thursday 26th December - Closed
  • Wednesday 1st January 2020 - Closed

Parcelforce: Last posting dates for delivery by 24th December:

  • Timed Services: express9, express10, expressAM, expressPM post by Monday 23rd December Monday 23rd December
  • Next Day Services: express24, express24 large post by Monday 23rd December
  • Two Day Services: express48, express48 large post by Friday 20th December

FedEx: Christmas Schedule:

  • Wednesday 25th December Christmas Day - Delivery and pickup unavailable
  • Thursday 26th December Boxing Day - Delivery and pickup unavailable

Please note that some couriers haven’t released their Christmas shipping dates for 2019 just yet but we’ll be updating these as soon as they’re released. All dates are subject to change depending on the courier but we will always update this information when we know. Please drop us a line if you notice any changes before we do.

Final thoughts

Getting your Christmas shipping right is going to underpin your holiday success this year, so you want to get it right. Hopefully, this advice will go some way in helping you plan your shipping dates and strategy easily.

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