Bonus: Christmas 2015 Tips with eSeller: 2: Why your Delivery Strategy Matters this Christmas

Welcome to our series of 3 bonus episodes “Christmas 2015 Tips” presented by Chloe Thomas of in association with designed to help you make Christmas 2015 the best yet for your eCommerce business.

We’ve created these in partnership with eSeller and for the first time ever on the eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast you can get hold of a FULL transcript (including pictures!) of each of these podcasts.

I’m coming at everything in this 3-part series with in mind that Christmas is a very busy time when you will be wanting to achieve a mix of these 3 objectives:

  • Attract new customers
  • Reactivate dormant customers
  • Make current customers better customers (higher AOVs, more frequent purchases, more purchases!)

The 3 parts are:

  1. Should you partake in Black Friday? [catch up now]
  2. Why your Delivery Strategy matters this Christmas [see below]
  3. Your Christmas 2015 Customer Journey – including the top marketing methods you should be using this Christmas

The full transcript of this podcast is below.

why your delivery strategy matters this Christmas

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In this podcast I take you through:

  • What is a Delivery Strategy
  • Why it’s so important this Christmas
  • Then moving on to cover the hot topics:
    • Setting last order dates
    • Courier management
    • Forecasting
    • Postage pricing and offers
    • 5 quick checks to make on your website to get the first order
    • 5 Things you can do with your parcels to get repeat business

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Want to understand even more about Delivery Strategies? Buy a copy of my book “eCommerce Delivery: How Your Delivery Strategy Can Increase your Sales”

Full transcript of Delivery Strategies at Christmas


Hello everyone and welcome to the second of our bonus podcasts. I am Chloe Thomas, I’m the author of the eCommerce MasterPlan. I’m a podcast host as you can tell right now and I do a lot of speaking and consulting around the world. I’ve been in eCommerce for over ten years helping all manner of businesses grow and become more successful primarily by helping them work out what they should do next and how to answer questions just like that one.

If you’re listening for the first time, welcome and it is awesome to have you here. Please do check out my normal interview podcasts as there’s great stuff in there that I’m sure you’ll find useful in your business. If you’re one of our regular listeners, I hope you find the change in content useful. However many of my podcasts you’ve listened to, I would love to get your feedback, just message me on Twitter at chloe_ecmp.

This is a series of three bonus episodes, Christmas 2015 Tips, presented by me, Chloe Thomas of in association with They are being created to help you make Christmas 2015 the best yet for your eCommerce business.

This is the second of our Christmas 2015 Tips podcasts. Last week we covered “Should You Partake in Black Friday?”, and this week the topic is “Why Your Delivery Strategy Matters This Christmas”.

What am I going to be running through?

Well, first off the theme of these three is all about how Christmas is such a hugely important time of year for the eCommerce business. You should be using it to:

• attract new customers,
• reactivate dormant customers and
• make your current customers better customers.

That means get them spending more so a higher average order value and buying more frequently from you.

In this one, we’re going to look at that from the angle of the delivery strategy.

What is your delivery strategy?

Well it’s the whole delivery scenario from the way you explain the delivery to the customer, to encourage them to get them to order for the first time, through to the parcel that you send to the customer and how you can use that to get future purchases. I’ve written a whole book about increasing your sales using your delivery strategy, but today we’re going to focus in on the key areas for Christmas 2015. All of which I’ve chosen because they will help to improve customer service, increase your conversion rate, and in the process help with both new customer acquisition and customer retention.

My book “eCommerce Delivery: How your Delivery Strategy can Increase your Sales” is available right now as an eBook, audiobook, and paperback!

I’m going to start off with:

• why delivery strategy is so important this Christmas.

I’m then going to move on to cover some of the hot topics, assessing:

• last order date,
• courier management,
• forecasting,
• postage pricing and offers

then we’re going to finish up with two little lists:

• The first one of which is five quick checks to make on your website to get the first order.
• The second is five things you can do with your parcels to get repeat business.

For my international listeners, whilst the examples I’m using are going to be UK specific, you can use all these methods in your own country. It just would have taken too much time to repeat each example for the USA, Australia, Canada, Spain, Ireland and so forth and so forth.

Why is it so important to have a good delivery strategy this Christmas?

Christmas is such an important time of year for the eCommerce business, you don’t want anything to be going wrong. It’s when customers can be made customers for life or when they can be turned off you for life as well. In order to attract new customers, reactivate dormant customers and make current customers better customers we need to be delivering on our promises which means that the parcel has to arrive on time and in good condition.

