Holiday Ecommerce Tip: Post Your Shipping Deadlines All Over Your Site

November 11th, 2021 Comments off

The 2021 holiday sales season is going to be one for the record books. Deloitte is forecasting an 11% to 15% increase in 2021 holiday e-commerce sales compared with 2020. Online retail sales are projected to reach between $210 and $218 billion this holiday season.

While this is great news for online retailers, getting these orders from the warehouse to the buyer’s home can be very challenging, especially for orders submitted later in December.

Shipping Carriers Will Feel the Pressure
A huge chunk of this e-commerce delivery will be handled by the big three shipping carriers — USPS, UPS, and FedEx. All three are anticipating an extraordinarily busy holiday season. Just take a look at some recent news reports regarding parcel delivery:

  • UPS expects delivery demand during its peak season to exceed capacity by approximately five million pieces per day. The company is already adding capacity in advance, including two million square feet of additional sorting space and more cargo aircraft.
  • FedEx’s Ground network is rerouting more than 600,000 packages a day due to a shortage of workers. The carrier’s Home Delivery will deliver seven days a week during the holiday season.
  • USPS recently announced that some First Class Mail letters and packages will take longer to deliver as they are eliminating air delivery for the service.

Despite the shipping carriers ramping up their operations, delivery delays are inevitable and e-commerce sellers need to communicate shipping deadlines to their buyers in order to meet buyer expectations.

Communicate Shipping Deadlines Prominently On Your Site
The best way for your customers to avoid a shipping delay is to make sure they make purchases before the carrier cutoff dates. And there is no better way to create a sense of urgency than to make sure your customers see the actual shipping deadline dates everywhere on your site. From popups upon entering to a dedicated shipping page and in-cart alerts, promoting these shipping deadlines will help you create a positive customer experience.

Listed below are six suggestions of where you can effectively communicate your shipping deadlines:

#1 Create a dedicated holiday shipping page: Your customers should be able to find the shipping information they’re looking for easily. A great option is to create a unique “shipping deadline” page that you can guide all of your marketing messaging to that showcases all of the important shipping deadlines. It also allows you to easily show the delivery dates for Ground vs. Expedited shipping.

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

#2 Create a popup: While most people cannot stand popups, they can be very beneficial at communicating vital information about your products. Popups are hard to ignore (as you very well know!), so use this to your advantage. And since they’re relatively easy to add to the WordPress world, you can customize them for each date deadline.

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

#3 Send a “last day to order” email: Remind everyone on your email list — including everyone who has abandoned their cart — about the last day they can order products to receive the package before the holidays. A best practice is to include a deadline section in your monthly newsletters, but a “last day to order” email may be just the thing to nudge indecisive customers to make the purchase.

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

#4 Add shipping questions to your FAQ page: Not only is this a straightforward way to answer your customers’ questions, but it will also help eliminate calls to your customer service center. Generally, customers like to find info themselves quickly and your FAQ page is a great place to list valuable shipping deadlines. Here are some shipping-relateds questions you could 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?
• When is the last day to purchase to receive free shipping?
• 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?
• I haven’t received my package, what do I do?

Example of Vistaprint.com highlighting shipping questions on their FAQ page.

#5 Add in-cart messaging: If a potential customer has already added a product to their cart, they’re well on the way to making a purchase. And there is no better way to help motivate a purchase than by posting the shipping deadlines front and center inside the shopping cart.

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

#6 Promote express shipping as deadlines pass: Free and cheap shipping are the options that buyers want, and every research study proves that. But as ground deadlines pass, make sure you alert your customers that it’s still possible to get the products they want in time for the holidays by using expedited shipping.

Example of BarkBox.com highlighting Express shipping is still available after the Ground shipping deadline.

Carrier Deadlines for the 2021 Holiday Season
Here are the shipping deadlines by service level for 2021:

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines
• Dec. 21 – UPS 3-Day Select
• Dec. 22 – UPS 2nd Day Air
• Dec. 23 – UPS Next Day Air
• For UPS Ground, check UPS.com for a date/quote

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines
• Nov. 6 – APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) USPS Retail Ground service
• Dec. 9 – APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
• Dec. 15 – USPS Retail Ground service
• Dec. 16 – APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express Military service
• Dec. 17 – First Class Mail (greeting cards, postcards and large envelopes)
• Dec. 17 – First Class Package Service (up to 15.99 ounces)
• Dec. 18 – Priority Mail
• Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express
Check the USPS website for details about shipping to/from Alaska and Hawaii.

