The 2018 holiday season is upon us. According to the National Retail Federation, these two months alone — November and December — represent 16 to 30% of a retailer’s total sales for the year. Moreover, e-commerce holiday sales are expected to increase 13.5% year over year. For the majority of retailers, the holidays mark the most important time of the year to get their shipping strategies up to par, or risk losing those key sales.

    To get a pulse on current and future consumer e-commerce shipping expectations, LaserShip commissioned a study from Hanover Research to survey more than 1,000 online shoppers in the US. Based on the results, we’ve rounded up the top three shipping tips retailers will need to implement to get a slice of the holiday e-commerce pie:

    Free Standard Shipping

    The top reason consumers discontinue purchasing from any given e-retailer is due to high shipping costs. Fifty percent of consumers have abandoned a shopping cart due to unexpected shipping costs, and the top reason shoppers cite dissatisfaction with their delivery experience is due to expensive shipping. Need we say more?

    It goes without saying that to attract those steady holiday shoppers — the ones we envy for not procrastinating and getting things done early — offering free standard shipping this holiday season is a must.

    Expedited Shipping Options

    Thanks to the likes of Amazon Prime, consumers and retailers are feeling the need for speed. Sixty-three percent of shoppers expect items to be delivered within three days, and half of shoppers prefer to pick up their items in-store to avoid waiting for delivery. However, paying for expedited delivery is generational, and younger shoppers have a tendency to purchase from retailers with expedited delivery options — even if they have to pay for it.

    As younger, more tech-savvy consumers grow in buying power, retailers should offer expedited delivery options such as same-day, next-day, and two-day delivery. It also doesn’t hurt to offer it for those who, like most of us, are guilty of last-minute holiday shopping.

    Free Returns

    Last year, American consumers returned $68 billion worth of merchandise after the holidays. We all know the days following Christmas are some of the busiest shopping days of the year, but returns can be dreadful for retailers’ bottom line. However, retailers would be remiss to not offer free returns for online orders. Despite shoppers citing return policies as a significant factor used to evaluate retailers and the online shopping experience, nearly half of retailers charge for returns. Meanwhile, three quarters of shoppers consider the option for free returns when choosing where to buy online, and a third cite a poor return policy as a reason for disliking the online shopping experience. By offering free returns, not only are retailers making the inevitable easier — they’re also differentiating themselves in the crowded online space. Your customers will also thank you for helping them avoid the mall.

    This holiday season, online retailers leveraging fast, free, and easy return shipping strategies will be able to turn holiday shoppers into loyal customers.

    Josh Dinneen is Senior Vice President of Commercial Development at LaserShip, an e-commerce delivery provider with more than 63 delivery hubs throughout the Eastern and Midwest US, where he oversees revenue strategies, business development, supply chain strategies, and product development. Prior to his current role, Josh was Vice President of Supply Chain at LaserShip, where he was responsible for the creation of LaserShip’s e-commerce hub and spoke delivery network. Over the last 15 years, Josh has hosted and participated in panels at numerous events, such as: Parcel Forum, Customized Logistics and Delivery Association’s (CLDA) Annual Meeting, BB&T’s Capital Markets Conference, TAG’s Consumer Conference, and various other financial and transportation-related conferences. He’s been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and Reuters on topics pertaining to e-commerce and transportation, and is considered an expert in these fields.

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