Get Your Holiday Strategies in 'Ship' Shape Condition

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Halloween candy typically appears by late summer, ushering in the holiday season earlier each time. Candy corn returns by late July, emerging from storage to serve as shelf liner all autumn long. (They've just been recycling the same bags for the last 10 years, right?) Eventually, fun-size chocolate bars and gummy body parts join the current crop, barely budging until just days before the event itself. But it seems these tasty treats have already been demoted to make room for the ultimate holiday, of course--Christmas.
Customer Engagement

Halloween candy typically appears by late summer, ushering in the holiday season earlier each time. Candy corn returns by late July, emerging from storage to serve as shelf liner all autumn long. (They've just been recycling the same bags for the last 10 years, right?) Eventually, fun-size chocolate bars and gummy body parts join the current crop, barely budging until just days before the event itself. But it seems these tasty treats have already been demoted to make room for the ultimate holiday, of course--Christmas.Last weekend, both Wal-Mart and Sears began setting up their Christmas tree displays, thereby declaring the unofficial start to the 2015 holiday shopping season. (Or should that honor go to Wal-Mart's longest layaway period ever? It did start in August, after all.) Regardless, the decorations have arrived, meaning all retailers must hop on the bandwagon--and soon--if they wish to build and sustain momentum in today's competitive environment.

Recently, Pitney Bowes published the findings from its 2015 Holiday Shipping Survey, which evaluates more than 1,000 U.S. adults' attitudes toward shopping and shipping throughout the holiday season. Overall, 94 percent of those polled plan to shop in-store, while 92 percent will shop online, indicating that both channels require careful attention to meet consumer expectations. Retailers must offer diverse options that appeal to all shoppers this holiday season. Flexible shipping and returns have become an essential element of such strategies in recent years, especially, as consumers have naturally begun to blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds. In fact, 93 percent of respondents say shipping options will be an important factor in their overall shopping experience this year.

The following statistics highlight consumer preferences and how these behaviors may impact holiday shopping habits:

- Eighty-eight percent of shoppers find free shipping with 5-7 day delivery to be more attractive than paying for 1-2 day delivery, with 60 percent of those polled willing to do what it takes to meet the free shipping threshold, even if it means increasing their online spend to qualify.
- Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed previously used a promo code or coupon to receive a shipping discount, while 80 percent would be more willing to purchase online if they had a code or coupon.
- Thirty-nine percent of shoppers prefer to return online orders at their nearby store, 38 percent prefer to return goods via their shipping provider, and 20 percent prefer courier pick-up at their location.

Thus, while those ornaments and icicles are vital for in-store success, retailers must also put forth great effort to ensure their shipping strategies deliver--literally and figuratively! Twinkle lights may create the ideal in-store atmosphere, but simple shipping options extend this peaceful vibe to the online arena, creating consistency and supporting satisfaction in the process. Price plays an important role no matter the season, but shipping fees can often be avoided if consumers know where to shop. Retailers must examine their present measures now to guarantee that their brands are prepared to please all season long.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION