The holiday period can be one of the most profitable times of the year for online retailer, but research shows that up to 80 per cent of all retailers are not prepared to face the challenges presented by this year's annual Christmas rush. The survey, done by shipping software company Temando, looked at over 200 Australian micro, small, mid-sized and enterprise level retailers, but focussed mainly on small retailers — who out of all the groups were the least likely to be adequately prepared for Christmas shipping.
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Temando looked at the most common shipping problems that small businesses can face, all of which can be exacerbated over the holiday season thanks to a massively increased volume. 83 per cent of all retailers have said they're not prepared to handle Christmas shipping delays and uncertainty, 79 per cent of retailers weren't prepared with return procedures to meet customer demands over the holidays, and 80 per cent have said that their logistics systems are not up to scratch when it comes to coping with an increase in sales.
Despite these problems only occurring over one or two months, an inability to deal well with the last minute Christmas rush can lead to angry customers and a resulting drop in business. According to online shopping platform Shopify, some retailers make up to 40 per cent of their yearly profits in the last quarter, making it a vital time of year to get things right. While preparedness can be a problem for all retailers, it happens to different degrees at different levels of business. 75 per cent of enterprise retailers have said they are prepared to deal with shipping delays and uncertainty over Christmas, whilst up to 40 per cent of small businesses are not prepared for the increased challenges of the season.
So what can small businesses do to make sure they can cope with last minute demand? For one, if you don't have a Christmas plan in place right now, you should begin formulating one immediately. A look at Google Trends shows that people actually started searching for "Christmas gift ideas" as early as August, so it's never too soon to start planning. Last year, this trend ramped up through November and peaked between December 14 and 20, when the last minute rush is at its greatest. Plan for site traffic accordingly.
Shopify's blog has a comprehensive guide for retailers tackling the holiday, and despite its focus on US holidays it still has some good lessons for the universal Christmas rush. One of the most important parts, as evidenced by Temando's study, is planning for returns and integrating multiple different payment options for customers. Many online stores offer a more liberal return policy during the Christmas period, but it's worth thinking out your own return policy and how it could impact your store.
One of the other main faults that stores admitted in the Temando survey was the lack of multiple shipping options. It's well worth any online business's time to look into a number of different shipping options to offer customers, especially as last-minute shopping season approaches.