Shipping During the Holidays… and a Pandemic.

The last quarter of the year can be stressful one for ecommerce businesses even in the best of times. Unsurprisingly, this year is proving to be even more so with shipping delays and lack of guarantees of delivery times with our usual third-party shippers.

How can we navigate these challenges so that we don’t lose sales, or worse, customers to frustration – which diminishes trust in our brand? Regardless of the operational, logistical, and supply-chain challenges our businesses are currently dealing with, we can still make this experience exceptional.

5 Tips to Navigating a Successful Shipping Season:

1. Be Proactive.

  • Be Aggressive (with our timeline). If your winery has a ‘typical’ timeframe that annually offers a promotion, move the dates up earlier this year. For example, if you offer gift packs every year at a special price, make sure your promotion starts a week earlier than you normally would. Set your internal deadlines earlier than normal.
  • Have a game plan in place and make it easy. For example, have a holiday ‘guide’ to market to corporations with packages and virtual offerings that need to be ordered before Thanksgiving (aka now) for a Christmas delivery.

2. Update Our Websites.

We all know there are going to be shipping delays, so let’s make sure we’re communicating that information. During emergencies, all ecommerce sites should have some discoverable messaging about shipping, addressing whether delays can be expected or not. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, if no COVID-related communication exists or can be found through the site search, customers may end up uncertain about when they’ll get their items. They may even think that the winery/business is completely closed if the website isn’t updated to reflect current issues. Uncertainty is not the feeling we want to create among our audience.

Make shipping-delay messages easily discoverable on relevant pages throughout the site so users can see them up front. We don’t want our customers to spend valuable time shopping on our sites only to find out at the very end that their order may not be delivered within the needed timeframe and they must find a different winery/wine retailer.

Nielsen Norman Group recommends that if there are product specific delivery delays or purchasing limits, layer the communications across relevant pages. Don’t rely only on a single banner message on the homepage and product or category pages. Information should also be provided at checkout.

Wineries with changes to brick-and-mortar operations, such as winery closures and curbside-pickup changes, should detail these changes on the homepage and at relevant places where specific winery locations are referenced. And, wineries supporting curbside pickup should communicate the basics of the process on the home page and at checkout.

3. Update Transactional Emails.

The two main emails we want to make sure we update are our order confirmations and our shipping confirmations. Ensure critical changes are communicated and provide explicit instructions for any additional steps.

When customers make a purchase online, the purchase is usually followed by an automated order-confirmation email at a minimum. Some retailers follow purchases with a collection of related emails to communicate the status of the order and provide relevant details at each stage.

A best practice for any type of transactional email (per NNG) is to go beyond simply confirming the transaction and prepare the customer for what to expect at the next stages of the customer journey. This means that shipping delays due to COVID-19 should be reiterated in the automated order-confirmation emails that follow, even if they were already communicated on the website. After the transaction takes place, the order confirmation is oftentimes the only reference point for that order and people will look back to it.

Updates may include information about how our team handles the items and our shipping partner’s process for contact-less delivery. For example, whereas many carriers would previously require a signature, it may be worth noting in transactional communications that this will no longer be required. Additionally, we may want to consider adding another transactional email to our normal communications if we don’t have it: the order delivered email.

4. Communicate. Set Expectations.

If our customers are likely to experience delays, add one or two more messages to our suite of transactional emails to acknowledge the backup and let customers know their order is still on the way. Communicate potential shipping delays as early as possible. Don’t wait until the user visits the shopping cart and checkout pages to mention delays.

      • Our friends at WineGlass Marketing encourage us to review our messaging. Make messaging about our customers, make it emotional (emotional connections build trust, which builds sales and loyalty), and while we should sell nationally, be sensitive to local issues.
      • Use other relevant communication such as SMS or messaging-platform channels for in-the-moment updates when applicable. If customers have opted into receiving communication via other channels, specifically text or chat platforms, consider leveraging these channels for in-the-moment updates. Although email is widely used for transactional communications, not all customers monitor email heavily enough to receive instant updates. SMS and messaging channels are a better channel for immediate updates.

5. Add or adjust post-purchase automations.

Think about the touchpoints in our customer’s journey where we could make small tweaks to improve every encounter with our brand. Use post-purchase automations to strengthen brand affinity with first-time buyers to make up for any unusual delays or distractions. While the post-purchase email is a great way to build our brand voice, we may also want to avoid sending marketing emails that pertain to our customer’s order if the item hasn’t arrived yet.

We’re almost through this crazy year… let’s end it on a better note. While this is an uncertain time for us, it’s also an opportunity to optimize our ecommerce shopping experience and win over customers who are shopping more online in order to turn them into lifelong shoppers.

For more info and great examples on these tips, go to: