Holiday: Retailers Preparing for Online Surge, Re-Focused Shipping Dates

In What's New, Industry News by Accessories Staff

Holidays-2014-DeadlinesWashington—Hoping to avoid a debacle like last year, when last minute online shoppers paid for next day deliveries that didn’t happen, retailers are evaluating delivery services this year.

According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly eight in 10 (78.8%) retailers surveyed will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before the big day, compared to 73.7% who said so last holiday season.

Additionally, approximately one in five (21.2%) will set those deadlines to expire December 19 or later, compared to more than one-quarter who said so last year (26.3%).

“It’s important to remember that the 2013 holiday season was impacted by a multitude of factors that affected the supply chain in the days leading up to Christmas, including bad weather and a shortened holiday calendar. That said, retailers and their delivery partners this year are proactively planning to make sure they meet customer expectations for delivery and customer service,” said Shop.org Executive Director/NRF Senior Vice President Vicki Cantrell. “In addition to ramping up their online promotions earlier to entice customers to start shopping earlier in the season, many companies this year also have invested in functionalities such as live chat, checking in-store product availability and buy online–pick up in store.”

Complicating matters is the fact that most retailers offer some type of free standard shipping. Of the 92.3% of retailers polled who plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, nearly seven in 10 (69.1%) say their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before Friday, December 19. Nearly three-quarters (74.2%) of retailers polled last year had a deadline on the equivalent day (Friday, December 20, 2013).

Investing in Omnichannel

As was the case in Shop.org’s August 2014 survey retailers were asked which site and service features they have invested most heavily in before the holiday season, and many agreed shipping and fulfillment features were of utmost importance.

According to the survey, four in 10 (41.3%) have invested significantly in live chat, and more than one-third (34.5%) noted they have invested in technologies that allow shoppers to check in-store availability. Other areas of investment include shipping deadline calendars (30.9%), “ship from store” functionalities (27.3%) and buy online– pick up in store services (25.5%).

For those waiting until the last minute, one in five (20.6%) companies surveyed that plan to offer a free or upgraded expedited shipping promotion will give customers until Tuesday, December 23to take advantage of the offer. By contrast, 14.7% of retailers polled will let their customers take advantage of that offer only through Monday, December 22, and another 14.% will end their free expedited shipping promotions on Sunday, December 21.

Dec. 22 Deadline?

More than half (56.6%) of retailers surveyed who plan to offer express two-day shipping say their deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery will expire on or before Sunday, December 21 while the balance will end guaranteed two-day shipping on Monday, December 22.

“Consumers now have more tools at their disposal when it comes to connecting with retailers, and as online shopping continues to grow, more shoppers this holiday season will look for specific online promotions as a way to find the perfect gift at the right price,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Possibly having learned from their procrastination last holiday season and with another shortened holiday calendar ahead of us, shoppers could start looking for those shipping offers sooner rather than later this year.”

When it comes to one-day express shipping, half (50%) are comfortable offering express one-day or overnight shipping as late as Tuesday, December 23rd for a guaranteed Christmas delivery; three in 10 (30%) have set Monday, December 22nd as the deadline for their one-day express delivery deadline.

About the Study

The eHoliday Study provides a snapshot of the holiday activities of both large and small online retailers, and also includes the sentiments of online holiday shoppers. The study, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for Shop.org, surveyed 55 online retailers from July 11 to 18 and 42 retailers September 25 to October 10. www.shop.org

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