Ace the Holiday Selling Season: Strategic Insights From 2016’s Top Online Retailers
This blog was contributed by Lindley Graham, who leads the creation of insightful eCommerce and shipping content for merchants via Canada Post. Canada Post delivers two out of every three parcels in Canada and works with merchants of all sizes to power their end-to-end e-commerce strategies. This provides unique insights into the nation’s e-commerce market and shopper base – essential info for anyone selling into Canada.
The holiday selling season is a make or break period for most merchants. It’s important to think through the entire business – from your marketing, inventory, shipping pricing and timing, to your returns policy – because shoppers are paying attention. Nailing down a smart holiday strategy is crucial to not only survive the holiday season – but ace it.
Since 2013, Canada Post has monitored top eCommerce brands in Canada to evaluate how changes to their product promotions, shipping offers, deadlines and logistics have influenced eCommerce shipping volumes during the holiday season. Each year, we share these unique insights in our Holiday Survival Guide to help merchants understand market trends so that you can plan the next holiday season’s strategy and operations more effectively.
What key 2016 discoveries should inform your holiday selling season’s strategy?
Think Cyber Month, not Cyber Monday
One key trend seen in 2016: successful merchants leverage pre-sales before Cyber and Boxing Week and sustain promotional activity from mid-November until year-end. Pre-sales allow you to test promotions to see what resonates best with your audience. Plus, attracting shoppers’ interest earlier on can extend these lucrative shopping windows and level out the number of orders you receive. This helps you avoid fulfillment bottlenecks from surging sales volumes.
Pair Sales and Shipping Promos for Maximum Impact
Shoppers are on the hunt for the best possible deals during the holidays – and shipping promotions are no exception to this. Last year, merchants who paired sales and restriction-free shipping promotions during Cyber and Boxing Week benefitted from greater lift in volumes compared to the previous week.
If you’ve considered trying a free shipping promotion, the holidays are a perfect time to test this strategy. Removing this common barrier to purchase helps win over new customers. It can even divert purchase volume online, helping out busy storefronts.
Establish Realistic Deadlines – and Communicate Them
You’re working hard to maximize selling opportunities throughout the holiday season – so why stop short of the final shopping days? Retailers who extend their selling days beyond the average December 18th shipping deadline can drive sales with last minute shoppers. To make this work, ensure that your fulfillment strategy can handle a last minute rush. And don’t forget to promote your shipping deadlines front and center on your website. This approach assures shoppers that their purchases will arrive before the big day – and help close the sale.
Tip: Knowing your carrier’s shipping deadlines is a crucial element to help you set your own. Here are Canada Post’s 2017 holiday shipping deadlines for Canada:
Think Through Your Returns Strategy Now
Your returns strategy matters more during the holidays than any other selling season, for most retailers. The majority of purchases are gifts, so shoppers want to see your returns policy highlighted upfront on your site (only 18% of merchants did so during 2016’s season). And they want the actual experience of the return to be simple and hassle-free. Look at your returns experience as an acquisition strategy – you can deliver a positive experience to first-time shoppers, one that turns them into repeat customers during the New Year.
Acing the holiday season isn’t an easy feat, even for the most successful retailers – but they all started somewhere. Use Canada Post’s four key ecommerce findings from 2016 holiday trends to discover growth opportunities. What are you already working on that you can change with just a little effort for the holiday selling season? Are there areas where you can easily leverage online shoppers’ behaviors and see a maximum return for your business? Prioritize what makes sense for your business and your shopper base to prep for this holiday season and beyond.
For more insights and tips on how to maximize the holiday season including key shipping deadlines for 2017, download Canada Post’s Holiday Survival Guide.