To help you prepare for the busy holiday season, here are our ten best holiday shipping tips for ecommerce merchants. Feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section at the end of the article!
Tip #1 – Ship your products as fast as you can
When a customer orders any product, anticipation for delivery can be high and patience for delays can be low. To keep your customers happy, be sure to send your products out as fast as you can but be mindful of daily cutoff times for carriers. If a USPS collection box is picked up at 5 PM, it makes no difference if the package is dropped off at 11 AM or 4:59PM; either way, the USPS won’t start moving that package until 5:00 PM. If you ship with multiple carriers, make sure you know the daily cutoff times for each carrier to help you prioritize which packages to prepare first.
Tip #2 – Pre-pack your orders if possible
To help prepare for the holiday rush, try and get as much done as possible during the calm before the storm. One of the best things you can do to prepare is pre-packing orders and marking their weight on the outside of the box. By making sure everything is ready to go out the door as soon as you throw in a packing slip and slap on a shipping label, you will be ready for orders that come in at the last minute.
Tip #3 – Stock up on supplies before it’s too late
The last thing you want to be dealing with during a busy holiday season is having a sale and the inventory, but nothing to package your order in. One way to avoid this problem is by ordering enough free USPS supplies today to get you through the holiday season.
Tip #4 – Use the right size box
When planning for your holiday shipping, make sure you have your products in mind. Obviously, it’s impossible to ship an item in a box that is too small, but small products in a big boxes can be a problem as well. With FedEx and UPS, you may be overcharged based on the package’s dimensions instead of its weight; for USPS, using the wrong Flat Rate box can more than double the amount you spend in shipping.
Tip #5 – Find the cheapest shipping rate
Another cost-pitfall to avoid is using the wrong delivery method to send your package. Because there are so many factors that can affect your price (weight, size, dimensions, home delivery, distance, delivery speed, and more), it’s important to do your homework to see what the cheapest option is for each of your products. Make sure you compare rates using tools like Stamps.com or your carrier’s websites to get this figured out now so you are ready to focus on generating revenue during the peak of the season.
Tip #6 – Check the delivery address
Sending packages quickly and on the cheap is moot if the package doesn’t end up in the hands of the proper recipient. To help make sure the address is valid, be sure to use some type of an address cleansing tool like Stamps.com or the USPS zip code lookup tool. If the address doesn’t cleanse, your best bet is to ask the customer to confirm their address. Once you have a valid address, make sure you present the address clearly on one side of the package, ideally using a printed shipping label.
Tip #7 – Protect your product
If any of your products are fragile or are in any way at risk of being damaged during transit, be sure to take extra care to properly package these products. For vases, mugs, or glass cups, make sure you stuff the inside of the item with newspaper or box fill and use bubble wrap or packing paper to protect the product. For items containing batteries, be sure to remove the batteries if possible to prevent them from dying in transit and to prevent any ticking or beeping that may cause a stir at the Post Office.
Tip #8 – Protect yourself on big packages
If the thought of a lost package or a damaged item has you stressed, there are tools you can use to help you sleep at night. Signature confirmation, which is available from the USPS, FedEx, and UPS can be used to prove not only that your package was dropped off at a particular destination, but that it was actually received by someone. The USPS even offers Restricted Delivery which requires the addressed recipient to sign for the package. Another option is insurance which will allow you to recoup your losses in the event of a mishap.
But be advised as each tool has its drawbacks. Many honest customers don’t like signature confirmation because if they aren’t home to take possession of the package, they have to go to the Post Office; this will likely be the last thing they want to do on December 24th. As for insurance, while this can protect you from improper delivery or a problematic customer, it comes at a premium. Many merchants prefer to self-insure if they can afford the loss rather than letting an insurance company eat into their profits.
Tip #9 – Skip the trip to the Post Office
The USPS will come and pick up your packages from you. Take advantage of this service to avoid long lines. For last-minute orders that need to get out same-day, you may be able to extend your cutoff times by taking a Post Office trip to drop off your package, but for the rest of your shipments that aren’t under a tight deadline, pickup is the way to go.
Tip #10 – Free Shipping
With the majority of merchants offering some type of shipping promotion this holiday season, can you afford to make your customers pay for something they feel they can get for free somewhere else? Aside from keeping up with your competition, free shipping promos may actually help you improve revenue. On top of that, if you offer free shipping on December 17th, you can be a featured merchant on freeshippingday.com.
Bonus Tip – Encourage Repeat Business
Inserting flyers, coupons, and freebies into your packages are a great way to drive future sales. During the holidays, this is particularly important because many orders are gifts so the recipient may not be the person who placed the order. If they love your product, why not let them know where they can buy it for someone else
If you have any other shipping tips that we may have missed, please leave a comment and let us know!
Don't forget to have enough Shipping Supplies on hand!