Last year that was a big problem for many businesses in the UK and I expect all over the world. Stock data wasn’t accurate, leading to it being impossible to fulfill orders. The warehouse got swamped with unexpected order volume. Your courier went bust like in the UK City Link did on Christmas day last year. Your courier went into meltdown as pretty much everyone seemed to do in the UK last year. On the 11th of December, for example, Yodel delayed collections by 48 hours to try and clear the backlog and the chaos continued right up until Christmas. Many conjectured that this was partly cause by the excessive nature of Black Friday last year. If you want to know more about Black Friday catch up with the first podcast in this series, which is already live.

Doesn’t matter how big or small your business is or how well you’ve planned, these are potential crisis for all of us. The other problem is that customers just want to order later and later which makes the whole situation much, much harder to manage. The customers want to order as late as possible and as eCommerce people we want to push those order dates earlier so that we can make sure we can actually deliver on what the customer wants. It’s a big conflict in eCommerce customer service at the moment.

I’m going to take you through a few areas that we need to have under control to avoid as best we can these issues. That includes setting last order dates, courier management, forecasting, postage pricing and offers and then we’re going to talk about enhancing the customer experience too, building in that wow factor and increasing conversion rates.

Setting those last order dates.

Last order dates are a brilliant marketing tool because this time of year customers want reassurance, they want to know they’re going to get the goods and having that date that something must be done by is a brilliant call to action or rather a very powerful call to action. You should get your last order dates published sooner rather than later. This podcast is going out in early November. If your dates aren’t up on your website now, get them up, it’s time.

If you’re not sure what they are, then I’m going to run through how to set them shortly. You should put them on every page of your website and explain clearly, including when it’s going to be too late. If you have products that don’t fit in with your normal delivery, they are direct dispatch and so forth and therefore they require last order date, make sure that’s covered and make sure that when it’s too late, it’s really clear on the website too. You do need to work out last order dates for every country you ship in volume too. You don’t need to put that on every page of the website, but it should be easily accessible for your overseas buyers.

You should be including this in your email marketing so they’ve got that call to action in there every time as you get closer to that last order date “you can still order from us and we’ll get it through to you”. And you should be putting them in adverts, in the adverts that you’re placing, social media etc. and on the front of any catalogues you’re mailing and basically across all your marketing.

They become a more powerful call to action the closer we get to Christmas itself or the closer we get to those last order days.

How do you set them then?

Well first off you need to get some details from your couriers. For example the Royal Mail in September has already announced their ground post rates for the world, their last order dates. They won’t announce airmail until early December that’s what we’re anticipating. Each courier is going to have different last order dates, different dates when they’re willing to pick up your parcels and still believe they can get them there before Christmas so you need to find out from your courier when they can take their last delivery from your in order to get it out to your customer before Christmas.

Then you need to decide what your policy is. We know consumers want this to be as late as possible. We know we don’t want to disappoint anyone because we could lose a customer or fail to recruit a new customer if we don’t achieve what we should be achieving. We need to decide on how much buffer we want to factor in. What you may want to do to extend that date is enable people to do click and collect so as they order on your website and pick up from one of your stores if you’re lucky enough to have stores, or they pick up from lockers because that may well enable you to go later. Again you need to speak to the courier responsible for making that happen for you.

In fact click and collect could be a very good route to go down as a Planet Retail study suggests that by 2017 76% of UK shoppers will use click and collect which is quite phenomenal really. What’s especially brilliant is now you don’t necessarily need your own stores to make this happen with the various locker systems. You need to decide what your policy is, what are the options you’re giving the customers and are you willing to open up those methods like next day and click and collect to make it ever later.

How we need to calculate it.

Well first of all we know what our courier says. How much then do we believe them? How much buffer do we want to factor in for the courier not managing to deliver on what they said they can? How long does your warehouse need to process something from that last order date do they get it into the hands of the courier? Add those together and that gives you your date. Now often when you’re being sensible this is too early and now it’s too early in December and you want to be able to push it later. You may also want to consider if you want to go properly clever on this do you want to build in a buffer zone? Do you want to add an extra day just in case you’re busier than you anticipate? You can always move a last order date back but it’s very difficult to move it forwards without disappointing customers.

You may want to have a policy of as you get closer to Christmas upgrade everyone to next day to a better postage method, to a better courier to make sure it gets delivered on time. Obviously there’s a cost to that so you need to calculate how much that’s going to cost you and if it’s going to be worth it. I would suggest you don’t do two-tier home country last order dates, just have one so it’s very easy for the customer to understand. When I used to run the marketing for a couple of businesses who did heavily promote both the last order date and the next order date and the next day the last order date we got very little in the way of orders between those two dates. You’re not missing out on a great deal if you just promote one and the customer will grasp at that a bit more firmly, much simpler message to be going out with.

Then also consider customer buying patterns.

