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Three steps for a more efficient and profitable 2020 holiday shipping season

shopping cart filled with holiday presents next to an hourglass representing efficiency during the holiday shopping season

The holiday shopping surge is now firmly on retailers – but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to keep looking for new ways to make your shopping experience as smooth as possible.

As the holiday season progresses, it often brings to light new areas where your operation could be further streamlined. By paying attention to these opportunities and making suitable adjustments, your business will be in a much stronger position to take advantage of the holiday spending rush. 

In this post, we’ll cover three steps that your business can take for a more efficient and profitable 2020 holiday season:

1. Prep your ecommerce site for increased traffic

With the risks presented by COVID-19, online shopping offers consumers both extensive gift-buying opportunities and a safe recreational activity. According to the National Retail Federation, ecommerce is projected to see a 20% to 30% jump in sales this holiday season.

While this is fantastic news for ecommerce merchants, the increased pressure on this channel makes it more important than ever to offer a positive online experience.

Your website will be consumers’ first impression of your business, and you need it to be favorable. Otherwise, they’ll move on to the next vendor!

Site speed

An ecommerce site that is slow to load or refresh is highly disruptive to the online shopping experience and causes many consumers to go elsewhere. It’s no different than standing in a long line at the checkout; if it’s going to be a long wait, we might decide that it’s just not worth the hassle. 

To improve your site speed, check that your images have been compressed to a manageable size and that all of your code is functioning correctly.

Showing real-time inventory levels

There are few things more frustrating than seeing a ‘sold out’ sticker on an item you’ve been browsing. As consumer spending spikes during the holiday season, items can quite literally fly off the virtual shelves. Showing real-time stock levels is immensely valuable because it helps consumers to gauge whether they need to ‘buy now’. As a retailer, it’s also a great technique to drive buyer urgency.

Live chat

One of the downsides of ecommerce as a channel is that consumers can’t just walk up to the nearest sales associate for more information – but you can provide the virtual equivalent.

Adding a live chat feature to your site is far more convenient for your customer than calling or emailing, and also makes it much easier for your representatives to track recurring questions or requests.

Returns information

In most cases, online shopping involves a customer buying a product that they haven’t tested or viewed in person. COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation due to people’s inability or reluctance to visit brick and mortar stores, meaning that return policies form a key part of the initial purchasing decision. 

When over half of U.S. consumers report that they avoid buying from retailers who don’t offer free returns, it’s important to make your returns policy concise and easy to find on your website. It’s a good idea to place a link within a banner on the home page as well as the footer to ensure that you can hook customers in with a favorable policy.

2. Take note of shifting consumer behaviors

Although holiday spending is set to be robust and help retailers finish the last quarter on a good note, it’s important to appreciate that consumers are still facing a lot of anxiety around spending.

2020 has been characterized by millions of furloughs and job losses, and these continue to have a detrimental effect on purchasing power. While the majority of consumers say that their financial situations remain similar to last year, one-third are reporting significantly worse outcomes.

Against this backdrop, merchants need to be mindful of how to appeal to this more cost-conscious segment.

With travel and cultural offerings, a lot less accessible due to the pandemic, product purchases are on the increase compared with previous years. Framing your offerings in the context of a likely home-bound festive season and New Year is a great way to boost your perceived value as a retailer.

Furthermore, research shows that where consumers are putting their money is being dictated by how retailers have responded to the pandemic. 57% of consumers say that they are inspired to shop with brands who they view as having supported their staff and local communities this year. 

With this in mind, it’s worth thinking about how your seasonal messaging and communications can speak to the efforts you’ve made to keep operations as normal as possible – consumers may thank you for it in the form of sales!

3. Use multi-node fulfillment strategies

The pandemic has forced many merchants to pivot their supply chain management and omnichannel strategies – but this hasn’t dampened consumer expectations for seamless retail experiences. 

With consumers more reliant than ever on ecommerce to fulfill their holiday shopping needs, they want greater reassurance that their orders will make it from A to B without disruption.

To fulfill this demand for ever-faster delivery, retailers need to think even more carefully about the placement of their warehouses and fulfillment centers. With brand reputation now resting more heavily on the efficiency of the order fulfillment process, ‘multi-node’ fulfillment networks carry a huge amount of strategic value.

When network ‘nodes’ (e.g. warehouses, distribution centers, and external 3PL partners) are in with consideration of their proximity to major ‘demand hubs’, you’re in a much better position to support increased delivery speed and overall flexibility during the festive season.

As a fulfillment provider with a nationwide fulfillment and distribution network, Whiplash makes it easy for merchants to get their stock to where they need it this holiday season using the most efficient logistics and transportation.

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