For most Americans, July is all about Independence Day, family vacations and warm weather. But for those in the e-commerce business, mid-summer signals something entirely different: the impending arrival of the Christmas shopping season.
Yes, we have months to go before Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness, but holiday offers and pre-holiday promotions are taking off earlier each year, and the time required to get your sales and shipping plans in place should never be underestimated.
The stakes, of course, are higher than ever. Across the globe, e-commerce is booming year-round, and the growth of online sales around the holidays, in particular, continues to surge. In 2017, Cyber Monday saw record-breaking action, according to Adobe Insights, with $6.59 billion in transactions in one day – an increase of almost 17 percent over 2016. It was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, topping off a Thanksgiving weekend that reached just over $13 billion in total sales. At the end of the year, total online holiday sales in the U.S. reached $108 billion.
And the online holiday frenzy is not just a U.S. phenomenon; shoppers across the globe are going digital, which means that your business has a vast audience of potential buyers beyond our borders. Consider that shoppers in the UK spent more than £7 billion on Cyber Weekend in 2017.
With these powerful statistics in mind, what can your business do to prepare now for success this holiday season? Here are some key suggestions:
1. Get Mobile – Fast
If you haven’t already, you need to develop a strong mobile commerce platform. Last holiday season, m-commerce sales set a host of records, according to Adobe Insights. Among them, over 47 percent of site visits on Cyber Monday occurred on mobile devices (an all-time high), and revenue from smartphones grew by more than 39 percent from the previous year, reaching $1.59 billion. Through the entire holiday season, 33.1 percent of the total $108.2 billion generated came from mobile, reaching $35.9 billion.
The point is that you should be working with your web developers now to improve and refine your mobile approach to make it easier to reach shoppers, and to make it easier for those shoppers to become buyers – on their phones and tablets. Your mobile site should be easy to navigate and should make shipping options clear from the outset. Like your website, your mobile site should work clearly for international shoppers in your target global markets.
2. Focus on Your Shipping Strategy
Most online retailers offer free shipping and returns on certain orders, especially during the holidays. To remain competitive, you need to map out your shipping offer now. Will you have a minimum offer for free shipping and returns? And as international opportunities grow, will you offer free shipping to your global customers?
You should design your website and mobile site to explain your shipping offer clearly and up front, and you can broadcast your strategy as part of your marketing and promotions.
Deadlines for holiday shipping need to be explained carefully. Let your customers know when they need to place an order to ensure delivery before the holidays. Deadlines for reaching your international customers will differ from those that apply to your domestic buyers. You need to understand these specific international deadlines and convey them clearly to your customers. Deadlines should be reiterated through every stage of the online purchase process. An experienced shipping partner can help you identify the 2018 deadlines for specific destinations. Taking action now to understand domestic and global requirements will ensure that you are ready when the shopping rush begins.
3. Understand Shipping Costs
For your international customers, you need to be clear about possible duties that will be charged at the time of import. If you are just beginning to sell cross-border, do your research now to understand the steps involved.
There are also several resources available to help you understand and prepare for required shipping costs such as the DHL Trade Automation Services (TAS). TAS services include:
- Landed Cost Calculator: estimate duties, taxes and other import fees so you know the costs upfront
- Product Compliance: ensure your shipment complies with each country’s import and export regulations
- Comparison of Landed Costs and Product Compliance: compare charges and compliance rules for up to five exporting countries
Another way to improve your international customer’s experience is to include the duty and taxes in your shipping charges. This way, the shipment will clear quickly and efficiently with no hold up for a duty payment from your customer.