Warnings for ecommerce store owners ahead of a BFCM that’s full of uncertainty

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

The biggest shopping day of the year is going to look a lot different this year — and that’s some things that every ecommerce business owner needs to know and consider.

First, demand for shipping has been slowly increasing over the past few weeks as coronavirus cases spike and more stay at home advisories and other health warnings are issued. While we’re not at the point (yet) that the U.S. reached in the spring, where days and weeks (not hours) were becoming the normal turnaround time for orders.

However, keep in mind that this is only the “pre”-BFCM period and once those two days hit, shipping volume is likely to skyrocket.

Shipping volume typically grows right after BFCM but also consider that more people will likely be doing holiday shopping online this year due to COVID-19. Plus, shippers will also likely be handling an influx of shipments for items people may not normally buy online — such as household items — because they don’t want to risk going to a store.

Remember that during the spring outbreak, many retailers were prioritizing shipments of household items, cleaning supplies, so if you don’t do your own fulfillment, it’s vital to remember that even if your inventory is in stock and sales boom, there’s always the chance your orders could be placed farther back in the queue.

As volume increases, it’s also likely that more shipments could be lost, misdirected or damaged.

As a store owner, here are some actions you should consider taking now:

  • If you haven’t already, update your storefront, cart and checkout pages to reflect that shipping times may be delayed or extended.
  • Avoid “guaranteeing” delivery by specific dates. Review any use of this word and update your terms and conditions to remove any references to guaranteed delivery dates unless you’re prepared to offer refunds or credits for packages that don’t make it on time.
  • This includes rewording those traditional holiday order deadline pages or policies to reflect that you cannot guarantee delivery by any holiday, but that placing your order by that date makes it significantly more likely that the order will make it there in time.
  • Start offering BFCM deals before the actual dates. You could even go as far as saying the pricing is equivalent to what shoppers will see on “actual” Black Friday (assuming that’s true).
  • Consider beefing up packaging, especially if you sell items that are fragile or tend to see a high rate of damage from automated sorting equipment or handling. During this period, it’s more important to get flawless packages in the hands of your customers on time.
  • Review your order tracking emails and other similar notifications to make sure customers are aware it can take some time for tracking to update. Many consumers are reporting an increase in delays for shipment data to show up in tracking systems.
  • Be sure that your backend operations, specifically manufacturing and fulfillment can be performed safely during a pandemic and modify it as needed, making sure to adjust delivery expectations appropriately.
  • Also do a review of your overall terms and conditions to make sure nothing in them can end up hurting your business adversely, especially if you do everything possible but, for example, the carrier loses or delivers an order late. Even worse, be sure you’re protected in the event you have to shut down your manufacturing and fulfillment operations due to a COVID outbreak or stay at home order.

In short, it’s ultimately better to communicate all of this upfront. Yes, people are getting sick of constant shipping delays, but, on the other hand, if they can plan ahead or work around matters outside of anyone’s control, it will most likely end up keeping your reputation intact.

Remember, there’s no value in generating huge sales volume on BFCM if you start experiencing higher loss rates, late deliveries and more — all of which lead to customer dissatisfaction.