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines
• Dec. 15 – FedEx Home Delivery/FedEx Ground
• Dec. 21 – FedEx Express Saver
• Dec. 22 – FedEx 2Day
• Dec. 23 – FedEx 1Day Freight, FedEx Extra Hours
• Dec. 24 – FedEx SameDay

In summary, clearly communicate shipping information and deadlines on your site, and get ready for an ultra-busy holiday season!

Holiday E-commerce Sales Tip: Start Promotions Early in 2021

October 29th, 2021 Comments off

As the country slowly emerges from the COVID pandemic and the end of 2021 approaches, people are eager to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Life is back to normal in many places, and that’s excellent news for online sellers! To capitalize on this moment, online retailers should start your holiday sales promotions early this year. Continue reading to learn why.

2021 E-commerce Sales Are Already Up 9% Over 2020
The numbers over recent months clearly indicate that shoppers are ready to buy online. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy index, consumers spent $541 billion online between January 2021 and August 2021. That’s 9% more than the same period last year and 58% more than 2019.

Online sales in November and December are expected to grow at least 7% from a year ago. And the National Retail Federation is expecting a record year for both online and brick and mortar sales in Q4 2021.

Problems in the Supply Chain
Q4 does have some challenges. Cargo ships sit offshore, waiting to be unloaded. There’s a shortage of truck drivers and warehouse workers. Railroad terminals are backed up with goods waiting for transport. Shipping carriers are preparing to deal with a record number of e-commerce packages. Seemingly every link in the supply chain is experiencing its own problems.

Because of continuing supply chain problems, shoppers were already being advised in late summer to buy early. Both the shortage of goods and the extended time required for shipping and delivery mean that last-minute shoppers may be left without much to give at holiday time.

The Answer – Run Your Holiday Sales Promotions Early
Retailers, both online and brick and mortar, typically have their biggest sales promotions of the year during Thanksgiving weekend for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Green Monday to kick start their holiday sales. But 2021 is different – e-commerce sellers MUST start encouraging buyers to purchase early this year. And there is no better way to get sales moving than by running those Black Friday deals early this year. Getting customers to buy early will get product into their hands quickly while eliminating last minute inventory or delivery issues.

4 Easy Sales Promotional Ideas
Given the uniqueness of this year’s holiday season, how can you promote your products? Here are a few sales promotions that work well:

#1 Start an abandoned cart email campaign: An abandoned cart occurs when a potential buyer views your store and places a product in the shopping cart, but then leaves your site without making the purchase. Stats show that 7 out of 10 customers will leave a store shipping cart without making a purchase. Recapturing these customers could equate to big revenue. And a great way to recapture these customers is to use a personalized email highlighting the products that are still waiting in the shopping cart for them. You can even help give them a nudge by offering a coupon code for free shipping or a percentage off the sale.

Example of Casper.com email that is sent to customers who abandon the cart without making a purchase.

#2 Create coupons and discount codes: Speaking of coupon codes, this is a great method to help provide an immediate incentive to the buyer to make a purchase. Ideas include free shipping, 10% or 20% off the retail price, Buy One Get One and flash sales (short sales, typically for a few hours). Buyers can easily input the coupon code during check out and have the discount applied to their order in the cart. Nearly all shopping cart platforms allow you to easily make coupon codes. Don’t forget – along with posting coupon codes on the site, advertising and in email, you can also send them out via SMS text messages.

Example of JCPenney sending an SMS text to customers that highlights a promo code “CYBTXT” for 20% off.

#3 Bundle Best Selling Products with High Margin Products: Bundling products is a great way to increase average order value. The idea is to package a few different products together as a “bundle” and then sell the bundle package at a lower price than if you bought them all separately. For reference, the combo at your local fast food restaurant is a great example of how bundling increases the average order value. Typically, you want to make sure the bundle package all has complimentary products (i.e. cell phone case to go with the cell phone) and includes a high selling product (to catch the buyer’s attention) along with a high margin product (to help you make profit).

Example of Best Buy bundling a Canon camera, light and microphone at a reduced price.

#4 Run after-Christmas sales to increase profits: Don’t forget, the holiday sales don’t need to stop just because December 25th has come and gone. Retailers often have extra inventory from products that were not as popular as you anticipated. Plus, some buyers could have received cash or gift cards for Christmas. A good after-Christmas sale gives them a opportunity to use those gift cards!

Example of Morton Golf Sales promoting an after-Christmas sale for up to 15% off with a coupon code

Good luck and happy sales this holiday season!

