Happy Valentine’s Day: Five Ways Retailers Can Ensure Those Romantic Gifts Arrive On Time

This blog was written by guest writer, Mike Cassidy, Lead Storyteller at BVA's agency partner, Signifyd.

Fresh off an all-out push to get winter holiday orders out the door in time, a significant number of online retailers are now deep into deja vu as Valentine’s Day, with its deliver-or-die imperative, bears down.

Sound overly dramatic? Not really. The unprecedented shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic pushed fulfillment capacity among shipping companies to the limit. An estimated 1 million packages did not make it to their destinations in time for Christmas — despite major carriers performing admirably in the face of record-smashing volumes.

And so merchants specializing in gifting — think florists, jewelers, lingerie sellers, candy retailers and the like — need to be working to get orders out with a little breathing room. This is serious business. A Valentine’s Day gift that arrives on Feb. 15 loses something in translation. A romantic interest might as well include a message that says: “Thinking of you, Valentine. Just not when it counted.” Darcy Cozzetto, chief operating officer of innovative online florist The Bouqs Company, oversaw the company’s successful response to unprecedented traffic in 2020.

“Flowers are highly emotional and commemorate an important life event,” she says, “so arriving a day early or late is a miss for the customer and their experience.”

No pressure. And if the stress of pleasing a customer on that one special day isn’t enough, consider the consequences of that one-time miss. For many retailers, holidays mark a significant customer acquisition event. A consumer who otherwise wouldn’t have discovered your site, just might, while looking for the perfect gift for someone else. But if that first-time experience goes south, you have a good chance of losing that customer for good.

In fact, nearly 53% of consumers said they’d abandon a retailer for good after one or two bad online experiences.

The winter holiday shipping challenge is now year-round

Throughout 2020 and amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ecommerce world has taken center stage, easing the burdens of lockdowns and consumers’ generally wariness. In November and December, online sales on Signifyd’s Commerce Network were up an average of nearly 40% year over year. Moreover, 48% of consumers surveyed by Upwave on behalf of Signifyd said they were shopping online more than they had pre-pandemic. And 49% said they’d continue with that behavior in 2021.

All of which means added pressure for retailers working to get Valentine’s Day gifts to the right place at the right time. So, what’s a merchant to do in a time of rising order volumes, overburdened shipping companies and rising consumer expectations? We’ve learned from a few retailers who have cracked the code and come up with five ways to manage the Valentine’s Day order surge:

  1. Be transparent: Yes, you want to be all things to all customers, but be upfront about the deadline to order online for Valentine’s Day delivery. Customers can’t be unpleasantly surprised when they are armed with knowledge in advance.

  2. Promote buy-online-pick-up-in-store and curbside pickup: The ability to pick up online orders has been saving forgetful significant others for years. This year it’s especially important for procrastinators to have a last-minute option. As a retailer, be sure you’re prepared with a solid in-store and curbside fulfillment plan.

  3. Don’t discount creative last-mile alternatives: If the big shippers’ deadlines are too onerous, look into up-start startups, like Postmates, Uber, Instacart, DoorDash or one of the white label delivery services. Retailers like Toys R Us Canada and Sam’s Club have partnered with DoorDash to get customers their orders on time.

  4. Stage early discounts and promotions: While it might be too late for Valentine’s Day, as other order peaks approach — think Easter, Mother’s Day, back-to-school — consider launching promotions and discounts well ahead of the traditional shopping season to spread out order volumes. The strategy worked for many retailers during holiday 2020.

  5. Automate your order flow and review: Even with a talented in-house fraud detection and prevention team, you might find your resources become stretched to the limit during holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day and any other shopping rushes. Artificial intelligence-driven systems can handle a steadily increasing volume of orders without additional staffing and without becoming overwhelmed. Automated fraud review can be especially crucial during high-volume holidays because merchants can’t afford to delay orders when manual review queues back up, nor can they afford to ship orders without proper vetting.

  6. Automated systems, like Signifyd’s Commerce Protection Platform, can sift fraudulent from legitimate orders in milliseconds and trigger shipping, while scaling to meet any surge in orders. Signifyd’s decisions also come with a 100% financial guarantee, shifting liability for approved orders from the merchant to Signifyd. The platform’s instant decisions can add days to holiday shipping deadlines, meaning more approved orders and additional revenue.

Concluding Thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic, plus the 2020 holiday rush, put everyone to the test, allowing for new perspectives on fulfillment and fraud during peak and sometimes chaotic times. Now is a good time to put those lessons to work to ensure a successful Valentine’s Day and additional success during the inevitable rushes of future holidays.

Another special thanks to BVA's partner, Signifyd!