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How to Prepare for an Unprecedented Holiday Shopping Season

November 10th, 2022 Comments off

Inflation and supply chain issues are slated to continue affecting the holiday season. Traditionally, the holiday shopping season is the most eventful time of year for businesses. However, with ongoing financial difficulties for customers and merchants alike, your customers are going to be cutting back on their holiday purchases. This means your business needs to listen to your customers and not be afraid to let them lead the way while organizing your holiday sales strategy. Back in August, we partnered with Retail Economics and surveyed merchants and customers about their plans for this year’s holiday season and found a disconnect in expectations. We’re going to share all of these findings with you as well as tips for reframing your sales plans to better reflect the sentiment of customers. 

Download our free report below for more holiday shipping insights!

The Disconnect Between Merchants and Customers 

One of the most important things to note about our findings is the current disconnect between merchants and customers. Here are a few of the main areas of contrast: 

  • 58% of customers say they plan to cut back on holiday shipping while 50% of merchants expect to increase their sales to increase this holiday season. 
  • 30.3% of customers say the cost of shipping is the biggest factor when deciding whether or not to buy from a business, but 34.7% of merchants plan to increase their shipping costs to offset inflation and other financial difficulties we’re facing this holiday season. 
  • 20.8% of customers say the delivery timeframe is the most important factor when considering a purchase, but 26.2% of merchants plan to update their shipping timeframes to offset costs. 

Customers are making their expectations and holiday shopping plans clear. For a successful holiday shopping season, your business may need to better align with your customers. For example, let your customers’ buying habits dictate your inventory strategies. Pay attention to which items are selling and which aren’t as well as the rate at which your products are selling to avoid a large amount of unsold inventory at the end of the season. Also, consider cutting costs in other areas by ordering free packaging from USPS and other carriers where available instead of increasing your customers’ shipping costs and/or using services with longer delivery windows. 

Where are Customers Planning to Cut Back?

58% of customers are planning to cut back on their holiday shipping, but where are these cuts going to occur? Out of our surveyed customers, three areas of products ranked the highest: 

  • Apparel – 26% 
  • Electronics – 22.3%
  • Toys – 20.9% 

If your business focuses on apparel, electronics, and/or toys, don’t panic. These insights are meant to help your business adjust your holiday shipping plan to better fit that of your customers. For businesses in these categories, we recommend focusing on promotions and deals. Look for bundling and discount opportunities for your products. For example, if your customer buys a pair of pants, run a promotion where another clothing product is free or heavily discounted. Your customers are going to be looking for deals wherever available, so your business may need to offer additional promotions to compete with other retailers. 

What Factors Do Customers Consider When Planning Their Purchases?

We’ve mentioned how and where customers are going to cut back on their purchases, but let’s shift the focus for a moment. When customers are purchasing gifts this year, what are their expectations? And, how can your business get your customers to complete their purchases? Here’s a breakdown of the contributing factors customers said determine whether or not they purchase from a business: 

  • Cost of delivery – 30.3%
  • Speed of delivery – 20.8% 
  • Convenient delivery – 18.7%
  • Convenient returns – 18.3%
  • Visibility  – 14.5% 
  • Carbon footprint – 10.4% 

Your customers are paying attention to their available shipping options and the features of each shipping option as well as your returns process. Now is the time to review all of the carrier services on your website. Check to see which shipping options have available tracking. Review the delivery window for each service to see how it coincides with the holiday season. Walkthrough your site from your customer’s viewpoint to see if you would be satisfied with all of the services provided. If you feel like your website needs a refresh, we’re going to help you with guidance on how to better implement customer expectations this holiday season. 

Download our free report below!

How to Save on Shipping Costs

When 30.3% of customers say the cost of shipping is one of the biggest contributing factors to whether or not they purchase from your store, your current shipping costs are worth looking into. Rising prices are affecting you as well as your customers. But, with the rates you get from USPS and UPS as a Stamps.com user, you can avoid raising shipping costs for your customers. 

USPS 

As of October 19, 2022, Stamps.com offers users lower USPS rates than ever before. You can expect up to 84% off retail rates and 15% off Commerical Plus Pricing (CPP) on Priority Mail, so the savings will add up with higher holiday shipping volumes. These rates will help you offer your customers reliable services like Priority Mail where they can track their packages and get their gifts usually within a 1-3 delivery window without having to raise your prices. Also, Priority Mail shipments can be shipped until Monday, December 19 and still arrive in time for Christmas, so your last-minute shoppers can utilize this service as well. 

