The holidays are when your warehousing workflows get put to the ultimate test. And from the time customers are placing an order to when it’s delivered, they have different concerns than they do the rest of the year.
Before we get into what makes the holidays unique, let’s first go over what consumers really think about shipping. In our study, we surveyed 1,300 North American consumers – female, male, young and old – to find out what they expect retailers to offer when they order online.
1. Know customer shipping preferences for the holiday season
During the holiday season, customers’ expectations change slightly. There’s a greater urgency to have gifts delivered than when consumers buy for themselves.
In fact, our study found that consumers are 75% more likely to pay for an expedited shipping service when purchasing a gift. This is likely due to narrower delivery timeframes for express services (2-3 days vs free shipping’s 5-9 days). Another theory is that consumers see express services as less likely to deliver damaged merchandise.
Furthermore, we found that 85% of consumers consider damages or shipping errors to be the responsibility of the merchant. So, regardless of if a carrier damages a package, the end consumer is more likely to leave a negative review of your business than the carrier.
For more information on how consumers think about shipping and to learn more about how you can create a lasting, memorable shipping experience that can help increase cart conversions and create repeat customers, check out our ebook: Last Touch, Lasting Impressions.
2. Have a good returns strategy in place
Customers are also increasingly concerned with returns policies. According to Allbusiness, 91 percent of customers factor return policies into their final decision when shopping online. During the holiday season, the volume of returns increases.
With so many customers price matching over the course of the holiday season, hassle-free returns are a great way to encourage customers to buy from you on the spot. Buying for other people can be tricky, and more than anything, a good returns policy ensures that customers don’t buy someone a gift that they already have or cannot use that they’d then be stuck with.
Having a good returns policy listed prominently on your website or during the checkout process minimizes cart abandonment. Options like customer-initiated returns and offering quick and easy store credits are great ways to make returns efficient.
3. Know your carrier’s shipping deadlines
Once the holiday season starts coming to a close, you need to know which carrier services will be able to deliver orders with which shipping options.
Carriers, like everyone else, have to adjust their hours for the holiday schedule to accommodate the increased order volume. Understanding if any of your services have shortened or extended transit times will help you plan accordingly.
One major reason to have a plan to accommodate these last-minute shoppers is that 40% of holiday shoppers wait until the last ten days of the holiday season to buy gifts.
USPS Domestic Services Holiday Shipping Deadlines
|Retail Ground™||Dec. 14th|
|First Class Mail®||Dec. 20th|
|Priority Mail®||Dec. 21st|
|Priority Mail Express®||Dec. 23rd|
USPS International Services Holiday Shipping Deadlines
|Ship To Region||First Class Mail International||Priority Mail Int.||Priority Mail Express Int.|
|Canada||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Mexico||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Europe||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Australia/New Zealand||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Asia/Pacific Rim||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Central & South America||Nov. 30th||Nov. 30th||Dec. 7th|
|Caribbean||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
|Africa||Dec. 7th||Nov. 30th||Dec. 7th|
|Middle East||Dec. 7th||Dec. 7th||Dec. 14th|
FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines in the US
|Service||Shipping Cutoff Date|
|FedEx SmartPost®||Monday, December 9th|
|FedEx Ground®||Monday, December 16th|
|Home Delivery®||Monday, December 16th|
|Express Saver®||Thursday, December 19th|
|2Day® Services||Friday, December 20th|
|Overnight® Services||Monday, December 23rd|
UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines in the US
|Service||Shipping Cutoff Date|
|Ground®||Friday, December 13th|
|3 Day Select®||Thursday, December 19th|
|2nd Day Air® Services||Friday, December 20th|
|Next Day Air® Services||Monday, December 23rd|
4. Ship orders out within 24 hours
The urgency consumers have surrounding shipping requires action on your part to create a successful holiday season. The quicker a customer can open their shipping confirmation email, the more gratified they feel.
During the holiday season, customers can be anxious, and if they wait too long to receive a shipping confirmation, they can start submitting emails or tweeting at your company. Using effective fulfillment strategies and automation to quickly ship orders out will give your team the upper hand this holiday season.
5. Use shipping software
Using shipping software like ShipStation gets orders out the door quickly – particularly during the busy season. Instead of individually entering each order’s shipping data into a carrier’s website to print a label, you’ll have all of your orders from wherever you sell in one place. Sometimes adding an extra tool to a workflow makes everything much easier.
If you use Brightpearl, you already know the benefits of using a single system to gather and organize all of your order data. Shipping software gives you this same streamlined efficiency when generating labels. Use features like:
If you have to do something more than once, you should be able to automate it. Automating your shipping process avoids human error – especially during the holiday season.
Whether you bring temp agents onto the warehouse floor during the holiday rush or pull in team members from sales or marketing departments, you want to make sure that your picking process is as easy as possible.
One thing you can do is auto-assign orders to specific workers and then match requested shipping services with the checkout shipping option customers select in-cart.
Clicking through each order to manually select each shipping service and create each label can be a cumbersome process.
Having automation rules in place to correctly assign the appropriate shipping services lets you batch your multichannel orders together and create all your orders’ labels at the same time.
Want more holiday shipping tips? Check out ShipStation’s 2019 Holiday Prep Guide!