Introducing Rate Advisor: Compare Shipping Rates Across Carriers

October 25th, 2021 Comments off

Rate Advisor is a new tool built into Stamps.com that helps you find the lowest shipping rate for every package you ship. The feature lets you instantly compare shipping rates and delivery times across different carriers using all of your relevant package information such as destination address, package weight and box size.

Instantly compare rates and delivery times across different carriers and services.

  • Filter by carrier, delivery speed, price and more
  • Simply select the best option and print your label
  • Never overpay for shipping again
  • Includes all of our amazing discounted rates from USPS and UPS
  • Built right into Stamps.com, nothing to download
  • Super easy to use

How to Use Rate Advisor from the MAIL tab:

#1 In the MAIL Tab, prepare a shipment. Enter the Name and Ship to Address, Weight, and Dimensions, just as you would for any shipment. Then, open the Service or Carrier drop down menu and Click “Compare Services and Rates…”

#2 Rate Advisor will open in a new window. The shipment information (destination city, weight and box size) you entered is displayed at the top of the window. The Shipping Options and Carriers you have enabled are displayed, with the lowest price at the top.

Rate Advisor offers 3 different ways to display Shipping Options:

  • Recommended: our default setting for the most compatible shipping options
  • Cheapest: the lowest cost but the package may take longer to arrive
  • Fastest: the most expensive option but gets your package to the destination the quickest. Great for Expedited Shipping.

#3 Select your shipping choice (between Recommended, Cheapest or Fastest) at the top of Rate Advisor window. A new window will appear to confirm your shipping service choice and carrier. Select “Yes” or “No.”

#4 After confirmation, your selected Carrier and Service are automatically displayed in your ship order and you are ready to print your shipping label.

How to use Rate Advisor from the ORDERS tab:

#1 In ORDERS, prepare a Manual Order. Enter the Name and Ship To Address, Package Weight, and Box Dimensions, just as you would for any shipment. Then, open the Carrier drop down menu and Click “Compare Services and Rates…”

#2 Rate Advisor will open in a new window. The shipment information (destination city, weight and box size) you entered is displayed at the top of the window. The Shipping Options with Carriers you have enabled and Services are displayed, with the lowest price at the top.

Similar to the MAIL tab, RATE ADVISOR offers 3 different ways to display Shipping Options:

  • Recommended: our default setting for the most compatible options.
  • Cheapest: the lowest cost but the package may take longer to arrive.
  • Fastest: the most expensive option but gets your package to the destination the quickest. Great for Expedited Shipping.

#3 Select your shipping choice (between Recommended, Cheapest or Fastest) at the top of Rate Advisor window. A new window will appear to confirm your shipping service choice and carrier. Select “Yes” or “No.”

#4 After confirmation, your selected Carrier and Service are automatically displayed in your ship order and you are ready to print your shipping label.

Start using Rate Advisor today to find the lowest shipping rate to meet your delivery requirements!

How to Build an Effective Ecommerce Checkout Flow for Your Business

September 24th, 2021 Comments off

Online sales are skyrocketing. In the first quarter of 2021, ecommerce sales increased by 39.1% from the same period in 2020. If you run an ecommerce business, there is a vast market where you can get significant revenue.

However, while your small business website has high traffic and your customers fill their carts with products, your sales might still be lower than expected. The reason? High cart and checkout abandonment rates.

This guide will explain how you can optimize your ecommerce checkout flow to guide customers from filling their cart to completing a purchase. You will learn what a typical checkout flow looks like, the difference between cart and checkout abandonment, and discover seven ways to improve your website’s checkout flow.

What is a typical checkout flow?

The ecommerce checkout flow consists of the steps your customers take to browse for products and make a purchase. The checkout flow transforms website visitors into buyers. It typically has seven steps:

typical cart checkout flow

The ecommerce business checkout flow serves two main purposes:

  1. Allow customers to pay for products
  2. Gather information about the customer, such as their name and email address.

You’ll need customer information for future promotions. Gathering customer data also allows you to make future purchases more convenient for the customer.

Checkout abandonment vs. cart abandonment: what’s the difference?

We’ve outlined the typical checkout flow, but where do customers abandon their cart or abandon the checkout in this process? And what is the difference between checkout abandonment and cart abandonment?

The difference between checkout abandonment and cart abandonment lies in when the user abandons the purchase.

understanding checkout abandonment

Image Created By Writer

Cart abandonment occurs when a customer adds products to their cart and leaves the site without proceeding to payment. According to Statista, customers abandoned an average of 88.05% of online carts in 2020. The typical reasons for cart abandonment include a lack of genuine interest in products or unstable websites.

