Christmas is fun but, for e-commerce merchants, it can be a stressful time too. With the rise of online shopping, retailers are faced with a new set of challenges to meet the growing demands of online shoppers. Rob Gibson of Temando outlines 3 online retail pains to freeze out this year.

The silly season will soon be upon us and retailers of all sizes are gearing up for their busiest period of the year. With the goal to sell more over the holidays, ask yourself this: is your e-commerce business equipped to provide a memorable post-purchase customer experience that will have them coming back for more?

 While brick-and-mortar store sales over the 2015 holiday season dropped by 10%, online shopping grew by 14.3% (1). The online channel now accounts for about 8% of total retail sales (2). This digital trend places a growing focus on shipping and fulfilment and, if processes are not executed well over the busy holidays, these can reflect very poorly on retailers. With new customer acquisition costing seven times as much as retention (3), failing on fulfilment does not only degenerate customer loyalty, it costs money, time, and resources.

We recently polled 208 UK retailers to find out the issues they grapple with over the holidays. 78% of retailers said that they weren’t meeting all customer demands for multiple shipping options and 75% weren’t entirely sure that their returns process can meet demand. These are worrying statistics.

  1. My customers demand constant updates on their Christmas deliveries

Almost nothing comes close to the stress of not getting Christmas orders delivered on time, and with the likes of FedEx acknowledging that they were unable to cope with e-commerce holiday deliveries last year, retailers and shoppers are feeling anxious as the year end approaches. Keep stress at bay by providing visibility to your customers with a tracking portal and personalised updates on SMS, text or email – and free up time for your customer service team to deal with larger issues.

  1. I’m confused about the best shipping options to offer seasonal shoppers

It’s fair to say that shipping is a loss leader in many e-commerce operations, so the question is how do you mitigate these losses? Setting up your system to handle multiple shipping options prior to the holidays, including express shipping that customers pay a premium for, will be very handy both for you and your last-minute shopper. Catering to the needs of your customer during this unique time of the year will increase conversions, plus it gives you the flexibility to spread high volume orders across multiple carriers if needed.

  1. I can’t process all these post-holiday returns in time

With a third of online purchases returned post-holiday, the work involved in processing returns is monumental. Enabling customers to self-serve their returns through a dedicated portal will help reduce the steps required to complete the task, and create a consistent process which boosts customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

By addressing these challenges, retailers give themselves the opportunity to increase customer loyalty at a time where it’s needed the most: the stress-inducing environment of year-end seasonal holidays. So don’t wait until the last-minute to make improvements to your shipping and fulfilment, and be in a position to pop the champagne with your team by the time Christmas comes around.

Rob Gibson is Channel Partner Manager at Temando.
Twitter: @RobertGibsonUK