In this report from Internet Retailer and USPS, we present research and insights for handling early-bird shoppers, mobile experiences, brick-and-mortar stores and more.
With eCommerce to account for 17% of the total retail sales market by 20221, shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully. This is especially true during the holidays, which, for some retailers, accounts for 30% of total retail sales.2
Because of this, planning for the holiday season can be stressful. You might worry that your current shipping options won’t meet your business needs during the holiday rush. However, you can put your mind at ease knowing that there is likely a solution. Read on to learn how establishing a good working relationship with your day-to-day shipping carrier can benefit your business operations leading into the holiday season.
“…shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully.”
How a Carrier Can Help Improve Your Operations
By establishing open lines of communication with your shipping carrier, you can:
Proactively create a holiday game plan.
Instead of last minute scrambling around the holidays, set up a tight plan of action with your carrier ahead of time. This plan could include the timing of your holiday shipping needs, when you’ll need shipping materials by, the costs involved and how you and your carrier will tackle issues that arise. You can also ask your carrier how they handle the increase in volume during the holidays, which will enable you to plan, anticipate and avoid setbacks. Ultimately, by connecting person-to-person with your carrier and having these conversations, you’ll be able to improve your working relationship and craft a plan that accounts for your holiday shipping needs while providing you with a greater sense of trust in your carrier.
Confirm your pick-up and delivery schedule.
Rather than adjusting your business model to fit set timeframes, work with your carrier to find a schedule that works best for your business needs. This should specify where, when and how often the carrier should ideally pick up and deliver items.
Adjust quickly to unforeseen events.
The holidays can be a particularly chaotic time, which means you should expect the unexpected. With a close working relationship with your carrier, it is easier to communicate last minute changes or needs on your end, such as additional pick-ups needed due to an influx of express or last minute orders. See if you can establish a local contact and find out the best way to reach them through email or phone, so you can stay in close contact.
How a Company Leveraged a Relationship with their Carrier
Vermont Teddy Bear Company—a company that delivers teddy bears around the country—found that working closely with USPS opened up shipping options, such as free Saturday delivery and flat, regional or Priority Mail Express® services. With these options, the company can be confident that customers will receive products by a specific date. Given the time sensitive nature of their business, as many customers order teddy bears for birthdays and other celebrations, these shipping options are imperative for their business to succeed. With no additional surcharge for Saturday delivery3, they gain an extra delivery day and can even get some of their last minute Friday orders delivered the next day.4,5
By establishing a strong working relationship with your shipping carrier, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and quickly problem solve, which can ultimately help your business’ productivity.
When it comes to the holidays, retail businesses must keep a laser focus on the busiest season of the year. The final months of the year are filled with shipping deadlines, peak shopping days and peak return days. Beyond capitalizing on profits, businesses can get an early start making decisions about stock replenishment, holiday marketing and return communications—all by using the calendar below.1 Print it, bookmark it or download it for easy access in the busy season ahead.
When it comes to meeting customer demand, responsiveness is the name of the game. A Ship from Store (SFS) system allows companies to address these escalating needs by putting their unused store stock to use. With the right strategy, your business could be on its way to servicing more and more customers. So how do you successfully implement such a system? Below we highlight the most important steps to take, from planning to setup.
Dedicate the time and space.
Not all of your business’s physical locations need to have SFS capabilities, but the ones you choose to include in your SFS system must have the space to facilitate fulfillment operations. Consider selecting locations that will enable fast delivery and, if possible, enable packages to reach customers in 1 to 2 days. Once you decide the on stores, section off an area for fulfillment purposes alone and establish how and when merchandise will be picked and packed.1
Set up the necessary systems and technology.
A critical part of SFS is managing inventory. With the right order-management system, you’ll be able to treat stores as fulfillment centers and efficiently use the stock they have to manage demand near real-time. That way, when an order comes in, the right store can be notified and begin the picking, packing and shipping process.2
Train your in-store staff to have warehouse skills.
