The holiday season is the most marketing-intensive time of the year, but your shipping function gives you unique opportunities to target both existing and prospective customers at the most critical stage in their journey: when they put their hands on your product.
Here are the shipping-related marketing opportunities you can consider this holiday season:
- Increase brand awareness: Take advantage of increased package visibility to advertise your brand. Do the math on whether custom, branded boxes are worth the extra cost versus generic or carrier-supplied free boxes. In the case of odd-sized items subject to dimensional weight, they might be. Regardless of the box you use, you can inexpensively and easily feature your brand with adhesive stickers and on packing tape and packing slips.
- Increase new customer acquisition: During the holidays your customers are giving you tons of information about other potential target customers—the people they are buying gifts for on your site. Consider marketing to these gift recipients by targeting them with promotions and social media invitations on your packing slips. Most shipping solutions will allow you to customize a holiday packing slip expressly for this purpose.
- Increase repeat purchases and loyalty: According to UPS, 48% of shoppers considered guaranteed delivery dates an important factor in checking out. Likewise, research shows that on-time delivery is a major factor in repeat purchases, so make sure your operations and partnerships are set up to achieve it. But also take advantage of delivery-related communication opportunities, like sending purchasers
and/or recipients frequent status updates and post-order follow-ups. Consider including promotions with these messages to encourage repeat purchases.
- Turn returns into opportunities: We’ve discussed in detail the potential benefits and considerations of free returns in the Shipping Service Levels and Operations sections. From a marketing perspective—whatever your return policies and charges—think about the potential of running win-back campaigns on customers who return. You could, for example, issue a credit to the customer’s account equal to the amount they paid for return shipping as a reason to come back. It is the rare person that likes to leave money on the table.
If you decide to take advantage of any of these opportunities, here’s what you need to do to gear up:
- Brand awareness: If you decide to go with branded materials of any kind, they will require some design effort, followed by sourcing. The good news is the design efforts and print turnaround times for such materials are usually quick and this is one part of your holiday checklist you can accomplish very early in the season.
- New customer acquisition: If you decide to promote to gift recipients, you have several additional decisions to make: through what channel? When? With what message? Will you offer a new-customer discount? On what? Treat these sorts of initiatives as full blown campaigns, allocating them appropriate resources.
- Repeat purchases and loyalty: Just like campaigning to gift recipients, post-purchase updates and related promotions should be treated as a campaign. Most importantly, sweeten instead of spoil any surprises by giving the purchaser complete control over notifications—and defaulting to notifying only the purchaser, not the recipient. Then come up with a plan for how you will use post-purchase communication opportunities to provide a great experience and drive repeat business. Printed materials you already intend to include in each package are the ideal starting point. Adding promotional messages and special offers directly to the packing slip or gift receipt will limit additional costs while maximizing exposure. Leveraging what already exists is a good starting point.
- Returns: If your strategy includes running return-related campaigns, be sure to have these ready before the returns start flowing in. Plan for who you will target, what promotion(s) you’ll offer, and how you’ll implement those promotions (e.g., a one-time coupon code). You’ll want to ensure data on target customers for these promotions flows from your shipping platform to your campaign platform, and that the promotions are set up in your selling platform.
Once your holiday marketing strategy is set, your planned campaigns are set up, and materials are ordered, the main actions required are to execute the plans and monitor their results. The success of campaign activities targeted at gift recipients, repeat purchasers, and customers who return items should be straightforward to measure using standard campaign management techniques and tools. As with any campaign, it’s important to monitor the data to be sure these campaigns are contributing to your goals.