5 Ways to Simplify Holiday Shopping

2020 has already felt like we’ve had a holiday rush or two. With supply chain backups and merchants running out of merchandise and waiting on new backfill to arrive, the sensation has been felt across the ecommerce landscape. It’s fair to imagine that this trend will only increase as we head into the holiday season. Our friends at ShipStation have rounded up some easy ways to make your 2020 holiday selling season as successful as possible.

ShipStation conducted a survey of ecommerce merchants’ shipping and holiday expectations: the report, Last Touch, Lasting Impact, has some interesting insights into your customers’ buying habits. We’ll touch on some of them so you can be prepared for the most wonderful time of the year.

Order Supplies Now

Get ahead of your competition by ordering any shipping supplies or merchandise you need now. Any opportunities you have to increase your inventory will only pay off in the long run. 

Customers, retailers, and suppliers all feel the pressure to have everything they need. With that in mind, if you run out of boxes or labels in the middle of a big holiday rush, there’s a chance that your suppliers might too. And even the most advanced order management system in the world can’t work if you don’t have the materials or items needed to ship out an order.

Exceed Expectations of Customers Buying Early

Even while online shopping is growing ahead of projections, the carrier and manufacturer delays have made customers more prepared for the holiday rush. This will largely translate to customers buying earlier—online shopping with more customers buying as early as October.

The other side of this is customer expectations are less intense than in years past. In 2019, the length of time most customers were willing to wait was five days. However, in 2020, that has risen to eight days. With customers willing to wait longer, you can use more affordable, slower shipping options. This also means that if you are able to ship more quickly than that, you can expect positive reviews and more repeat customers.

Build a Good Returns Strategy

Returns have become trickier than ever before as businesses navigate COVID-19. As shopping at physical retail locations has decreased, returns have become even less common. In fact, many stores are temporarily halting returns due to fears of the spreading of COVID-19.

However, many online retailers still accept returned merchandise, and consumers expect them to. And while consumers have largely decreased return volume, online retailers are going to face the brunt of returned merchandise. 

We found that consumers consider the ease of returns 67% more than they did pre-COVID. This is largely due to the fact that so many companies have suspended returns. We also found that customers largely prefer self-service returns. In fact, 85% want to be able to have their return shipment authorized without the need to reach out to the retailer. Using a tool like ShipStation’s Branded Returns Portal allows your customers to generate their return label with the same ease of placing an order—letting you and your team focus your attention on other areas. 

Provide Promo Codes and Other Coupons

The holiday rush can offer a great influx of order volume, and turning seasonal shoppers into long-term customers is a fantastic way to build an established customer base. The holiday season is all about giving, and one way to really capitalize on this is to offer a little something extra to shoppers or their gifts’ intended recipient. One way to do this is to offer coupon codes for future purchases. 60% agree that they’re more likely to shop again with a retailer if they’re given a promo code. Small touches like this may slightly impact profit margins but can lead to many more sales in the future.

Create a Memorable Shipping Experience

Humans are social creatures and largely miss shopping in person. As such, there has been a greater want for online businesses to be transparent with customers. Creating a personalized shipping experience with timely order confirmations and shipping confirmations, as well as top-notch tracking pages, can really make the difference to a customer. It won’t replace in-person shopping, but it is still refreshing. One way to accomplish this is to have shipping confirmation emails be automated to come from a specific person. An automation rule can easily change templates based on criteria like “assigned user.” And you can change the email copy to read “Hi, my name is Kelly and your order has shipped out! You should expect it in 3-5 days! Track it here!” Small touches like that elevate the shopping experience and make your operation seem both efficient and personal.


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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.