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Postal strikes will put extreme pressure on peak trading period; here’s how e-commerce businesses can keep customers happy

Optiseller – the SaaS tool that helps retailers use their data to optimise their online stores – is urging businesses to improve customer communication and be more transparent in the face of the extended postal strikes.

This reminder comes as we enter the peak trading period in December and are facing seven more postal strikes this month, that go right through until Christmas Eve from the Communication Workers Union.

Royal Mail has been a key delivery partner for many marketplaces. In fact, Optiseller’s latest figures [1] from eBay store accounts, show that 59% of orders made there since April 2022 are sent via Royal Mail. It also found that peak trading orders in December have increased year-on-year since 2019 and before the pandemic began, so there is an unusually higher demand this year too.

Chris Cook, Senior Marketplace Growth Specialist at Optiseller comments: “Customers, through no fault of the online stores themselves, are about to experience more weeks of uncertain delivery windows and mixed messages around arrival dates. It is absolutely imperative during this time that retailers seek to maintain – or where possible, improve – their customer experience journey and handle this properly.

“December usually sees many retailers and stores adapt their postage window to meet extra demand. Couple a busier online shopping period with 10 days of strike action from postal workers, and we have a potential recipe for disaster for both consumers and brands. Over half (59%) of our clients’ orders go through Royal Mail, so we know this is a big problem for all marketplaces and online stores right now and in the coming weeks.

“In a crucial trading period, this obstacle could ‘make or break’ some retailers as frustrations with poor communication add fuel to an existing fire. Unhappy customers can lead to damaging and negative reviews that affect future trade, and less repeated custom.”

Here’s how online stores can mitigate the post office delays and keep customers happy:

“Postal strikes only further highlight the need for brands to focus on customer experience and shopping journey on an online marketplace,” says Chris, as he shares tips on what businesses can do to manage this situation.

1. Be realistic and honest

We are customers ourselves at some point or another, so can relate to the frustration of not receiving something on time when you were told you would or expected it. Frustrations run higher at this time of year and upsetting a customer can lead to a negative review, which can deter future orders. Updating your delivery window information is important, but also ensure order confirmation emails display information like this too where possible so dates are consistent and clear. Honesty really is the best policy.

2. Consider different shipping options

There are a range of shipping options you can offer to buyers to encourage them to place an order despite strikes. You should consider offering different couriers for different selections. For example, you could select Royal Mail for Economy and Standard then opt for another courier for Express delivery during the strikes timeframes.

Similarly, you might want to have multiple courier options to broaden the choice for shoppers. Some prospective buyers may reconsider buying from a store or seller that offers Royal Mail only, as they want to make sure their Santa presents for kids or gifts can be guaranteed to arrive before the big day.

3. Look into offering delivery discounts

Offering discounts on shipping can work as a conversion aid, especially for buyers that are considering purchases of multiple items, or looking for postage discounts on higher value items. This could be the push a potential customer needs to convert into a paying one. If you can’t offer free shipping on an item, discounts will work as an added incentive to select your store and item over another that is offering standard shipping options.

This could also be a chance to increase your average basket value, encourage shoppers to fill their basket by offering free or discounted express shipping when they spend a certain amount. You’d be surprised how many customers would rather buy an extra product from you instead of a delivery charge. Delivery discounts and offers really could be the difference between you getting a sale or losing out to a competitor – which is key right now when the high street itself is attractive too in the face of postal strikes.

For more information, online retailers or businesses can visit Optiseller’s peak trading guide for more advice on tips for the coming weeks: https://www.optiseller.com/blog/preparing-for-peak-trade-shipping

[1] – Optiseller’s latest figures – % of packages sent through Royal Mail by Optiseller customers from April – November 2022.