For almost every online merchant, the peak holiday shipping season can be very hectic and chaotic. It can also be similarly chaotic for carriers. USPS, for example, recorded approximately 850 million package shipments in 2018 while UPS had over 750 million package shipments in the same year.
With more people embracing online shopping and expecting same-day delivery services, online retailers are under intense pressure to deliver high volumes of packages at accelerated speeds. And with worldwide holiday sales increasing from $94 billion in 2016 to $108 billion in 2017, that pressure is only going to get more intense. So if you’re looking for ways to beat the stress and stay sane this season, this guide has a lot of handy tips.
12 Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Shipping Season
The season of frenzied shipping activity is right around the corner, so this is the best time to prepare all your eCommerce shipping needs. To help you meet the exceedingly high expectations of your customers, we’ve pulled together a few useful tips.
- Understand Carriers' Holiday Schedules
Whether you’re shipping with FedEx, UPS, or USPS, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of their holiday service schedules. Find out the holiday shipping deadlines of the couriers you intend to use for ground, sea, and air services. This way, you’ll be able to avoid disappointing your customers with late Christmas deliveries.
- Plan Ahead of Time
To make the most of eCommerce shipping services during holiday seasons, you should learn to plan ahead of time. It might be difficult to pinpoint the exact level of inventory you’ll need to get through the festive season, but to be on the safe side, your inventory should have a good buffer for unexpected orders. This will minimize the chance that you’ll run out of stock in the heat of the shipping rush.
- Avoid Procrastinating
When things get busy, it’s all too easy for online retailers to shelve orders for later instead of acting on them immediately. But of course, this can create shipment delays and all sorts of problems later. Avoid all of this by packing and shipping all orders as soon as possible. That way, you limit last-minute panicking that could leave you with late deliveries and unhappy customers.
- Maintain Open Communication
One of the keys to maintaining stress-free holiday shipping - for both yourself and your carriers - is to maintain an open dialogue. If you’re planning to offer your customers a “Free Shipping Day” incentive, then your carrier should be aware of it. That way, they can prepare themselves to effectively handle the influx of packages and pickups on the day. The same rule applies to any changes in shipping that may come up during the holiday season.
- Understand Your Customers’ Expectations
Avoid having unhappy customers by taking the time to understand their expectations. This is especially true for shipping and delivery. Make sure your shipping and delivery terms are very clear on your website so that your customers understand exactly what to expect.
- Tip #6: Pay Attention to Packaging
While you’re trying to meet your shipping deadlines for Christmas, don’t forget that your customers are expecting their orders to be delivered safely. No customer wants to take delivery of damaged products. For this reason, take the time to properly package your products so that they’re thoroughly protected while en route to your customers.
- Insure Your Packages
No matter how reliable your carrier is, accidents happen. And you certainly don’t want to leave your business vulnerable to this. Consider insuring your shipments, especially if you have a large shipping volume. Chances are good that your packages will reach their destinations safely. But you don’t need to take any chances.
- Explore Viable Strategies for Faster Shipping
These days, the key to a successful eCommerce business is becoming about how fast delivery can be made. Because of this, you should take time out to explore strategies for faster fulfilment. This can include talking to multiple carriers, attending to orders as soon as they come in, and keeping a fully-stocked inventory.
- Prepare for Post-Holiday Returns
Just as there is an increase in sales in the lead up to the holidays, online retailers find that there is also an increase in post-holiday returns. Often, it’s not really your fault. It could be that your product was a gift that the recipient just didn’t want. No matter the reason, you will face a higher-than-normal amount of returns after the holidays, so plan for the expenses and inconveniences that come with this.
- Prepare for Extra Shipping Charges
Depending on the carriers you use for your holiday shipping, there might be extra surcharges to ensure your packages reach your customers in good time. Prepare for this by finding out ahead of time what these extra costs may be. This way, you can try to avoid or minimize them as much as possible.
- Maintain Efficiency
If you can run your online shop in a highly efficient manner over the peak holiday season, you’re sure to record higher sales volumes and increased customer satisfaction. Don’t just aim to quickly fulfil your customers’ orders - make sure that the orders are accurately and quickly fulfilled, too.
- Entice Them to Order Earlier
The biggest reason that most retailers miss holiday shipping deadlines is late orders. While it’s not entirely in your power to get customers to place their orders earlier, there is a way to encourage them to do so. Think about putting on special promotions in early December to get customers to order early and give you and your chosen carriers adequate time to pack and deliver shipments.
It’s Christmas Shipping Crunchtime - Make Sure You’re Ready!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an eCommerce store owner, an online marketplace seller, or a dropshipping vendor. Being able to effectively sort out your holiday eCommerce shipping is the key to driving holiday sales. With the above shipping tips, you should be able to align your holiday business goals with customers’ expectations.
Easyship understands carrier delivery schedules very well. We also understand that your customers have very high expectations. That’s why we help online merchants navigate their holiday shipping needs while also identifying and eliminating those variables that can lead to high shipping fees. Sign up for a free account today to gain access to over 250 shipping solutions as you get ready to fulfil your holiday shipping.
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