The holiday season is a busy time of year − especially for online business owners.
November and December are the two most profitable months for ecommerce. They drive 30% more ecommerce revenue than any other time of year.
With this boost in sales, keeping your customers happy can be difficult.
Arguably, the most important part of customer satisfaction is delivering purchases on time and intact. From increased shipping fees and deadlines to properly packaging products, here’s everything you need to know about holiday shipping.
With the holidays right around the corner, knowing the days that have a high volume of consumers is imperative. To help, we have listed the top dates that you should be prepared for this upcoming season:
- November 11: Veteran’s Day
- November 26: Thanksgiving
- November 27: Black Friday
- November 28: Small Business Saturday
- November 30: Cyber Monday
- December 10-18: Hanukkah
- December 14: Free Shipping Day
- December 25: Christmas Day
- December 31: New Year’s Eve
- January 1: New Year’s Day
Increased Shipping Fees
Waiting till the last minute to get your orders out the door can be costly. Many shipping carriers raise their prices around the holidays. Here is the list for the top three carriers:
Earlier this year, UPS enacted surcharges due to the increased shipping activity. The charges will be replaced mid-November by holiday Peak Surcharges. Here are some of the most significant surcharges this season, see if you fit the criteria:
- Applies to customers using the UPS services listed below and who ship more than 25,000 packages per week during the Peak Period, for all US origins and destinations.
- Applies to customers using the UPS services listed below and who ship more than 1,000 packages per week during the Peak Period- includes US domestic, US import, and US export shipments, for all origins and destinations.
FedEx will apply surcharges for any qualified deliveries from October 5th to January 17th. See below for those qualifications:
- A $4.90 surcharge on US express, US ground, and international ground packages that require additional handling (applicable from October 5th to January 17th).
- A $350 surcharge for unauthorized packages for both US and international ground packages (applicable from October 5th to January 17th).
- A $52.50 surcharge for oversized US express, US ground, and international ground packages (applicable from October 5th to January 17th).
- A $2 surcharge for SmartPost Package Services from November 30th to December 6th. For the rest of the season (from November 2nd to January 17th), SmartPost service surcharge is $1.
Combat the increased shipping fees that occur right before the holidays by encouraging your customers to start shopping earlier. Offer discounts, free shipping, free returns, and other rewards that benefit the early-bird shopper.
This year, USPS added surcharges to keep up with increased demand. The holiday surcharges run from October 18th to December 27th. Below we list USPS products with the corresponding surcharges.
- Parcel Select Destination Delivery Unit (DDU) – $0.24
- Parcel Return Service – $0.24
- Parcel Select Lightweight – $0.24
- FCPS Commercial – $0.25
- Priority Mail Commercial – $0.40
- Parcel Select Ground – $0.40
- Parcel Select DSCF – $0.40
- Parcel Select DNDC – $0.40
- Priority Mail Express Commercial – $1.50
Getting orders to customers on time is very important to maintaining a successful business. Here are important deadlines from popular shipping carriers to ensure your packages are delivered before Christmas:
UPS Holiday Deadlines:
UPS published a long list of various Holiday shipping deadlines and schedule modifications. We attempted to list the most important below:
- November 26: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- December 15: UPS Ground Service cutoff date.
- December 21: Deadline for UPS 3 Day Select shipments.
- December 22: Deadline for 2nd Day Air shipments.
- December 23: Deadline for UPS Next Day Air shipments.
- December 25: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- December 26: Limited UPS pickup and delivery services available (Air and International Air only with possible modifications).
- December 31: Limited UPS delivery services available (Air and International Air only)
- January 1: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- January 2: Limited UPS pickup and delivery services available (Air and International Air only)
USPS Holiday Deadlines:
USPS published their deadlines for the holidays. We summarized the domestic shipments below.
- December 15: Deadline for Retail Ground packages.
- December 18: Deadline for First Class Mail and First Class packages.
- December 19: Deadline for Priority Mail shipments.
- December 23: Deadline for Priority Express Mail shipments.
FedEx Holiday Deadlines:
Fedex put together a handy PDF you can print here. We’ve outlined US shipping to US below too.
- December 9: Deadline for Smart Post shipments.
- December 15: Deadline for Home Delivery and Ground Delivery shipments.
- December 21: Deadline for Express Save and 3-Day Freight shipments.
- December 22: Deadline for 2-Day and 2-Day A.M. shipments.
- December 22: Deadline for FedEx 2-Day Freight shipments.
- December 23: Deadline for Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, First Overnight shipments, and 1-Day Freight.
- December 25: Deadline for Same Day shipments.
Shipping carriers are busy during the holidays. Make sure your package is transport-ready by using the following tips:
- Wrap your product, especially if it’s breakable. Use bubble wrap, tissue paper, or Styrofoam inserts to make sure the product is snug in the box. Giving your product a cushy barrier is important during the holidays when it is being jostled around with hundreds of other packages.
- With unpredictable winter weather, add an extra address label on the inside of the package in case the first one falls off.
- Reinforce your box on all sides with extra tape to ensure it’ll make it to its destination.
Embrace the holiday spirit. Use one of these ideas to add a touch of magic for your customer this holiday season:
- Thank you cards: Write a generic holiday message and thank the customer for choosing your business. Have multiple cards or notes printed and include one with each package.
- Rewards: Include a coupon or offer in the package that is valid after the holidays are over. This is a win-win situation: your customer gets a reward and you are encouraging sales during a slow time of year.
- Ship directly to the gift recipient: Take a step out of the gift-giving process and ship packages directly to the gift recipient. Include an option to add free personalized notes or gift-wrapping services for a small fee.
39% of consumers are not satisfied with their returning experience, and 46% of shoppers have kept unwanted purchases due to the inconvenience of returns. Some key strategies to keep in mind when thinking about your return process are:
- Can customers easily pick up the item(s) from their home?
- Do consumers have instant access to a fast refund once the return is processed?
- Effective communication and speed are the two main aspects you should pay attention to along the way. How long does it take to process your returns?
Now that you have addressed the main concerns surrounding your companies return process, we have also compiled some ideas on how your shoppers can make returns with ease:
- Challenge your real motivations: near-term profit or repeat purchases?
- Review your return policy: is it clear to new potential clients?
- Ensure the label is easy to find and legible.
- Use data to accelerate funds.
The holiday season is a busy, but wonderful, time of year. Use these holiday shipping tips to make sure your orders are safely delivered and arrive on time. To assist you further on your journey to a profitable winter, here’s a list of USPS contact details you should keep handy!
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Have any other holiday shipping tips that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments down below!
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published October 2017 and was updated in November 2020 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.