New shipping policies underway for major U.S. retailers

October 31, 2014 at 1:31 PMAdministrator
Multi-carrier shipping software will help distribution centers streamline operations this holiday season.

This holiday season, brick-and-mortar stores are changing their shipping policies to keep up with the convenience offered by online retailers. Rather than adhering to traditional shopping dates and shipping rates, stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy are mixing things up this year.

For the past three years, Target REDcard holders have been able to order items online with no additional charge for shipping. In response to the growing e-commerce market, which garnered $264.3 billion in 2013, in June 2014 the retail giant began offering free shipping for all customers when they purchased more than $50 worth of merchandise.

However, this holiday season, shipping will be completely free for all consumers and purchase prices until Dec. 20. This is the first time such a move has been made by the corporation. In an age where consumers can research product prices, either from their desktop computer at home or their smartphone on the go, being more transparent about costs and lenient on shipping up front is intended to boost sales.

Following suit is Wal-Mart, a corporation that has been offering free shipping on purchases over $50 since 2010. This year though, the store will widen the scope of items eligible for free shipping. Customers who purchase one of the store's projected 100 hottest seasonal items won't have to pay additional fees to receive their purchases.

Best Buy
A competitor with both Target, Wal-Mart and companies like Amazon, Best Buy has instituted free shipping on product purchases over $35. As the store sells electronics, video games, gaming systems, cameras, DVDs, CDs and more, it's likely most purchases made by consumers will qualify for the new shipping advantage.

Black Friday changes
Remarkably, this year both Amazon and Wal-Mart intend to start Black Friday sale prices early. Rather than bombard the public with dramatic sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 28 this year, both will roll out decreased prices on Saturday, Nov. 1. Wal-Mart's roll backs will apply to 20,000 pre-chosen items. Amazon's deals will continue through Dec. 22.

Pick-up solutions
Though e-commerce shopping has increased in popularity in the past couple of years, 90 percent of purchases are still made in-store. This may be because relying on a carrier to deliver items on time is riskier the closer gifts are bought to the holidays. In response, Target is offering consumers two additional options for retrieving their purchases. The first allows shoppers to buy a product online and then travel to a physical store to pick it up. The second option ships parcels from a location closer to the buyer, rather than a large distribution center, to decrease the amount of time it takes for the item to travel. 

With the intensity of online shopping, free shipping and product pick-ups continually evolving, businesses should consider adopting a multi-carrier shipping software system to streamline communications and operations. More efficient package tracking, accurate inventory data and flexibility offered by multi-carrier software will lead to customer satisfaction this holiday season.