Holiday shipping is all about staying ahead of the curve. Everything gets hectic, and a misstep can leave you behind the competition. Customers may procrastinate their shopping, but you cannot procrastinate your shipping or order fulfillment—this is a case of “the customer is always right.” In order to keep the customer correct and happy, you’ll want to follow these steps this holiday season. It may seem a little odd to be worried about the holiday rush when we’re still running your ACs at full blast, but being ready now makes it easier in the long run.
1. Buy Boxes and Supplies Now
For most of the year, you can usually anticipate how busy it’s going to be and how many sales you’ll make each week. This is all up in the air during the holiday season. The order activity may peak a lot higher, dip off, then skyrocket right at the end of the holiday season. Having a stockpile of shipping materials like boxes ensures that you’re always prepared to box up orders and ship them off. Everyone is busier in the holiday season, this includes the people you buy boxes from. Furthermore, many industry options, like Uline.com, offer deep discounts the larger your bulk order is—making you save in the long run!
2. Use Inventory Management
Similar to having all your boxes and tape ready, you’ll want to have your inventory on-hand and ready to ship. This is a given, though, so making sure you are always on top of your inventory is what we’ll be focusing on. While ShipStation and CoreCommerce both offer inventory functionality, you may need something more. Look for a system that includes threshold notifications and multi-channel support. Systems such as Finale, SKUVault, and StitchLabs are all premium inventory management solutions that may come with a hefty price, but so is the alternative—additional employees/seasonal workers. Use this time of the year to get up to speed on any new software.
3. Use a Shipping Software
We know how frustrating can be, and the busy time of the year is no time for repetitive tasks. A shipping software offers a complete solution for the challenges of shipping and fulfilling orders. Not only does integrating all your carriers and selling channels into a single platform, they frequently help give you access better rates for a variety of carriers.
Another valuable time saver that shipping software offer is automation. Anything that you do multiple times should be automated. Manually entering shipping information, or even selecting shipping services isn’t something that you have to do—particularly when the orders start piling up. Being able to log into a shipping platform and clicking create label allows you to get back to other areas of your business that are more pressing.
4. Know Your Holiday Restrictions and Deadlines
Knowing how long you have to ship until the end of the holiday season is important. The carriers generally make some holiday exceptions. For instance, FedEx usually lifts the residential surcharge on shipments in the month before Christmas. This can save you about $4 per shipment on Home Deliveries. However, other additional handling/oversized charges often balloon this time of year. Real estate is expensive in the back of a truck this time of year, so if you’re shipping something quite large, you may end up paying several hundred dollars more than you do the rest of the year.
Furthermore, shipping deadlines are important to remember. Q1 returns are already bad enough, you don’t want them because a parcel made it to its destination late and the recipient sent it back. Check ShipStation’s holiday shipping deadlines calendar to know what to expect for this year’s holiday shipping.