5 Holiday Shipping Tips from the Experts

Christmas gifts wrapped

This guest post is from our friends at ShipStation, experts in order fulfillment and shipping software.

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.

This holiday season, ShipStation has put together two ebooks that dive into the areas of customer shipping preferences and holiday shipping preparation

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

Service  Shipping Deadline
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: 

Automation rules

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. 

Batch shipping

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!