UPS® 

Stamps.com users can also expect up to 88% off UPS International Services, 72% off Next Day Air and 2nd Day Air, and 77% off UPS Ground. This way, you can offer affordable shipping costs to all of your customers, including those who are looking for international shipping options.

Rate Advisor 

Our Rate Advisor will show you the cheapest shipping option available for your shipment as well as our recommendations and the fastest shipping options. Not only can you compare your shipping options, but once an option is selected, it will automatically show on your order where it’s ready to print. This way, you can choose the best shipping option for each shipment, depending on your customer’s needs. With the help of Rate Advisor, you can keep your shipping rates the same because you don’t have to select the same service for every shipment, and your customers will thank you. 

This is how Rate Advisor will appear on Stamps.com Online.

How to Offer Free Shipping 

As we’ve mentioned, customers take shipping costs highly into consideration when making purchases. Another way to gain an advantage over your competitors and align with customer expectations is to offer free shipping. During the holiday season, customers expect deals and promotions. However, with the rise of big marketplaces like Amazon giving customers the option for free shipping year-round, it’s worth considering free shipping during the holidays if your business is able. If you aren’t sure where to start, we’re going to give you a few tips on how to offer free shipping for this holiday season and beyond. 

Free Shipping Over a Certain Threshold 

Customers will be more likely to complete their purchase if there’s free shipping available, even if it’s over a certain threshold. With ongoing economic hardships, your business may need to choose between not raising shipping costs for customers and offering free shipping. A good compromise is to offer free shipping over a certain threshold. For example, you could offer free shipping for customers who purchase over $50 of products or more. During the holiday season, customers will be on the lookout for stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts, so they’re more likely to add items to their cart if it means they’ll receive free shipping. Higher sales will offset the cost of offering this free shipping. 

Social Media Promotions 

Social media is one of the most powerful tools you can use to promote your business for the holiday season; it’s also a great way to build customer engagement. Encouraging your customers to share photos of your products extends the reach to your potential customers, but how should you reward your current customers? That’s where the idea of free shipping comes in. Share exclusive codes for free shipping and discounts with your social media followers to boost your sales during the holidays. If you can’t offer free shipping to all of your customers, you can still reward your existing customers. 

How Can Stamps.com Help You Win This Holiday Shipping Season?

In addition to the shipping rates Stamps.com users can access and Rate Advisor, we have two other features designed to help you this holiday season: Branded Tracking and QR Code Returns. Returns and visibility were involved with two of the factors customers mentioned as contributors to whether or not they completed their purchases Branded Tracking gives your customers tracking information in a more personalized way, and QR Code Returns allow your customers a convenient returns process. We’ll dive more into these two features below. 

Branded Tracking

Branded Tracking notifications are customizable emails your customers receive when their packages are shipped. These notifications can include your business’s social media handles and contact information as well as the tracking link for your customer’s shipment. Including your social media handles on Branded Tracking notifications helps to promote any of the exclusive deals we mentioned in the previous section. 14.5% of customers stated tracking visibility was one of their biggest considerations when it comes to completing their purchases, and Branded Tracking helps them track their shipments with ease. 

This is a desktop preview of Branded Tracking from Stamps.com Online. 

QR Code Returns

Another feature we’d like to highlight is QR Code Returns. With 18.3% of customers stating that convenient returns were a major factor when deciding whether or not to purchase from a business, returns will be important this holiday season. QR Code Returns can be generated for shipments and sent directly to your customers. Once received, your customer can bring their return to USPS or UPS with the QR code to have the code scanned. After the code has been scanned, a return label will be generated, and USPS or UPS can receive your shipment. QR Code Returns make the returns process smoother for your customers because they’re able to get help directly from a carrier and don’t have to print a label in advance. 

This is an example of the QR Code Returns as it appears on Stamps.com Online.

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Conclusion

With so many financial struggles affecting the world, holiday shopping is going to look different than in years past. Your customers aren’t able to spend the same amount of money on gifts, but your business can still give them an excellent customer experience. Providing your customers with free shipping options will make purchases more likely. Using Stamps.com features like Rate Advisor will help you to find the most cost-efficient shipping options available, so you don’t have to raise shipping costs for your customers. Don’t be afraid to let your customers guide your business’s holiday shopping decisions. It’s more likely you’ll have a merrier holiday season if you do. 

For more holiday shipping 2022 insight, download our free ebook below!

