3 Steps to Meeting Consumer Expectations this Holiday Season

Consumer desires are at an all-time high during the holiday season. With the advent of quicker and cheaper order fulfillment, consumers have ratcheted up their expectations -- with many who take for granted a very narrow shipping window at a very low, or non-existent, price.

While rising to meet these sky-high demands may seem impossible, retailers who follow the steps below will be well-equipped to keep customers happy this holiday season.


1. Gather information from current customers

Data is king when it comes to meeting current and potential customers’ expectations. Using customer data, retailers can predict and adapt their shipping needs to projected volume increases and expedited holiday shipping time frames.

Companies should be sensitive to what their peak shipping levels have been historically. For example, if retailers have experienced shipping spikes during the week after Thanksgiving in the past, they should consider adding additional staff on the processing side this year to ensure there are no disruptions in order fulfillment.

Additionally, retailers should also consider cleansing their databases to ensure addresses are correct and valid. Not only will this step ensure customers receive the packages on time and without incident, but it has the bonus of reducing call center inquiries for missing packages.


2. Establish a holiday shipping plan of action with your shipping partner

In the best situation, retailers will have nailed down a plan of action with their shipping partner well in advance of the holiday season. This allows shipping partners enough time to set concrete expectations for delivery windows, time-in-transit and order spikes, ensuring customers continue to receive their packages with the same level of service regardless of logistical circumstances.

Retailers and shipping partners should stake out a plan with date ranges for anticipated shipping volume, company contacts for the customer service team and a contingency plan. During the months leading up to the holiday season, the shipping partner should be fully engaged with the sales team, communicating any additional considerations or potential adjustments to the plan.

Laying out a plan of action early allows retailers and shipping partners to be clear about expectations, and to then better strategize and prepare accordingly.


3. Take advantage of extra resources to stay ahead of the game

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and retailers can look to their shipping partners for insider knowledge. For example, carriers who are members of the Parcel Shippers Association are privy to notifications on upcoming changes in transit, which is a competitive asset for retailers looking to stay ahead of obstacles along the shipping journey.

An agile shipping partner should be equipped to adapt quickly to a retailer’s needs, such as increasing delivery speed, adding Sunday shifts and providing additional shipping lanes when there’s an increase in order volume. And if the situation calls for it, leading shipping partners can  bring in additional carriers to assuage any possible bottlenecks. During times of extremely high shipping volume, having multiple shipping partners spreads among multiple carriers the risk of delivery problems, reducing the possibility of delays and incorrect delivery.

The key to anticipating potential problems and resolving them promptly is communication and foresight. Retailers should use tracking updates, text alerts and a premium network for shipping to stay looped in at all times.

Happy Customer, Successful Retailer

For online shoppers, the shipping process, from tracking to timing, is a reflection of the brand they’re buying from. While consumer expectations are sure to be high this season, with the right knowledge, foresight and planning, retailers can deliver a superior customer experience throughout the sales funnel -- keeping customers happy and retailers successful this holiday season.