Your store staff will need to learn the ins and outs of this new operations process. Teach them how to accurately pick, pack and ship inventory – without taking away from their primary job of selling merchandise and servicing customers.3
Deliver an omni-channel experience.
Maintain consistency with your warehouse-based operations, by keeping your packaging uniform regardless of shipping origin. Invoices, return labels, etc. should follow suit. With a consistent brand experience, you can bridge omni-channel gaps between customers, stores and distribution centers.4
Leverage the services of integration specialists.
When you utilize the USPS® for shipping services, our representatives can help you launch and refine your own SFS system. Operations Integration Specialists and Technical Integration Specialists can help guide you through setup, transportation, equipment, payment and processing systems, assessing how to use your locations efficiently and addressing any first-day issues that may arise—all free of additional charges.5
As more consumers expect products to be constantly available, it’s important for businesses to pivot and adapt to meet their demands. With the right strategy and resources, your company can implement a successful SFS system and start answering more of your consumers’ needs.
More and more customers expect an omni-channel experience. They want the freedom to shop on any channel they choose. They also want the products they love to always be available. To answer these demands, companies have invested in a new fulfillment strategy: Ship from Store. Read on to learn more about today’s consumer mindset and the power of Ship from Store.
With millennials poised to become the dominant force in the economy, companies must learn how to reach this demographic. U.S. consumers ages 18 to 34 engage with brands far more extensively than their older counterparts.1 It’s natural to assume this generation is only susceptible to digital media. It was born and raised on the Internet. But studies show, millennials engage with multiple marketing channels, including direct mail.2 In this article, we’ll dispel the biggest misconceptions about millennials and their relationship with mail. Plus, helpful tips for building a millennial-friendly direct mail campaign.
Myth 1: Print marketing is dead with millennials.
On the contrary, millennials value print.3 Research shows that these digitally engaged consumers are suffering from digital fatigue.4 Print marketing, on the other hand, has the ability to stand out. While millennials receive hundreds of emails every week, mail comes less frequently.5 The age group doesn’t have to tune out the messaging. According to a Gallup Poll, 95% of adults between 18 and 29 feel positively about receiving personal mail.6 They enjoy the tactile experience, use it to link to video content or promotional offers, even share it with friends.7
Ideas Worth Implementing: Studies show direct mail elicits a stronger emotional reaction than digital advertising.8 Use shaped mail to create more memorable, visually appealing content.
Myth 2: Millennials are digital addicts who only engage online.
Millennials are digital natives, but they’re not constantly connected. Millennials make up 31% of U.S. magazine readers and 20% of newspaper readers.9 And when they are online, they’re not always responding to digital marketing. Nearly half of millennials ignore digital ads. Pop-ups, banner ads and emails are also lost in the clutter of the Internet.10 Direct mail has the ability to cut through the noise. 88% of millennials see print on paper as more official than digital.11 With the right content, direct mail can be engaging.
Ideas Worth Implementing: Attendees of a USPS® focus-group study revealed they would be more likely to read direct mail if it had a message around an issue they cared about.12
Myth 3: Millennials do not see mail as relevant.
Though this demographic has grown up in a digital media landscape, they still interact with and enjoy direct mail. Studies have shown that 90% of people ages 25 to 34 find direct mail reliable, and 87% like receiving it.13 Opt for a cohesive omni-channel experience. By mentioning social media in direct mail copy, brands can bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds. Allow consumers to connect with your brand on your strongest social media channels.
Ideas Worth Implementing: Amplify your direct mail by tying in your social media accounts. Adding a social media brand icon to a mailer can lead more of your customers into your omni-channel experience.
Myth 4: Millennials do not trust the messages in direct mail.
Studies have shown the opposite to be true. Millennials do trust the messages in direct mail. 75% of millennials believe that direct mail is valuable.14 This age group actually trusts the information they receive in the mail over other media. 82% of millennials view messages printed on paper as more trustworthy than digital messages.15 When considering all the players in an omni-channel marketing campaign, mail can be used to deliver the most valuable messaging.
Ideas Worth Implementing: Use direct mail in conjunction with your digital marketing to highlight the most important product information and promotions associated with your campaign.