4 Tips to Soften Holiday Shipping Carrier Surcharges

November 14th, 2022 Comments off

With ongoing inflation and supply chain issues, keeping your shipping budget on track will be challenging this holiday season; this includes budgeting for peak holiday surcharges from carriers. How can you offset higher shipping costs during the busiest shipping season of the entire year? Also, our study with Retail Economics found that 30.3% of customers think the delivery cost is the most important factor when trying to decide whether or not to purchase from a business. So, raising your shipping costs needs to be a last resort to better align with your customers’ expectations. We’re going to summarize some of these surcharges for you as well as give you the gift of four tips to help keep your holiday shipping budget intact. 

Summary of 2022 carrier holiday surcharges

Holiday surcharges are additional and/or increased fees that are applied to certain carrier services throughout the holiday shipping season. These surcharges typically include increases in the amount you pay for a service when using it to ship or increases in adjustments you can receive year-round for things like incorrect shipment measurements or using incorrect packaging. Holiday surcharges usually begin in early to mid-fall and stay in effect through the holiday season and into the new year. We’ve highlighted some of the biggest holiday surcharges for each carrier below. 

USPS*: Midnight (12:00 AM) on October 22, 2022 – Midnight (12:00 AM) on January 22, 2023 

  • $.25 – $6.50 increase for Priority Mail®  and Priority Mail Express® services with USPS Commercial Rates 
  • $.25 – $5.50 increase for First-Class Package Service, Parcel Select® Ground, and USPS Retail Ground®  services with USPS Commercial Rates 

*All USPS Holiday surcharges can be found on our blog

FedEx: September 5, 2022 – January 15, 2023

FedEx is basing holiday surcharges on shippers’ specific parcel volume. These charges will vary from $1.25 – $7, depending on the volume. We recommend visiting FedEx’s website directly for more information. 

4 tips to lower the impact of carrier holiday surcharges

Order free packaging

Carriers like USPS offer free packaging for services like Priority Mail, so you don’t have to worry about finding boxes on your own. You can even order some of these supplies directly from your Stamps.com account. Free USPS supplies usually arrive in 5-7 business days, so you can plan your supply orders accordingly throughout the holiday season. Also, when you order free USPS supplies through Stamps.com, some of these supplies can be automatically shipped after a specific timeframe, so you can just sit back and sip your hot chocolate. 

Carefully measure and weigh your shipments 

With peak holiday surcharges increasing costs, measuring your boxes correctly is more important than ever. Don’t be afraid to measure and weigh your boxes multiple times so your calculations are as accurate as possible. This way, you’ll cut down on the likelihood of receiving adjustment fees and charges, some of which increase during the holiday season.  

It’s also the perfect time to familiarize yourself with Dimensional, or DIM, weight. DIM weight is based on the measurements of your package as opposed to the number you see when you place your package on the scale. For USPS and UPS Shipping, you’ll start by finding your shipment’s volume (length x width x height). If this number is smaller than 1728, your shipping cost will be calculated based on your shipment’s actual weight. If this number is larger than 1728, you’ll divide this number by 166 to find your shipment’s DIM weight.*

*Note: If you’re shipping to Canada, you’ll divide this number by 139. 

Introduce product bundles to increase AOV

The holiday season is a great time to create product bundles because it can help increase your average order value or AOV. For example, if your store sells electronics, you could offer customers a new phone case and charging cable whenever they buy a new iPhone. These product bundles can even be promoted on your store’s website or in your customer communications to highlight deals and increase your AOV. A higher AOV means more money back to your store, so you can help offset the cost of holiday surcharges. 

Offer promotions to increase sales 

Offering free shipping or free shipping over a certain threshold are two of the best ways to earn more sales during the holidays. If a customer is close to the free shipping threshold, they’re more likely to grab an additional item or two. You can even showcase smaller items as recommended products to help your customers remember things they might have forgotten while shopping. Sending your repeat customers exclusive holiday discounts will also help to not only boost your sales but show your customers you care. 

Conclusion

Ongoing financial and availability strains are going to be prominent throughout this holiday season, so peak holiday surcharges are significant to budget for. The increases for these services are unavoidable, so finding ways to save on your shipping costs is key. Utilizing free USPS supplies, offering your customers promotions, creating product bundles, and measuring/weighing your shipments before buying postage are all easy ways to offset those surcharge costs. Taking the time to incorporate these tips into your holiday shipping routine will help you increase your sales and cut back on your shipping costs while setting you up for year-round success. 


