While it’s always essential to ship orders quickly and securely, it’s even more critical during the busy holiday season. After all, presents need to arrive early enough to be put under the tree, handed out at holiday parties, or shipped to loved ones.
Many factors affect delivery time, some of which are outside of your control. Keep reading to learn how to prepare for holiday shipping and ensure that your packages arrive on time.
Choosing and Integrating with a Shipping Carrier
Choosing the right shipping carrier can significantly impact rates, arrival times, and delivery quality. The suitable carrier for your business may vary, but here are some things to consider when choosing one:
- Where are you shipping to and from? Make sure your carrier can ship to all of the locations you service.
- Do your products require special handling? If your products are heavy or require special attention (e.g., cold food or flammable items), ensure your carrier provides a solution.
- What are the available shipping rates? Can you get a discount if you ship a large volume?
- How quickly does your carrier deliver?
- Is tracking available?
It’s crucial that you also consider how delivery times and rates change during the holidays.
Some carriers also have holiday shipping surcharges, especially for bulky or overweight packages. Consider those when choosing a provider or determining shipping rates for your customers.
Choosing Cutoff Dates for Shipping
Once your shipping rates and methods are set up on your site, you must let customers know the last day they can purchase a product to receive it before December 25th.
Consider choosing different dates depending on the location you’re shipping to, since international shipping often takes longer. Be aware of any international holidays that may impact shipping times.
Ultimately, base your cutoff dates on your shipping carrier deadlines, holidays and weekends, and your own processing time.
Ensuring that Packages Arrive on Time
After setting clear and visible cutoff dates, you’ll need to do everything you can to make sure that your packages arrive on time.
Create an efficient order management process. Start by ensuring that materials and other items needed from your vendors arrive in time to fulfill your orders. Then, make sure that employees understand their duties and can efficiently perform them. You may need to hire seasonal or temporary team members to handle an increase in orders.
Have all shipping materials on hand. Order extra shipping and packaging materials and have them ready to go before the holiday season starts. You don’t want to wait for custom boxes or go to the store during the seasonal rush.
Be aware of high-traffic shopping days. Be prepared and have processes in place for quickly fulfilling orders following high-traffic shopping days. These may vary based on your location and industry, but include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas.
Handling Late Packages
But what if your packages do arrive late? How do you handle disgruntled and unhappy customers?
A good place to start is by having a refund and return policy in place. Make it visible on your site. Be professional and empathetic to frustrated customers and consider offering them a discount off of future purchases or a percentage of their order total back. They may still want the product, even if it’s late, and will be thrilled with a partial refund or coupon.
For some reason, if your product was damaged during shipping, offer your customer a replacement as an alternative to a refund. This can help retain loyal customers and often minimizes your losses.
Don’t be afraid to request shipping refunds from your carrier, as well. Depending on who ships your package and what shipping method you chose, you may be able to get your money back for late deliveries. Some carriers require that you request the refund within a certain period, so be aware of your carrier’s specific request window. And, if your package has shipping insurance and was damaged, you can request both a shipping refund and the value of the item.
Start Preparing Now
Most shoppers look for sales and buy gifts before the holidays. Make sure that you have the processes, policies, and settings in place to ensure that your packages arrive quickly and that your customers are happy.