At the end of November, I posted about online retailers showing holiday shipping cutoff dates on their home pages. Now more than two weeks later, and with just over a week left before Christmas, we find more retailers adding this information to their home pages, including reminders about electronic gift cards and in-store pickup options.
But the home page is not the only place you should include this information. Shoppers may enter deeper pages through affiliate links, search engines, email-a-friend notices or bookmarks. So shipping deadlines and electronic gift card options should be visible on product pages as well. Bath & Bodyworks' banner is site-wide, and another green box with the reminder appears in the bottom left of each product page.
Eddie Bauer does the same, with a site wide link from the banner and a larger offer box on the home page:
Ice.com trumps them all with free overnight shipping - right up until Friday - displayed right in the middle of the home page:
This was not the offer on November 28. Ice offered free shipping, but only recently upped it to overnight shipping for last-minute shoppers.
Bath & Bodyworks also offers an alternative for those who will miss the shipping cutoff date - electronic gift cards that will arrive instantly:
Amazon includes a reminder on its product pages when an item is not in-stock:
So if you haven't already optimized your home page for last-minute shoppers, make sure you have clear shipping deadline information visible from every page on your site (banner or persistent side-navigation like Ice.com is recommended). Include reminders about electronic gift cards if you offer them. If you have physical store locations and offer in-store pickup, you also want to communicate this (examples: Best Buy, Circuit City and Office Max).
And please make it very clear if an item is not in-stock or for any other reason will not arrive before December 24th. Amazon does not do the best job of making this clear. Example:
"Free Super Saver Shipping" stands out, but product availability (not in stock) is easy to gloss over. Often times you need to purchase a couple items to make the $39 threshold for super saver shipping - so you add several items to your cart and proceed to checkout.
To qualify for super saver shipping, the customer must select "group my items into as few shipments as possible." Now, if one item is out of stock, it will delay the entire shipment until that item becomes available. But Amazon provides no warning before the customer makes a payment that the package will be delayed.
Don't assume your customer will read all the details on your product page. You have to make it stand out in a larger font, bold color or with an icon. It's not just the newbies that can suffer, even online shopping veterans! Customers who know exactly what they want are most vulnerable because they are less likely to read product details.
This happened to me recently. On Saturday when I was checking my credit card statement, and noticed two Amazon orders I had placed a week ago were not yet charged. So I logged into my Amazon account to track my order and noticed that none of the items had shipped because each shipment contained one item not-in-stock. I was not notified of this via email or during checkout, so I canceled my orders and I plan to buy the items locally instead (if I can find them). Had I not checked my statement, I would have had an unpleasant surprise come Christmas, at least I have a week now to find substitutes.
Despite this customer service disaster, I will continue to shop at Amazon but will be much more careful next time. You may not be so lucky with your customers. Make it very clear if anything will delay a shipment, and make it much more clear about product availability.