Keep your holiday shipping merry and bright by signing up for a free trial with Stamps.com.

Categories: Shipping Tags:

How to Share Shipping Deadlines with Your Customers

October 28th, 2022 Comments off

It’s officially time to hang your stockings by the chimney with care…and post shipping deadlines for all your customers! You understand the importance of shipping deadlines, but your customers may not. Knowing the shipping deadlines for carriers can help your customers avoid any late gifts. The best way to stress the significance of shipping deadlines is to post them everywhere you can on your site. This way, your customers can’t avoid seeing these dates. 

To help you get started, we’ve gathered a list of tips from creating popups and in-cart messages to promoting these deadlines in your email campaigns and on social media. Communicating these deadlines clearly and creatively with your customers will give them a positive shipping experience and impression of your business. And hopefully, they’ll leave a holly jolly review for your business.

Make a dedicated holiday shipping page

Your customers should easily be able to find the shipping information they’re looking for. Making a page dedicated to the holiday shipping deadlines each year helps your customers by keeping all of the dates in one place. You can include this page in your marketing efforts by linking to it in email campaigns or sharing it on social media. Your customers will appreciate not having to scour the internet for dates, and you’ll also have a sheet for you and your team to reference during the busiest shipping season of the year.

Example of Apple.com’s dedicated shipping deadline page in order to receive an iPhone before Dec. 24.

Create a popup

We know that popups can be annoying, but they can be beneficial when it comes to communicating something major to your customers. Popups are hard to ignore which, in this case, is a good thing! However, we do recommend using your best judgment with popups. Don’t block other important parts of your site; opt for a side-scrolling popup instead. This way, your customers aren’t frustrated and close out of the shipping deadlines before fully realizing what they are.

Example of a popup window on MyRume.com highlighting the holiday shipping deadlines.

Send a “last day to order” email

Let’s face it — the holiday season is super busy, so it’s easy to forget things. Shipping deadlines are no exception. Remind all of the customers on your email list, including those who abandoned their carts, about shipping deadlines throughout the holiday season. Especially the closer it gets to the cutoffs. Although you may include them in your email campaigns throughout the season, it’s better to send one, final email a couple of days before the shipping deadlines hit. Using a subject line that includes something about the “last day to order” just might do the trick for all of your last-minute shoppers who need a nudge.

Example of an email sent by KateSpade.com messaging the last day to receive free ground shipping.

Add shipping questions to your FAQ page

FAQ pages can be essential during the holiday season. If your business has a clear and comprehensive FAQ section, your customers can avoid having to contact your business via call, chat, email, or whatever other customer service lines you have available. Giving your customers the option to find answers for themselves is a quick and easy way to boost their shopping experience. Some questions to answer in your FAQ section include: 

  • How much does shipping cost?
  • Do you offer overnight delivery?
  • When is the last day to purchase to receive a package by Dec. 24?
  • Do you ship to a PO Box?
  • Which shipping carriers do you use?
  • Do you ship to international addresses?
  • How can I track my package?
  • How quickly do you process orders at your warehouse from the time of order?
  • What do I do if I haven’t received my package?
  • What is your returns policy? 
Example of Vistaprint.com highlighting shipping questions on their FAQ page.

Add in-cart messaging

If a potential customer has already added a product to their cart, it’s up to you to convince them to complete their purchase. How can you give them the push they need? In-cart messaging is a great way to start! Add messaging that includes shipping deadlines as well as information about when their order will ship and if free shipping is included. Your customers will appreciate all of the proactive communication, and they’ll be more likely to finish their checkout. 

Example of a shipping deadline clock counting down inside a cart managed by WooCommerce.

Promote express shipping as deadlines pass

Sometimes, customers won’t be able to make their purchases before some of the earlier shipping deadlines. Although it’s more expensive, it’s still a good idea to highlight the expedited shipping options your business offers. Your customers will be more likely to use these options during this time of the year, and with Christmas on a Sunday this year, they might really need expedited shipping options where available. 

An example of BarkBox.com highlighting express shipping is still available after the Ground shipping deadline.

2022 domestic holiday shipping deadlines 

Now that we’ve shown you how to communicate the 2022 holiday shipping deadlines to your customers, it’s time to give you those deadlines! We’ve listed the shipping deadlines for UPS, USPS, and FedEx below. 