In contrast, checkout abandonment occurs after the customer enters their payment details and before making the payment. Customers abandon the checkout process because of high shipping costs or additional fees, complicated processes, or forced account creation.

Luckily, whether you’re already running an online shop or plan on starting an online business, there are many ways you can optimize your checkout flow to reduce rates of cart and checkout abandonment and boost your sales.

7 ways to make your checkout flow more efficient

The first part of this guide sets the context. Now we get to the meaty part of the guide. What follows are seven strategies you can implement to make your checkout flow more efficient.

#1 Be upfront about extra costs

Extra costs at checkout, such as shipping, tax, and fees, is the top reason for checkout abandonment. There is nothing worse than being shocked by extra costs when they try to check out a purchase for customers.

top customer reasons for cart abandonment

Source: Baymard

Removing additional fees at the time of checkout doesn’t mean you need to shoulder the costs of shipping and taxes. However, you need to be transparent about costs before the checkout process begins. When customers view their cart, your site should display all the added fees, so there are no surprises at the end of the process.

Providing a way for customers to control these costs will help keep cart abandonment rates low. You could offer multiple shipping options such as USPS Priority Mail, increase your listed product prices upfront to account for shipping and handling, or waive shipping costs for orders over a certain amount.

#2 Optimize loading speed

If you want to buy a product, but the website keeps crashing or won’t load, there’s a good chance you won’t go ahead with the purchase. In addition, poor website performance can also damage your visitors’ trust in your business.

Many factors could affect your website’s loading speed. These include:

  • A poor web hosting provider
  • Third-party ads
  • Widgets and plugins
  • Large image and video files

The checkout flow has many steps and different pages, so all the pages in the checkout process should load quickly. You can use Google Pagespeed Insights or other free services to check your website’s load speed.

If your pages consistently take too long to load, it might be time to find the reason. If widgets, ads, or large images and video files slow your website speed, you may need to remove these. Otherwise, it might be time to upgrade your hosting or ecommerce platform provider.

#3 Don’t force your customers into creating an account

Many ecommerce businesses encourage users to create an account as it can facilitate repeat purchases and lets the retailer send marketing emails to the user. However, some customers would rather abandon their cart or checkout process than provide their email address as they feel it’s an unnecessary step.

example of cart checkout as guest

Source: UXdesign.cc

Giving your customers the option to check out as a guest will help improve conversion rates. You may also use an API to allow customers to register using their social media or Google account.

#4 Make the purchase sequence as simple as possible

A complicated and confusing checkout flow can be a killer for your conversion rates. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can streamline the purchase sequence to make checking out easy and fast for your customers. These include:

  • Offer multiple payment options: Letting your customers pay with a digital wallet such as Apple Pay, PayPal, or Klarna will make checking out more convenient.
  • Create a mobile app: More and more ecommerce businesses have dedicated mobile apps to allow customers to make purchases and access after-sales support.
  • Display cart contents in real-time: When a customer views their cart, they want to see thumbnail images, size and color selection, price and quantity clearly.

By making the purchase sequence clear and easy to follow, you make the overall experience more pleasant for the customer, which helps reduce checkout abandonment.

#5 Add trust badges to your checkout page

When checking out, ensuring that your website appears trustworthy to customers is essential to getting your customers to complete their transactions. After all, they are entering their payment details and are about to give you their hard-earned money. Online shoppers are increasingly wary of websites that could be stealing their data or scamming them.

Trust badges are a great way to show customers that you are a legitimate business. Some trust badges to add to your website include:

  • Money-back and returns guarantee: Adding badges to the checkout pages that remind customers you offer free returns and/or a money-back guarantee is a great way to reassure them while making their purchase.
  • Free shipping: A free shipping badge displayed on your website and at each stage of the checkout flow reassures customers that shipping will be free and they won’t encounter any surprises at checkout.
  • Accepted payments: This badge shows your customers the payment method your site accepts, such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, or American Express.
  • Third-party endorsements: Third-party endorsement badges show that your business is credible. The Better Business Bureau Accredited Business and Google Customer Review badges are both trustworthy badges to add to your ecommerce website.

Trust badges are a great way to reassure your customers that your ecommerce business is legitimate, trustworthy, and flexible in terms of payment methods, shipping, and returns.

#6 Send cart and checkout abandonment emails

Even if you’ve made your checkout flow simple and straightforward, a few are still bound to fall through the cracks. Cart and checkout abandonment emails can boost conversion by encouraging customers to complete their purchases.

sending emails for cart abandonment

Source

When customers abandon their cart or checkout, they tend to forget it altogether. However, sending a checkout abandonment email can help your business save abandoned transactions. One report found that 50% of users who clicked on cart abandonment emails pushed through with the purchase, proving that abandonment does not need to be a dead end.

