To say the holiday season is busy for Shopify merchants is a massive understatement. The holidays are always a big sales period, and with ecommerce sales expected to increase up to 35% from last year alone, it’s shaping up to be the biggest shopping season yet. With more potential customers and orders comes greater pressure to deliver a truly great customer experience, and the biggest thing you can offer that’ll set your store apart is really quite simple - first class communication.
Why it’s important to put communication at the top of your priority list
Helps to manage customer expectations
Customer expectations during the holiday shopping season are sky-high. They’re buying from different stores, need for all those orders to arrive around the same time, and they expect the best from the brands they choose to shop with. These expectations are also the result of knowing that because it’s the holidays some stores will be shutting down at different times, couriers will be busier, and other factors that could cause an order with an important gift to be delayed. If you’re taking extra steps to keep your customers in the loop, it helps to manage those expectations and relieve some extra pressure off your team.
Builds customer trust which in turn builds loyalty
Whether it’s a new or returning customer, good order communication is a key factor in building those all important relationships between your brand and customers. If you give them a great experience during a busy period like the holidays, you’ll be rewarded for it - 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people, and 69% say that customer service is important when it comes to their loyalty to a brand.
Allows your team to focus their time elsewhere
The holidays can be tricky with people taking different vacation times on top of shutdown periods for both your business and others you rely on like couriers. By using marketing automations and other tools to communicate important information to your customers, your team can focus on fulfillment, stock, and getting things wrapped up ahead of the holidays. That way, they aren’t sitting stressing over customer enquiries that could be easily answered by an FAQ or social media post.
What customers need to know
Every holiday season, the same types of enquiries spring up in customer service inboxes around the world. “Do you ship to my country? How long will it take?”, “Are you offering any expedited shipping services?”, “Can you gift wrap my order?”, and the list goes on! You’ll know from previous years what your customers asked about most, so use this information to develop your strategy over the holidays. However if you want a starting point, here are a few common issues that you’ll want to cover:
When do customers need to order by to ensure their order is processed in time?
When will orders be processed after various holidays?
When should customers expect orders to arrive by depending on the date they ordered?
Should they expect any delays closer to holiday dates?
What methods are you offering? Are there any expedited options like Next Day or Weekend delivery? What do these cost?
What is your returns policy over the holidays? Is it extended? How does a customer initiate a return? Can they do this ahead of the holidays, and if they wish to do an exchange will it arrive in time?
Where do you currently ship to, and by what methods?
Order Customization Options
Do you offer gift wrapping or note writing? (Note: If you don’t, include this as an FAQ point rather than on social media/email marketing)
Product Stock Availability
Will products have good availability throughout the holidays? Will some out of stock items come back before the ordering deadline?
Ways to communicate
We now know why it’s important to have effective communication, and what customers want to know, so now we need to put it into practice.
This should be your first priority in communicating information to your customers. After all, not every customer will see your latest email or your Instagram Story, so best to get their attention where it matters. You’ll want to get info about ordering deadlines and shipping information on…
- Product Pages
You can include the information as a pop-up, a banner, or it’s own section on each page. This helps customers see right off the bat what they should expect.
You’ll also want to update your FAQ - consider including a holiday specific FAQ section at the top of the page that will answer holiday specific questions and provide customers with the most up-to-date information about shipping times.
There are three ways you should communicate information about holiday shipping and ordering via email to your customers:
Automated order related emails
Temper expectations on existing orders by including information about shipping and returns in any order related emails. As you get closer to any shutdown dates, include these as well so customers know when they can get in touch with you, and any expected delays from your shipping partner.
Other automated campaigns
You should set up automations that trigger for abandoned carts and store browsing in the run up to ordering deadlines. Let potential customers know any deadlines for ordering and shipping, and show them product recommendations based on their carts or browsing. Create workflows for these groups, e.g send an email to an abandoned cart one week before the deadline, if they don’t engage with it then send another one 3 days before, and then the day of the deadline.
Include in promotional email campaigns
If you’re running any promotional campaigns to your mailing list throughout the holiday season, be sure to include a link to your seasonal FAQ, as well as reminders of when deadlines are. Make these clear in your emails, so readers don’t miss them.
Along with promoting your products and festive deals in the run up to the holidays, include ordering deadlines and shipping information as part of your campaigns. As deadlines approach, include a reminder in post captions and create a few posts that focus solely on the deadline. This not only helps convey the information to your followers, but creates a sense of urgency as you get closer to the cut-off date. Create content around your returns policy also, along with information about your FAQ and where to direct customer service enquiries. Potential customers will be able to see all the info on your feed, so between your social media accounts, store, and emails, you’ll be covered!
This is one that merchants might not think of right away but is incredibly effective especially for Returns & Exchanges. Include a leaflet separate to the order invoice in all orders going out throughout the holiday season about how your return and exchange policy works, and how best to get in touch with your customer service department. This draws more attention to it in the package, rather than it being hidden on the back of the order invoice. Providing this information on a separate page can also help your customer if they’re giving it as a gift - instead of giving the recipient the order invoice with pricing on it, they can give them the returns leaflet to let them know how to exchange the order if they need to.
Great communication is the foundation of a strong relationship between you and your customers. Giving them top notch communication during the holiday season when they might be stressed or concerned about orders is an excellent way to strengthen those relationships and build customer loyalty even when the holidays are long over.