Holiday Communications 2020: It’s All About The Shipping

With the pandemic’s continued social distancing and store closures, more consumers than ever will be doing this year’s holiday shopping via a website. The Retail Council of Canada’s holiday survey notes that in 2020, 42% of all holiday shopping will be online—a significant jump from last year’s 28%.

As a result, shipping companies have already sounded the alarm about potential delays and backlogs. “We are warmed up for what we’re calling the ship-a-thon,” a FedEx executive recently told Global News. “Like everything else in 2020, this is going to be an unprecedented peak season.”

Even Amazon, which has built its own delivery network to minimize its reliance on outside providers, is warning of lengthy delays.

And all despite extra hiring: Fed Ex and UPS have both significantly ramped up their holiday staff and expanded weekend operations, while Amazon hired 100,000 temporary workers just for the holiday season.

As a result, many fulfillment providers have been warning consumers they need to shop early this year. But so far the message has not resonated: Only 21% of RCC respondents said they plan to shop earlier, while 71% plan to shop at the same time they normally would.  

All of which makes shipping timelines and policies a critical differentiator for retailers. When the RCC asked which factors will dictate their choice of retailer this holiday season: 

  • 24% of respondents said quick shipping of online orders  
  • 21% said a seamless online ordering and delivery process
  • 16% said a guaranteed shipping date

It’s a big hurdle for retailers: They’re now facing a heightened set of consumer needs and concerns. So how can they rise to the challenge?

1) Develop responsive, effective messaging that:

  • Takes the shipping out of the fine print: This year, shipping details can no longer be relegated to mouse type; they need to take centre stage.  
  • Highlights turnaround times for each product: Be ultra-transparent with consumers—let them know what to expect.
  • Turns delivery-focused messaging into campaigns: Imagine a holiday flyer where delivery time accompanies the price on every item, or all items are sorted by shipping timelines: “Here’s what you can order by December 15 and still receive by Christmas… Here’s what you can order by December 20 and still receive by Christmas…”
  • Clearly communicates tracking capabilities: Empower consumers while giving them confidence in the process.

2) Give consumers more safe options for picking up products in-person.

Stores like Ikea and Structube allow direct pickup from warehouses and distribution centres. Other retailers should borrow from this playbook—i.e. an outdoor click-and- collect. There are clear benefits both for shoppers and for stores:

  • Speed up delivery for customers
  • Minimize reliance on external, last-mile support
  • Alleviate click-and-collect traffic at stores
  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of customer needs
  • Reduce store shipping costs

While store-level curbside pickup is already an option offered by many retailers, it relies on shipping to the store. Why not tighten up the process further and make it that much easier and faster for customers?

Speed and convenience will be the operative words for Holiday 2020, and anything that gives consumers greater control of the purchasing process will help position brands as thought leaders and give them an edge.