3 Shipping Best Practices for E-tailers Preparing for the Holiday Season
Shippers wondering whether the upcoming holiday season will be as busy as previous ones are in a wait-and-see mode, driven by the weak housing market and current credit crunch.
With the weak economy, consumers are more likely to be prudent with their holiday spending. But many also are staying home to cut down on their fuel expenditures. They're using their extra time to shop online. As a result, online sales continue to grow at a greater pace than last year.
In fact, retailers have seen a 17 percent decrease in customer traffic in their brick-and-mortar stores and a 15 percent increase in online shoppers, according to several industry reports. But retailers, catalogers and dot-coms also are waiting until the last minute to order products from manufacturers. That places a lot of pressure on them to deliver on time.
The holiday season could be extra challenging this year given that the shipping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one week shorter than previous years; businesses inventories are lower, hindered by a weak economy; and carriers are cutting back on drivers and fleets to control costs.
Steps for success
So, how can e-tailers stay successful during this peak season? Here are three ways:
- Encourage consumers to order early. In the past, retailers have provided incentives, such as free shipping and attractive discounts to encourage buyers to purchase before Thanksgiving. I recommend you try that again this year.
- Control shipping costs. Work with shipping or fulfillment companies that partner with the U.S. Postal Service for the last mile of delivery. The USPS has the most drivers and the largest fleet of vehicles delivering to more than 140 million addresses daily. Also, make sure the company you choose can eliminate typical surcharges, such as residential- and rural-area surcharges. These surcharges alone can increase your shipping costs by $4.25 per package.
- Provide capacity to handle high volumes. Besides being able to handle large volumes, provide full visibility of shipments to the consumer from the time it has left your facility to the point of delivery at the home or office. This will do the following:
- reduce call center calls;
- assure clients that the package has shipped and is in transit; or
- tell clients that the package has been delivered.