The Monday before Christmas is the 21st and this we know Mondays are very good days for eCommerce sales especially in the run up to Christmas. We really don’t want our last order date to be ahead of the 21st, we want to make sure customers can order from us on the 21st. Then Christmas Day is on a Friday which means that week is a big opportunity for eCommerce because consumers haven’t got any more weekends to go shopping on. Therefore do we want to push it back if we can to the Tuesday? and then you’ve got Wednesday and Thursday to get it delivered and processed and packed and everything else.

It’s a difficult one this year. It offers a lot of opportunity for us because we definitely get that last Monday before Christmas very easily, it gives us three days to get things through to people.

Do we want to push it to that Tuesday and make that a little bit more, maybe that’s your fall-back position? You publicize the 21st and then you go out with a “we’ve extended it to the 22nd” and make that call at the last minute because you can always extend.

Icing on the cake area and all of this would be to add into your marketing mix some kind of guarantee or tell people about how well you did with all of this last year because it becomes quite a nervous element for customers. Will I actually get my goods in time for Christmas? You want to put out as much trust building messages out there as you can. Be that guaranty, be that publishing your performance from last year, something to prove you’re trustworthy to deliver that much needed gift before we get to Christmas Day.

Okay so we still set a delivery date. Now we need to have a conversation with our courier to make sure that they’re going to be able to deliver for us so let’s talk about courier management.

Courier Management

The success of your courier is a two-way street. You need them to help you to help them if that makes sense, or they need you to help them something like that. The closer you can work together, the better the performance will be the more you can keep that conversation open and keep them in the loop of what’s going on with your business. We’re going to talk forecasting in a minute so I’m going to leave that alone for the second.

Based on what’s happened in previous years you need to go into Christmas with a primary courier you trust, like and who fits your financial plans at a cost you can afford and with at least one backup in the bag. The Royal Mail account is a backup. They would count as a primary courier as well if that’s what fits for your business.

Make sure that you’re liaising with them regularly at least once a week in the run up to Christmas. Let them know how your sales are going. Are you expecting different peaks to what you’ve predicted? Ask them if there’s any likelihood of issues in late December. Do you need to be considering changing service or last order date? The sooner you do that the easier it’s going to be and the less it’s going to impact on your customers, or the less chance it’s going to have a negative impact on your customers. Make sure you’re updating them on your plans as well. Anything you’re changing, any big promotions you’re intending on running, any peaks you’re likely to see. Which brings us nicely on to….


Now forecasting is critical.

If you don’t know how many parcels you need to deal with, how can you manage any potential issues? How can you make sure you’ve got the capacity and the warehouse to process those parcels? How can you give the couriers the information they need to be able to ship your parcels? For the smaller business weekly volumes are fine but if you’re bigger you want a daily forecast. That includes how many orders will be placed, how many will it be possible to pack each day.

Remember you’re likely to have back orders etc. going on which you’ll need to clear through as the stock comes in. How many will we have ready for dispatch each day and which services are they going to be out by? You may have multiple services via individual couriers or you might have multiple couriers as well.

Make sure you’re sharing this information with everyone involved, your call centre, your warehouse, your couriers, everyone involved in getting that delivery to the customer and make sure you’re updating that forecast regularly don’t create it now and not update it as we go through December.

That’s my short little bit on forecasting. I’m not going to go massively into that because it gets quite techy but all you really need to do is get last year and see how it factored in last year if you’ve never done this before and then build something similar this year based on whatever you think the up lift is going to be.

Postage pricing and offers

Now whenever a survey is run asking why didn’t you buy from an eCommerce site or similar, some aspect of the delivery is in the top three reasons usually at the top, be it cost of the delivery, be it lack of trust that it would arrive on time, be it that the service that they wanted wasn’t available be it next day, taken collect, free, etc., etc.

A lot of this comes down to it not being clear enough on the website of your delivery pricing and policies not conveying enough trust on the site. Going to talk about that shortly in one of our tip sections but for now here’s my recommendations for postage pricing and offers this Christmas.

As we’ve already discussed, this Christmas you are trying to attract new customers, reactivate dormant customers and make current customers better customers to spend more and buy more frequently.

Free postage is a great way to encourage humans to do what you want them to do, be they existing customers or new customers. I am a big, big, big fan of the free postage option. It is our biggest promotional leaver by far on an eCommerce website because customers don’t like to pay for postage it’s that simple.

If you have ‘all orders are free postage and packaging’ as standard then your equivalent of this would be a free upgrade to next day or similar.

Consider in your marketing plan when you’re going to run your free postage and packaging offers. Make sure you put that into your re forecast so it’s all ready to be dealt with in the warehouse call centre and your couriers. Consider who you want to run this offer to. Maybe it’s the big one for new customers. Maybe when someone signs up for your email address they get a free P&P offer. Maybe you’re going to email everyone who’s never bought from you who’s on your email list and ask them to buy from you or run that through a Google Match or CRM ReMarketing on Facebook.