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • UPS 3 Day Select®: Monday, December 19, 2022 
  • UPS 2nd Day Air® services: Wednesday, December 21, 2022
  • UPS® Ground shipping: Check ups.com/ctc for details
  • UPS Next Day Air® services: Thursday, December 22, 2022

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • USPS Retail Ground™: Saturday, December 17, 2022 
  • First Class MailⓇ: Saturday, December 17, 2022 
  • Priority MailⓇ: Monday, December 19, 2022
  • Priority Mail ExpressⓇ*: Friday, December 23, 2022 

*Priority Mail Express postage refund eligibility is adjusted for shipments mailed December 22-25

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • FedEx GroundⓇ Economy: Thursday, December 8, 2022 
  • FedEx GroundⓇ:  Wednesday, December 14, 2022 
  • Home DeliveryⓇ: Wednesday, December 14, 2022 
  • Express SaverⓇ: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
  • 2DayⓇ Services: Wednesday, December 21, 2022 
  • FedEx Same Day: Friday, December 23, 2022

Conclusion

Shipping deadlines are more than dates on a calendar. These cutoffs are the last possible day your customers can order gifts and still have them arrive in time for the holidays. It may feel like you’re overcommunicating, but it’s easy to lose track of time during the holiday season, so reminders can be extremely helpful. Using your website, social media, and other pieces of your online presence to give your customers shipping deadlines elevates your customer service and shows your customers you care about their holiday season. 

Keep the holiday cheer going all year round with a 30-day free trial to Stamps.com.

Stamps.com Offers New, Lower USPS® Shipping Rates

October 19th, 2022 Comments off
Learn how Stamps.com is now offering the lowest USPS rates in the industry.

Stamps.com today announces the next phase of its decades-long partnership with the United States Post Office (USPS). In a renewed, direct agreement between the USPS and Stamps.com’s parent company, Auctane, we can now offer our customers lower shipping rates than ever before. 

What are the new USPS rates?

Our new agreement with USPS gives our valued customers the lowest USPS rates in the industry. Users can now expect savings of up to 84% off retail rates and up to 15% off Commercial Plus Pricing (CPP) on Priority Mail®. Stamps.com offers all the mail classes and delivery services of USPS right from the convenience of your computer.

When will rates go into effect? 

The new USPS rates have gone into effect as of October 19, 2022. Stamps.com customers automatically have access to these new rates. They do not need to take any steps to access them. 

Holiday Surcharges

In addition to automatically getting discounted rates, customers can (thankfully!) avoid high holiday surcharges this season. One thing to note, these holiday surcharges don’t apply to the weight and zone prices at CPP. But if it’s below CPP, you can avoid these surcharges!

What does this mean for Stamps.com customers?

As a Stamps.com customer, our renewed agreement with USPS gives you more savings on shipping costs than ever before. We want to ensure that our customers can manage their shipping operations efficiently, and our new agreement with USPS is another way we’ll continue to keep your shipping process running smoothly.

Categories: USPS News Tags:

2022 US Shipping Deadlines

October 14th, 2022 Comments off

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, it’s time to start communicating the 2022 holiday shipping deadlines to your customers. This way, they’ll know how long they have to place their orders, so all of their gifts will make it to their destinations in time. As a quick reminder, holiday shipping deadlines are the latest date you can ship a package with your carrier of choice and have that package arrive for the holidays. These holiday shipping deadlines are in place to account for the higher shipping volume seen throughout the season. The earlier you let your customers know, the better the customer experience…and the better the chance of getting some great customer reviews and engagement during the holiday season. 

Carrier Deadlines for the 2022 Holiday Season:

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • UPS 3 Day Select®: Monday, December 19, 2022 
  • UPS 2nd Day Air® services: Wednesday, December 21, 2022
  • UPS® Ground shipping: Check ups.com/ctc for details
  • UPS Next Day Air® services: Thursday, December 22, 2022

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • USPS Retail Ground™: Saturday, December 17, 2022 
  • First Class Mail: Saturday, December 17, 2022 
  • Priority Mail: Monday, December 19, 2022
  • Priority Mail Express*: Friday, December 23, 2022 

*Priority Mail Express postage refund eligibility is adjusted for shipments mailed December 22-25

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines

  • FedEx Ground Economy: Thursday, December 8, 2022 
  • FedEx Ground:  Wednesday, December 14, 2022 
  • Home Delivery: Wednesday, December 14, 2022 
  • Express Saver: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
  • 2Day Services: Wednesday, December 21, 2022 
  • FedEx Same Day: Friday, December 23, 2022

Make the holidays merry and bright with a 30-day free trial to Stamps.com

 

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