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Shipping delays and supply chain issues are here to stay: Tips for retailers struggling during the crucial holiday season

Australian courier service provider, Sendle, has warned that Australian Black Friday and Cyber Monday parcel volumes are likely to increase by 94 per cent as customers heed warnings and start their Christmas shopping early.  

Sendle is an Australian courier services provider that focuses primarily on small to medium-sized businesses and online retailers. Earlier, Australia Post warned that parcel demand had skyrocketed, with December numbers on track to surpass last year’s record of 52 million shipments. 

Read: Australia Post urges retailers to manage customer expectations amid holiday shopping surge

“People who were fortunate to keep their jobs and save money during the COVID-19 lockdowns are poised to splash out and also buy some bargain Christmas gifts for loved ones they haven’t been able to see,” says Eva Ross, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Sendle.

The sector is already facing a pre-Christmas parcel delivery crisis after global delivery giant FedEx kept workers out of its Sydney distribution centre as part of an escalating labour dispute this week.

Eva Ross has shared some tips for retailers dealing with supply chain disruptions and shipping delays in order to overcome these issues during the crucial Holiday season.

“The Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas sales are crucial for helping small businesses get back on their feet after a tough year, so they’ll be looking to harness the pent up demand from Aussie consumers. 

“It’s very important for those smaller merchants to capitalise on BFCM, which continues to evolve into a major event on the retail calendar – both online and in-store,” she says.

Tips for Retailers

Bring it forward:

Start your Black Friday, Cyber Monday (and Christmas) sales as early as possible.

Engage customers by setting expectations with clear communications:  

Brands with high-demand products have the option of offering pre-orders and communicating delays with customers. When executed well, this can even help to build up hype and anticipation as well as be transparent with customers around issues that may extend delivery waiting periods. 

Providing clear expectations around the delivery of their online orders, and any changes or service disruptions is critical.

Offer a frictionless shopping experience with convenient options such as Click-and-Collect, Buy Now Pay Later, flexible shipping, easy returns and multiple payment options to suit everyone’s needs. 

Set up a contingency plan: Considering the well-documented supply chain disruptions and shipping delays experienced during the pandemic, and repeated warnings from parcel delivery services, preparing for unforeseen disruptions during the peak season is important. 

To combat potential delays, eCommerce brands should look for alternative delivery providers.

Get insurance cover: 

With record-high shipping volumes predicted for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, having a good cover policy can protect you if your parcel gets damaged or goes missing. 

Look for shipping services that include everyday cover on standard deliveries of a few hundred dollars. You should also have the option to get higher or ‘extra cover’ for items of greater value like technology, heirloom pieces, pricey jewellery or expensive equipment. 

Embrace shipping integrations: 

Find the right eCommerce marketplaces, the best carrier and use shipping software to bring your orders and shipping labels into one platform. This will cut down the time you spend on shipping and free up time to sell.

Book pick-ups from your door: 

Bypass post office queues and save valuable time by opting for a delivery service that picks up from your door at no extra cost.

Offer a return policy that helps you close the sale:  

With online orders at an all-time high, consider offering a returns policy that takes into account increased demand this peak season. 

The customer experience doesn’t end at the checkout, and when it comes to running a successful eCommerce business, your return policy can make or break you. View your return policy as a genuine opportunity for brand building and loyalty. 

So, what does a good return policy look like? Here are some pointers:

Make your return policy visible & transparent: 

Rather than burying your terms and conditions deep in the fine print, make sure all pertinent details regarding returns are easy to find on your website (and worded simply). When customers can see that they’re not getting short-changed, it builds trust and makes them more willing to come back and spend money with your brand.

Make the process simple: 

Consider offering free returns (for a limited time) this Christmas season and even longer exchange periods. Why not send extra treats to your customers in the event of a faulty product or unexpected delays? 

The goal is to make sure your customers don’t feel put out by having to return a product. Put step by step instructions on your website and make their life as easy as possible — keeping in mind the festive season can be stressful enough. 

Use the right-sized packaging: 

Your packaging dimensions have a significant impact on shipping costs because most options are based on size and weight. By using the correct sized packaging, you can reduce your shipping costs, which can be the difference between making or breaking a sale. 

There are plenty of packaging options out there so it’s not difficult to find the right-sized box or satchel. Pay attention to weight – for example, substitute a lightweight satchel for a heavy cardboard box to save on costs. Where possible, opt for less packaging which is better for your pocket and the planet.

Leonie O’Brien is the owner and founder of Pretty Frank (Candles). She recommends that sellers should stick to their own approach and run their own race. “The tail end of the year is notoriously exhausting for everyone. 

“There are offers coming from everywhere, Click Frenzy, Black Friday or Cyber Monday are not always going to align with your unique selling strategy. Be strategic and focus on the sales offers that suit your brand.”

“It always pays to be prepared and this will help set up your business for success. Spend time earlier in the year looking for trends in your sales data, then forecast and set clear goals for the upcoming peak season. 

“I ordered my stock from suppliers back in June, to ensure I was accounting for any supply chain issues.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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