This blog is contributed by Australia Post. Australia Post is the largest parcels, freight and logistics provider in Australia, servicing Australia’s largest retail and delivery network.
If you’re in the eCommerce business, the holiday shipping season is a time when you can really prosper. And, if you’re selling – and sending – overseas, there’s no better time than now to get ready for holiday success.
Working in Australia’s largest and most trusted freight and logistics provider, it feels like our ‘peak period’ planning starts earlier and earlier every year.
Australians buy around $14 billion of online goods each year but the holidays are, by far, the busiest time for online shopping. In fact, last year Australian shoppers spent $3.1 billion online in the six weeks before Christmas (US shoppers spent about $69 billion during the holiday season).
While our busiest delivery weekend took place over 19-21 December, with 1.96 million parcels delivered to Australian households on 21 December alone, Australia Post delivered more than 30 million items from October through to the end of the year – highlighting the importance of early preparation.
Australians account for around 30% of the world’s cross-border shoppers and are third – behind only China and the UK – as the United States’ biggest international market for online retail.
The savviest of shoppers are already researching gift ideas for the holidays. With 28% of all Australian online purchases in 2015 occurring between October and December, shoppers will soon be online, browsing retail sites, looking for gift ideas and finding the best deals. From mid-September, they’ll be ready to buy. And you need to be ready for them.
If you’ve set your sights on delivering products and services beyond the USA, an extra element of careful and prompt planning is required to ensure you do it successfully.
Here are my top tips for a bumper cross-border festive season:
Timing is everything
Christmas falls on a Sunday in 2016. As a result, in the United States, Australia and a number of other countries, the Christmas Day federal (or ‘public’) holiday will be observed on Monday 26 December.
And, since Australia is known as “the lucky country”, Aussies get the added bonus of the Boxing Day holiday (also Australian retail’s biggest sales day of the year) on 26 December. This, however, means parcel delivery services won’t resume until Wednesday 28 December.
Think about what impact the holidays have when you’re delivering products to far-flung corners of the world. Have you thoroughly researched the markets that you sell into? Does your shipping company offer extra services that improve their capacity to deliver for you at this busy time of year? Australia Post and StarTrack offer receivers a weekend delivery option and extended post office trading hours in the month leading up to Christmas.
Thankfully, gone are the days of waiting months for packages to arrive in Australia from the US when you’re sending by air. But, if you receive an order even two weeks before Christmas, can you process and get it delivered in time? How long does customs clearance take?
Calculate your last dates for delivery before the holidays, work backward and take into account how long it takes to ship, pack and pick. Then, be crystal clear on your website about last dates for delivery so you don’t disappoint customers.
For a regular C2C delivery by post, depending on whether you’re using a Standard or Express shipping option, end-to-end delivery transit time between the US and Australia can take 5-12 days.
However, if you’re running an online business internationally, and lodging a number of consignments, we suggest lodging your items by no later than 7 December, which allows time for your parcels to be origin processed and shipped for lodgment in the Australian domestic network by 16 December – therefore allowing plenty of time for last-mile delivery.
Add value by giving the gift of choice
Some of the top reasons people shop online include flexibility, fast delivery and convenience. As the holiday season approaches, you want to make it easier than ever for your customers to receive their orders wherever they are.
History tells us that offering faster delivery times pre-Christmas leads to particularly strong December sales and a surge in last-minute shopping.
Most shipping and delivery companies offer multiple delivery speeds. Australia Post’s Express service is both an economical and efficient way to get your product into your customer’s hands-on time.
Don’t forget to dangle the carrot of free shipping or free returns. You may find that your delivery partners have special offers on flat-rate shipping during the holiday season, to help you subsidize these costs and pass on the benefits to your customers.
Clear messaging around your delivery policies and returns on your website is also important. The more informed your customers are, the more comfortable they’ll be buying from you, and the less likely they’ll be to reach out to your customer care team.
Finally, think of ways to add value and festive cheer to the delivery experience. Do your shoppers want the option of gift wrapping or a customized greeting card? Complimentary gift wrapping is a simple but very effective add-on that your customers are sure to love, but be sure to let your customers know if this will slow down the fulfillment process.
Know your market
Knowing what your customers want is the key, especially if you’re a new player branching out in an international market.
All year round, data should influence how you profile your products, design your website, highlight popular options, modify your marketing approach, and even curate your shipping choices. But, ahead of the holidays, your shoppers may be looking for things that are more specific. Surveying them is one way to find out. Or you can draw on research that already exists.
A couple of months ago, Australia Post released the findings of the most comprehensive online shopping study ever undertaken in Australia, Inside Australian Online Shopping.
The report showed that while Australians enjoy the one-stop shop convenience of online department & variety stores during the festive season, Media (such as books and tablets) was the biggest growth category, up 31.7% year-on-year. This was followed by Recreational Goods – which includes camping and sporting gear, as well as automotive parts – at 20.5%, Health & Beauty items (19.4%) and Games & Toys (13.6%).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, if you’re selling games and toys to Australia, you may find the graphs below particularly promising. They reflect game and toy sales trends throughout 2014 and 2015, with yearly spikes during October, November and December.
Lock down your logistics – globally and locally
Like the US, Australia’s land mass is vast, which means we have a lot of ground to cover when making deliveries. The good news is, technology is also creating opportunities for businesses of all sizes to be nimble and innovative without having a local footprint.
In order to develop an effective supply chain strategy, some businesses find it useful to narrow their target audience and regions, employing trusted experts on the ground, and even marketing their goods differently.
This is where you want to partner with suppliers and providers who have the scale, reach and expertise to help you extend your reach, improve your credibility, reduce your costs, or enable logistics that you can’t do on your own.
Australia Post, via its StarTrack International division, has gateway operations throughout the US – as well as the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. These logistics hubs can connect you with supply chain services from your manufacturing facility right through to the delivery point in Australia, whether that’s a business or a consumer.
Because of our scale advantage, we operate a regular and consistent air linehaul into all four major Australian ports. It’s a decentralised model, meaning we can minimise interstate deliveries to ensure faster speed-to-market and supply chain reliability, resulting in a consistent delivery experience.
The good news is, through our integration with ShipStation, your business has access to Australia’s largest delivery network, label processing and printing, self-service tracking and (for Australia Post-contracted customers) access to our usual bulk shipping rates. Our last-mile delivery and post office network covers every corner of the country, making us accessible to everyone, Australia-wide. Our infrastructure includes:
- 4,400 post offices (including 2,560 regional and remote – each of them a secure parcel collection point)
- More than 25,000 customer access points – enabling easy returns of online purchases nationwide
- Delivery of up to 100 million items each week, to 11.4 million delivery points in Australia
- More than 18,000 Parcel Lockers across 240-plus locations
- Parcel Collect service choose from up to 3,500 Post Offices across Australia that offer our Parcel Collect service with Safe parcel storage for up to 10 business days
- MyPost – access to in-flight options like redirecting parcel to another address and time-specific deliveries
And, in New Zealand, our partnership with NZ Post provides you with access to an import gateway (airport-side) which also ensures parcels are transported directly into New Zealand’s last mile network.
While global ambitions can come with a host of challenges – least of all by adding links to your supply chain – but get it right early enough, and it can also be quite lucrative.