How to get ahead of holiday shipping delays and fulfillment issues

Profile photo of author Alexandra McPeak
Ecommerce industry
November 22, 2021
woman looking at a computer writing on a package

Shipageddon 2021 is here—and direct-to-consumer retailers are bracing themselves as the international backlog in shipping gets worse.

And if last year is any indication, consumers are likely facing late holiday deliveries, missing gifts—and potentially, major disappointment.

Proactive marketing strategies on your owned channels will be the key to getting ahead of the shipping delays and fulfillment issues this season. These kinds of communications can steer the narrative in a positive direction, while also reassuring your customers.

Get campaigns out now

Get ahead of shipping delays and fulfillment issues by encouraging your customers to shop for the holidays now. Incentivize them with campaigns on your owned email and SMS channels to let them know that they have early access to sales, holiday gift guides, and limited-time offers. Let your customers know that if they are proactive and shop early, they can avoid disappointment this holiday season.

shoes, pants, and shirts for sale
diamond necklace around someone's neck

Proozy sent out email campaigns to customers about their pre-Black Friday sales, letting them know that they could take advantage of the best prices of the year.

The Clear Cut sent emails to customers with links to a 24-hour flash sale. In the flash sale email, they encouraged customers to make their purchases before November 1 for guaranteed shipping by December 21. 

green skin care products

Farmacy encouraged their customers to shop early with an option to “gift now” and “pay for them later” using Afterpay.

Maintain customer trust with communication

Honest and clear messages will help you maintain trust with your customers. According to a study by Label Insight, transparency in brand communications is so important that 73% of consumers will spend more with a brand that’s straightforward in its messaging.1

As the shipping backlog intensifies, keep your customers informed about shipping delays and fulfillment issues with authentic correspondence through your owned email and SMS channels.

plain text email from three ships apologizing for a delay

Three Ships uses email marketing to proactively let their customers know about possible shipping delays and to remind them to place their orders ASAP. The company also strategically points to clickable links of limited-edition holiday products to make it easier for customers to shop early. 

plain text email from tortuga apologizing for a delay

Tortuga gets ahead of problems by emailing their customers updates about inventory supply and price increases due to rising tariff costs. By proactively letting their customers know about these issues, Tortuga prevents their customers from having unpleasant surprises, while building their trust.  

plain text email from dagne dover apologizing for a delay

Dagne Dover shares a candid update in its email, explaining how it’s experiencing longer processing times for deliveries in addition to shipping delays. The company also addresses its customers in a friendly manner, calling its community “fam,” cultivating a stronger connection with its customers.

Offer rewards to delight customers

Rewards will not only incentivize customers to shop early before shipping delays and fulfillment issues get worse, but they will also help build customer trust and loyalty. According to Google, 72% of consumers prefer brands that include rewards and benefits in their customer experience.2

metal drinking cup with a straw

Consider offering free swag to early shoppers. S’well emailed its VIP customers an offer to receive a free product on orders over $75—a generous offer many will find hard to resist. 

man in a red jacket on a bike
girl laying in bed with a brown duvet

Aventon is also using rewards to delight its customers. With a purchase of an ebike, the brand offered a free gift for a limited time. Aventon promotes other perks as well, including 0% financing and free shipping.

Parachute cultivates a sense of community by offering incentives and perks for its subscribers. The company warmly refers to its customers as the “Cozy Club” and offers members rewards including the opportunity to shop collections at the last minute, early access to product launches, and free styling consultations. 

Suggest alternatives for out-of-stock products

Take advantage of your owned email and SMS channels to offer recommendations to customers. By using automation, you can set up back-in-stock alerts to notify subscribers who signed up for the service when a product they want is available.

Alternatively, if your items don’t restock, remind customers about alternatives with a text like, “Hi [customer’s name], It looks like Product X is out of stock, but we think you will like Product Y just as much.” You can also offer a coupon code for a discount on the alternative product to sweeten the deal. 

addias sneaker email they couldn't find the product

Adidas sent this email to a customer to let them know that while the product they originally wanted was out of stock, they had recommendations on alternatives.

You can also send emails to customers to notify them when an item they want is back in stock. Here’s an email from ASOS to customers with a back-in-stock notification. 

Use proactive marketing strategies to enhance the customer experience

Customer satisfaction should be at the forefront of your priorities all year long—not just when the fallout from a global shipping backlog threatens to erode your customers’ trust. By offering clear communications with your customers while building their loyalty, you should be able to make it through Shipageddon relatively unscathed—and with all your customer relationships intact.

Discover even more ways to plan ahead during the holiday season to avoid ecommerce shipping delays during Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Build automations that keep your customers informed.
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Alexandra McPeak
Alexandra McPeak
Content strategist
Alex McPeak is a Content Strategist at Klaviyo. She helps entrepreneurs and small businesses grow. Before joining Klaviyo in 2020, Alex spent several years writing, editing, and podcasting throughout the Boston tech scene. Alex graduated from Emmanuel College. Outside of work, Alex enjoys traveling to warmer places, reading mystery novels, and eating sushi.