For brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce companies, the game is on. With the holiday season shopping crunch just around the corner, most have launched their yearly preparations – and the pressure is looming to effectively implement plans in order to profit wisely. Logistics and shipping may not be top of mind when planning for the season but they should be.

What should businesses be thinking about?  It’s extra important to ensure you have coordinated with your suppliers, and planned for extra volume with the right amount of product delivered to your stores and warehouses. Sellers also need a clear and enticing shipping and return policy for customers – along with security and reliability at every transactional touch point. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, businesses need to have a powerful marketing strategy in place to bring customers to the store or website. You need to have creative discounts, specials and promotions lined up. Staff levels must be set appropriately for both brick-and-mortar operations and e-tailers to handle the extra traffic, and standardized training is essential. In the e-commerce realm, website infrastructure, shipping and promotions must all be aligned, as this Inc.com article explains.

But, while so many elements contribute to a successful selling strategy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is little argument that a good shipping plan and a strong partner can make the difference.  When developing your shipping and logistics tactics, here are some key considerations:

  1. Make your shipping offer count: In the e-commerce realm, shipping costs can be a decisive factor. During the holiday season, most online customers expect to receive free shipping with a minimum purchase, and many actively seek out free shipping for returns and exchanges. The fact is, notification of shipping costs during an online transaction is a key reason for shopping cart abandonment. With this in mind, even the smallest e-tailers must consider free shipping, and during the Cyber Monday rush, offering free shipping with no minimum purchase can set your site apart.  Finally, be sure to clearly display estimated delivery dates.  At DHL Express, we offer real-time, detailed progress of customers’ shipments as they move through our network.
  1. Create a clear and enticing return policy: E-commerce policies vary from country to country and businesses should be aware of the policies impacting their customers. For example, a new European Union rule took effect in June requiring e-tailers to allow customers 14 days to return unwanted goods. For more guidance on this directive you can the European Commission’s website. Many online customers actively research return policies before deciding on a purchase.  Coupled with the fact that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing one, retailers should make their policy readily apparent up front, and consider free returns for the holiday season. Also, consider an item’s return rate, which gives the company a good idea of how many returns to expect. Internet Retailer highlights several studies noting that customers will buy more and more often when they are confident in the return process. A recent Business Insider article described what makes a great return policy and listed five retailers with the best return policies, ranking Nordstrom, Zappos and L.L. Bean as the top three.
  1. Get your supply chain in top gear: For both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce companies, effective and constant coordination with suppliers and manufacturers is essential during the holiday season. While predicting in-store or in-stock inventory needs is difficult, it’s important to align your suppliers and give them as much notice as possible.   And, it’s always a good idea to ensure your shipping partner is prepared and ready to handle your influx of packages.
  1. If your business is global, make sure your shipping is too: To expand and grow, many companies, including small businesses, are going global. And finding it easy and profitable to do so. Whether you are an e-tailer only or have a physical place of business, international buyers can significantly boost your bottom line – an issue that we at DHL have studied and written about extensively, including in this recent blog post on why it makes sense to go global. With Cyber Monday approaching, if your audience is global, you must have a shipping partner in place who understands the international rules and has a firm presence in markets globally.

Is your business ready for the holiday shopping season?