This Year’s Top 5 Holiday Shipping Problems And How To Avoid Them

Shipping containers stacked at a port

With Covid-related shipping chaos largely behind us, most retailers can look forward to comparatively ‘normal’ shipping services this festive season – but that’s not to say it will be smooth-sailing. 

The holiday season is still an incredibly busy time for shipping carriers. Freight rates are at their highest and capacity can be tight. This year retailers will also be grappling with fresh or exacerbated challenges, such as a lack of staff, unpredictable consumer demand and rising prices. 

Regardless, there’s rarely an excuse for slow, delayed or expensive shipping – especially in the minds of consumers shopping for gifts at an already emotionally-charged and stressful time of year. 

Brands that want to win and nurture customer loyalty and set themselves up for success during the holiday rush must think ahead and take action – especially when it comes to shipping.

Here are the top five shipping hurdles for 2022 and how you can overcome them…

Problem #1: Slow order processing

The faster orders are processed, the faster they can be shipped – which of course means the faster they will land in the hands of your customers. 

The trouble is, when orders spike, many retailers’ time-consuming manual picking, packing and processing workflows go into meltdown – causing frustrating delays. That’s what happened last year; the majority of UK brands (54%) struggled to meet the challenging demands of increased orders and, in the US, 56% struggled with surging demand, with a quarter of firms (24%) admitting orders were delayed as a result, risking major reputation damage (see the full report here). 

The solution: Automating retail workflows allows merchants to take a largely ‘hands-off’ approach to getting even complex orders out of the door (often only needing to ‘touch’ orders with especially unusual requirements or issues).

It’s the key to adding speed to fulfillment, so that items are shipped quickly, even during the holiday rush. 

Problem #2: Lack of seasonal staff

A shortage of labor was one of the big challenges for nearly 1 in 5 (19%) online retailers last Christmas, and it was cited as one of the ‘Top 10’ big challenges faced by merchants in the US. Manual jobs – especially temporary ones – that require in-person attendance and traditionally have lower wages continue to be a major struggle to fill. 

Brightpearl’s research reveals that almost four in 10 (38%) online brands in the UK, and three in 10 (31%) in the US, sought to increase labor as a way to manage online demand during the last holiday season. However, without workers available to fill the vacancies, it simply didn’t work. 

The solution: Automation reduces reliance on humans across the warehouse, while still ensuring that orders are picked and packed efficiently, safely and productively. Brands that use Brightpearl’s Automation Engine save on average two months every year, cut labor costs in half and reduce human errors by 60%. 

Problem #3: Late shipments

Modern consumers expect rapid delivery all year round – but they are especially unforgiving of lateness during the festive period. 

One of the top reasons shipments are delayed is because a retailer is waiting for stock to arrive – or, in other words, because they didn’t order the right amount of stock at the right time. Sometimes lateness is the fault of unreliable suppliers who don’t stick to their promises and, although ‘cheap’, don’t offer good value. 

The solution: Use a built-for-retail operating system that enables you to factor in the lead time of individual suppliers to accurately forecast demand – so that you know exactly what to order, and when to order it. Your operating system should also make it easy to analyze your suppliers and whether they are meeting their targets (and your standards). 

Problem #4: High shipping costs

After the sky-high shipping costs seen mid-pandemic, experts are predicting that the war in Ukraine will keep shipping costs higher for longer.

Unfortunately, consumers are generally unwilling to pay more than a nominal fee to receive their goods – which means it’s up to retailers to come up with ways to keep shipping costs low this holiday season. 

The solution: Reducing the distance items travel generally reduces the cost. The same goes for selecting the right carrier for the right items (heavy and bulky items are often cheaper to send with specialist shipping providers). Automatically selecting shipping carriers and routing orders depending on the distance of the destination is easy with Brightpearl

Problem #5: Lack of customer comms 

Modern customers want (and expect) to be kept informed at every stage of their buying journey. They like to know when their order is being processed, when it’s on its way and if there are any problems.

If you’re likely to take a little longer to get orders out of the door in the run up to Christmas, or if your shipping provider is experiencing delays, your customers are likely to be much more forgiving if you let them know. 

The solution: Manually trying to stay on top of prompt customer comms during the busiest time of the year is a fool’s game. Instead, automate your communications so that apologetic or explanatory emails are pinged when orders aren’t dispatched or delivered within a certain time frame. 

FREE DEMO: Discover how Brightpearl can help you succeed this busy season – book a free demo here