To create that FOMO, you can provide a discount for a limited time. You can use an email countdown timer to add that extra bit of pressure to make them complete a purchase.

#7 Add an auto-save feature to your shopping cart

Sometimes customers need time to decide whether or not to buy a product. If they leave an item in their cart, leave your site, and return to see an empty cart, they probably won’t be inclined towards repeating their browsing experience.

Adding an auto-save feature to your online shopping cart means when customers return to your site, their cart will still have all their chosen products in it. An auto-save feature makes it easy and convenient for customers to continue with their purchases.

Removing additional fees at the time of checkout doesn’t mean you need to shoulder the costs of shipping and taxes. However, you need to be transparent about costs before the checkout process begins. When customers view their cart, your site should display all the added fees, so there are no surprises at the end of the process.

Providing a way for customers to control these costs will help keep cart abandonment rates low. You could offer multiple shipping options such as USPS Priority Mail, increase your listed product prices upfront to account for shipping and handling, or waive shipping costs for orders over a certain amount.

Wrapping Up

When you run an ecommerce business, it’s easy to focus your efforts on driving website traffic and optimizing your website’s appearance and usability. However, you should not forget to build an effective checkout flow to encourage your customers to complete their purchases.

The methods we’ve discussed in this article aim to improve your process flow by removing barriers to smooth checkout and reducing cart and checkout abandonments. While they may seem different, they all seek to make the process simple and convenient for your customers. When you accomplish this goal, you can expect an increase in orders and revenue.

Bio

Jimmy RodriguezJimmy Rodriguez is the COO of Shift4Shop, a completely free, enterprise-grade ecommerce solution. He’s dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimized shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance

Back-To-School Tips for E-commerce Sellers

August 10th, 2021 Comments off

After the 2020 pandemic forced many students to learn remotely at home, schools are finally reopening for in-person learning. Parents want a fresh start for their kids this fall and will set them up for success by making sure their K through 12 and college students have all the right tools and essentials. With the National Retail Federation expecting around $82.8 billion in back-to-school sales for 2021, sellers need to prepare for a season that will likely exceed pre-pandemic spending.

E-commerce sales for Back-to-School are expected to be 53% higher than 2019, according to a forecast by Mastercard SpendingPulse.

Let’s Look at the Stats
With parents feeling like their kids missed out last year and children excited to reunite with classmates, this year’s back-to-school and college seasons are expected to be the biggest ever. Many retail experts are projecting a sales growth of 6.7% from 2019 and 5.5% from 2020, with online shopping expected to be 53% higher than it was in 2019. Additionally, gone will be the days of wearing pajamas to the virtual classroom. Apparel sales will likely rise a sizable 78% with footwear up 21% from 2020.

Here are three tips for E-Commerce Sellers to Increase Back-to-School Revenue:

Tip #1 – Create a Back-to-School Landing Page:
Customers are looking for an easy way to shop for school supplies. A custom back-to-school landing page with items organized into convenient categories helps them find everything they need. You can categorize items using a variety of demographics such as gender, age, price or best sellers. Get people to return to your landing page by utilizing Google Ads, email lists and social media.

Tip #2 – Demonstrate How Your Products Fit Into People’s School Lives:
Get creative with your displays! You can boost your sales by taking the extra step beyond just showing your merchandise on a shelf or as a standalone item. If you’re selling pens, pencils and paper, arrange them on a school desk. If you’re selling bathroom decor, bedding or other furniture, create a dorm-like setting to stage your wares. Photograph your items in a classroom setting and use them in your marketing collateral.

Tip #3 – Market the Correct Products to the Right People:
When stocking items, think beyond the obvious back-to-school shoppers. There are a variety of people to keep in mind when it comes to going back to the classroom. Parents of younger students are looking for snacks, travel eating utensils, computer and audio equipment, stickers, paper, pens, uniforms and a variety of educational materials. College-aged students will shop for phone cases, bathroom supplies and sportswear while also looking to outfit their dorm rooms with desks, bedding and decor. Don’t forget about teachers! Cleaning products and general school supplies are always a necessity.

Final Back-to-School Thoughts
Besides the Christmas and holiday seasons, back-to-school season is one of the busiest and most profitable times of the year for online retailers. With in-person learning fast approaching, now is the time for retailers to prepare so they can ace this year’s back-to-school rush.

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