You may not think of your shipping or return policies as part of marketing’s purview, but contributor David Rekuc argues they can be as influential as ads or promotions this time of year.
Well, it’s here. Halloween has officially passed and Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. At this point, retailers should be well on their way to nailing down a solid holiday strategy. But here’s one area you may not have considered: the three policies that can make or break your customer’s confidence at checkout. Shipping, delivery, and return policies often play second string to promotional and discount strategies, but they can be just as significant when it comes to influencing actual sales. Here are some actionable tips to apply before the holidays:
- Return Policy. Have a clearly marked return policy in cart and checkout. Customers are looking for your policy and, if you have it hidden, you need to change that. Returns are a part of e-commerce and an even bigger part of holiday shopping. You need to have a return policy you can proudly present to shoppers.
- Delivery Date. Display a projected delivery date. Very often, retailers list delivery as “two to three days” away, or something to that effect, and any possible delay before shipping occurs is glossed over. During holiday times, the difference between one day and the next can make or break the sale. According to research sponsored by UPS, customers want to know exactly when their packages are going to be in their hands, in the form of a specified date and day of the week. It’s worth jumping through the technical hoops to put prospective customers’ mind at ease. Otherwise, they’ll likely find a retailer that will provide that reassurance.
- Tracking. Make package tracking easy. Customers are going to want to know where their gifts are and will be hitting your site to find out. Make sure both confirmation emails and your site are clear about where to go to find that information. If you don’t, you’re going to have an influx of unnecessary and time-consuming customer service inquiries to find basic order statuses.
- Free Shipping. Employ conditional free shipping. Using free shipping as a threshold to increase average order value (think “Free shipping over $25”), or in exchange for choosing a slower delivery method, can reduce the cost of free shipping offers while still keeping your site appealing to consumers. The infographic below shows that many customers say they are willing to add additional items to their cart or wait a little longer for delivery to qualify for free shipping. In fact, offering free shipping is an important consideration for retailers that want to remain competitive. The National Retail Federation’s Shop.org reported last month that 92.3% of retailers polled planned to offer some type of free shipping this season.
- Email Alerts. Prominently display “last day to order” countdowns. In your emails, in a ribbon at the top of the site, in your shopping cart. Everywhere. As your customers get down to the wire, these countdowns help push a sense of urgency and avoid disappointment (for you and them) if they wait too long to purchase. You can even use an ad customizer to show this countdown in your paid search ads.
- Digital Gift Cards. Push digital gift cards late in the season. You may not be able to ship a package on December 24th and get it there in time, but you can still send an email with a digital gift card. Once you start to hit a wall with sending actual products, ramp up your offers on gift cards.
Most retailers know that shopping cart abandonment hovers around 67%, but shipping options, delivery notifications, and return policies can play a huge part in reducing cart abandonment. Click below to see the infographic from my company’s Ripen eCommerce blog offers a compilation of some of the most important shipping and return factors that seasonal shoppers consider when shopping online:
by David Rekuc, November 4, 2014
Article and images courtesy: Marketing Land, www.marketingland.com