Myth 5: Millennials are not responsive to direct mail.
Wrong. Direct mail has been a successful sales driver for this demographic. In 2014, 28.9 million millennials made a purchase from a catalog.16 Because this age group isn’t as frequently exposed to direct mail as it is to other digital content, it hasn’t grown hardened to its effects.17 A truly potent marketing campaign incorporates both digital and print tactics, allowing mail to garner interest and move consumers closer towards a purchase, be it in-store or online.
Ideas Worth Implementing: Incorporate an offer millennials will respond to, but don’t stop there. Personalize the messaging for an added touch.
Though millennials are the generation of the future, it doesn’t take futuristic marketing to drive sales. Digital advertisements have a limited effect on this age group. As the media landscape changes and millennials come into their own, companies will have to become more attuned to the most potent marketing tactics, direct mail included.
Consumer expectations are changing faster than ever. To achieve success, a retailer must meet or exceed these needs ahead of the consumer, especially when it comes to shipping costs. For this reason, Ship from Store is one of the most invested in omni-channel opportunities today.1
In the Ship from Store Webinar, guest speaker Brendan Witcher of Forrester Research and Jim McNally of the USPS shared their industry perspective on the popular fulfillment strategy, with McNally focusing on the USPS’ ability to meet Ship from Store needs.
The holidays present a wealth of opportunities for businesses, but competition is fierce. Marketing channels are inundated. Customers are flooded with offers from countless brands. Cutting through the noise is crucial for success. In this case study, we’ll shine a light on a national retailer that pivoted its marketing strategy to incorporate direct mail and saw a dramatic lift in its holiday business.1
Planning for a Strong Performance
As the holiday season approached, the retailer searched for ways to increase its average customer spend. Having several eCommerce brands under a single umbrella—fresh flowers, gift baskets, popcorn, gourmet foods, and sweets—the company was ready for the season of giving, but it wanted to boost its sales. At first, it explored traditional channels. A cornerstone of holiday marketing is sending single-brand catalogs, so the retailer sent them to both previous and current customers.2 It also considered e-mail and other digital media, but they presented a challenge during the holidays. With e-mail open rates and click-through rates down during this critical season, it was time for another solution.3 So, the company set its sights on direct mail.
Doubling Down on a New Channel
The retailer decided to roll out a robust direct mail campaign that would bring its family of brands together for the first time in one self-mailer. Hoping to increase loyalty and encourage purchases across its many brands, the company sent the mailer to customers who had previously purchased from one or more product lines. Designed with six panels, it featured all the brands and included coupons for free shipping and $10 off select purchases. It worked. With direct mail part of their omni-channel strategy, the individual brands experienced a 13% to 35% boost in orders, with average customer spend increasing by $1.50 per order. Thanks to unified brand marketing, each company also enjoyed a lower cost per order. Needless to say, the campaign was a success.
Ideas Worth Implementing
The retailer got a lot right when it came to direct mail. When leveraged strategically, direct mail can bring value through sales, brand loyalty, and more. Here are a few ways companies can pursue their business goals:
- Think Beyond the Catalog: While this print piece is a cornerstone of holiday marketing, it’s an expensive investment for small to medium-size businesses. Direct mail presents a simplified, economical way to deliver some of the same information in a more digestible form.
- Print Multiple Offers: Consumers actively seek out sales and coupons during the holidays. Mail can be used to communicate a number of different promotions. By including more than one offer, businesses may be able to strengthen the potency of their direct mail.
- Synergize with Other Channels: Email, paid search, and direct website traffic often drive sales for online retailers. By creating a campaign that pairs one or all of these channels with direct mail, companies could increase their marketing reach and boost the campaign’s memorability.
The holidays are an exciting time. Consumers and businesses go full speed ahead in search of the best gift and the most effective marketing campaign. With some focus, one retailer was able to incorporate direct mail into its marketing mix and grow sales as a result. By seeking out the perfect medium and messaging—tactics any business can mimic—the company set itself up for a happy holiday season.
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