You should also have a free P&P over X permanently so over X pounds permanently. For example, if you want to increase your average order value then it might be free P&P over 40 pounds. That should be permanently available on your website. If you don’t yet have one this is a big marketing message this Christmas if you launch it in the run up this will make a big impact to your sales.
Miso Tasty, one of my recent podcast guests offer free P&P on a two-pound product in order to recruit new customers. They make that work so if they can manage a two-pound product with free P&P, that’s something you can do in your business to encourage more new customers to buy from you and to get your existing customers to buy more often.

You might also want, this is not entirely to do with your pricing options, but you may also want to consider offering extended returns so returns valid until the end of January for those unwanted Christmas gifts. That can be a good angle to use in your marketing to encourage people to purchase.

The other thing you need to consider in the world of postage pricing and offers is to make sure you’ve got the delivery options your customer wants. It varies from company to company, some customers want to be able to order later in the day, some people’s customers most care about next-day delivery, some most care about price, some love a locker and a click and collect option so make sure you’ve got the offers that your customer is looking for.

Let’s go on to our little quick checklists.

Five quick checks to make on your website to get the first order.

1. Is your free P&P offer on every page of your website? If not, it should be.

Allergy Best Buys have it in the header so the customer can’t miss it

2. Is your delivery information page easy to find? Strangely enough it helps if customers can find it and access it easily.

Muck Munchers have it in the footer on every page

3. Do you tell them how quickly they’re going to get delivery on the product page?

Isn’t that reassurance it will be dispatched within two days. Is it currently out of stock or be back in stock later than month or date and so on and so forth. You’re giving them some idea of speed of delivery on that product page.

Not on the high street have it just right!

4. Is your delivery information page easy to understand?

This is really important, it need to be easy for customers to find the details they need. One to find the page and two to find the information on the page itself.

Ironmongery Direct are excellent at this

5. Is it easy to follow the delivery pricing in the checkout and the delivery options or are you confusing your customers?

Some of those may be easy to fix, some of those might be projects for 2016 to build into your plans.

Five things you can do with your parcels to get that repeat business

Because of course once we’ve got a customer they’re not really a customer until they’ve bought from us at least twice so we want to be driving that second purchase.

  1. Brand the outside of the parcel. This doesn’t need to be custom printed boxes or custom printed bags, it can be done quite simply. There’s a company in America called Lawless Denim who simply use a stamp, a large stamp to print their logo on the outside of standard boxes. It’s a cheap option but it really conveys the fact this company, here’s the goods that you’ve been excited about receiving, here’s your parcel.
  2. Make sure the parcel itself is on brand and that you’re giving therefore a good customer experience. If in the shop you wrap in tissue paper and it’s a pretty packaging make sure you do the same thing when they get that parcel. You want to live up to your own brand across all channels.
  3. Put calls to action and sales messages on the order form so price of your next purchase free P&P on your next purchase with this code or even something as simple as we look forward to receiving your next order, just something to let them know that you want that next order.
  4. Add inserts into your parcels to encourage the next purchase. If you’re a cataloguer, add a copy of your catalogue – it makes a big impact on getting extra sales. It could be something as simple as a post card saying thank you for your order please do come back and see us again soon. It will make a difference and it doesn’t need to be hugely expensive.
  5. Wow them with an expected freebie. Create that wow factor in your parcels to get them to love your brand and to want to come back and buy from you again.

I’m ending each of these Christmas 2015 Tips podcasts with your little to do list.

Your Delivery to-do list

• Set and market your last order dates to increase conversion rates.
• Make sure you have the right couriers and backup couriers in place.
• Create your parcel forecast and put aside time in the diary to update it each week.
• Start a regular path of communication with your couriers for Christmas starting with your forecast.
• Review the postage options you are offering and how much you’re charging for them.
• Plan in your free P&P offers.
• Consider an extended returns period.
• Work through the five quick checks to make on your website to get the first order.
• Work through the five things you can do with your parcels to get repeat business.

That’s quite a long list so some of this may have to become a 2016 plan but see what you can do easily from this into your Christmas 2015 plan because I’m sure there’s several of these that you can put in place and that will make a difference to your sales this year.

This was the second in our series of three bonus episodes on Christmas 2015 Tips presented by me, Chloë Thomas of in association with, all designed to help you make Christmas 2015 the best yet for your eCommerce business.

Thank you so much for listening and make sure you listen to the next in the series, Your Christmas 2015 customer journey including the top marketing methods you should be using this Christmas.

Thank you, goodbye and keep optimizing.