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 22: Thanksgiving
- November 23: Black Friday
- November 24: Small Business Saturday
- November 26: Cyber Monday
- December 2-10: 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:
Fortunately, UPS announced that there wouldn’t be any Residential peak surcharge this year. The only surcharges to worry about is if your packages fit one of the following characteristics:
- Additional Handling Packages can see an additional $3.60 surcharge from November 24th to January 4th.
- Large Packages can see an additional $31.45 surcharge from October 1st to January 4th.
- Any Over Maximum Limit Packages can see an additional $250.00 surcharge from October 1st to January 4th.
Fedex doesn’t charge any holiday surcharges for residential packages. However, they will apply surcharges for any qualified deliveries from October 21st to January 5th. See below for those qualifications:
- A $4.10 surcharge on US express, US ground, and international ground packages that require additional handling (applicable from November 18th to January 5th).
- A $435 surcharge for unauthorized packages for both US and international ground packages (applicable from October 21st to January 5th).
- A $37.50 surcharge for oversized US express, US ground, and international ground packages (applicable from October 21st to January 5th).
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.
USPS typically does not charge any surcharges, making them the most competitive shipping brand. Merchants that use USPS for shipping normally save more because:
- Priority Mail is on average 1/2 a day faster than UPS and FedEx ground services
- There are no hidden fees or surcharges
- Free returns are offered for Priority Mail and First Class
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 28: No pickup or deliver service. Express Critical only.
- December 2: UPS Ground Service Guarantee suspended.
- December 13: Deadline for UPS Ground packages to be delivered by Dec 24th.
- December 19: Deadline for UPS 3 Day Select shipments.
- December 20: Deadline for 2nd Day Air shipments.
- December 22: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- December 23: Deadline for UPS Next Day Air shipments.
- December 29: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- December 31: Limited UPS services available (Air and International Air only with possible modifications).
- January 1: No pickup or delivery service. Express Critical only.
- January 2: All UPS services resume.
USPS Holiday Deadlines:
USPS published their deadlines for the holidays. We summarized the domestic shipments below.
- December 14: Deadline for Retail Ground packages.
- December 20: Deadline for First Class Mail and First Class packages.
- December 21: 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 U.S. shipping to U.S. below too.
- December 9: Deadline for Smart Post shipments.
- December 16: Deadline for Home Delivery and Ground Delivery shipments.
- December 19: Deadline for Express Save and 3-Day Freight shipments.
- December 20: Deadline for 2-Day and 2-Day A.M. shipments.
- December 21: 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 satisfy 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 October 2019 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.