It’s April: Time to Set Your Holiday Shipping Strategy

Holiday 2012 is closer than we think. Now is the time to talk to your package delivery vendors and find out the shipping deadlines so you can plan your delivery cut-off dates.


Knowing your cut-off dates allows you communicate with your customers as well as develop marketing strategies (whether a special flat rate for ground shipping to a special messaging for last minute shoppers who need overnight delivery.)

And in 2012 there are 32 selling days vs. 30 last year in 2011. These extra selling days are good for business—plan now to take advantage. Now that you have the time to plan, here are other things you can prepare your holiday shipping strategy.

Identify customers who have multiple ship-to addresses within one order or within the season. Often times these ship-to addresses are actually gift recipients. If you can isolate customers who give gifts, use this information to create a special mailing.

The mailing should include a list of the ship-to name and address plus the item that was shipped last year (and if the item is no longer available, suggest a substitution or leave the information blank.)

Think of this service in terms of the customer experience—how convenient to know whom I sent gifts and what I sent. From a business perspective, you need to decide how many gift recipients are economically viable for this mailing.

You might conclude this type of campaign only makes economic sense when a customer has four or more recipients—although there are multichannel merchants who can profitably mail to a customer who has only one recipient. And from experience, I confidently tell you to test the boundaries.

Last year a client of mine tested mailing to customers with one recipient. The one recipient had multiple criteria (merchandise category, price point, location to a retail store, promotable email indicator, etc.) and with a comprehensive text matrix, the learnings were powerful and are shaping 2012 planning.

Incent customers to buy early and ship later. It is likely that your order entry system will allow you to accept an order but delay shipment. Use this to your advantage and promote this as a benefit to customers. Buy Now, Save $X, and Pick Your Shipping Date. You could test a timed offer where the savings decrease as time passes—as an example, the greatest savings are enjoyed for orders placed before Thanksgiving.

You have the opportunity to make 2012 holiday selling season highly successful. With the extra selling days compared to last year and planned spending by customers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can plan now to help ensure growth and profitability.

Gina Valentino is president of catalog consultancy Hemisphere Marketing.

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