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 11th: Veteran’s Day
- November 22nd: Thanksgiving
- November 23rd: Black Friday
- November 24th: Small Business Saturday
- November 26th: Cyber Monday
- December 2nd-10th: Hanukkah
- December 14th: Free Shipping Day
- December 25th: Christmas Day
- December 31st: New Year’s Eve
- January 1st: New Year’s Day
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:
From December 16th-22nd, the final week before Christmas, UPS will charge the following surcharges for deliveries to residential areas in the 48 contiguous states:
- a 99-cent surcharge on packages shipped with 2nd Day Air and 3rd Day Select.
- an 84-cent surcharge on packages shipped with Next Day Air.
- a 28-cent surcharge on all items shipped via Ground.
In addition, UPS will also add a 28-cent surcharge on all packages shipped via Ground Residential from November 18th to December 1st.
If you are shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico, you can expect a $3.14 charge on packages from November 18th to December 1st and December 16th to the 22nd.
Fedex doesn’t charge any holiday surcharges for residential packages. However, they will apply surcharges for any qualified deliveries from November 19th to December 24th. See below for those qualifications:
- a $3.20 surcharge on US express, US ground, and international ground packages that require special handling.
- a $150 surcharge for unauthorized packages for both US and international ground packages.
- a $27.50 surcharge for oversized US express, US ground, and international ground packages.
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 thanks 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:
- Dec 18: Deadline for 3-Day Select shipments.
- Dec 21: Deadline for 2nd Day Air shipments.
- Dec 21: Deadline for Next Day Air shipments.
USPS hasn’t published any deadlines yet, but to give you an idea here are the deadlines from 2017.
- Dec 15: Deadline for Standard Parcel Post (Mail) shipments.
- Dec 20: Deadline for First Class Mail and Priority Mail shipments.
- Dec 23: Deadline for Priority Express Mail shipments.
Fedex hasn’t published any deadlines yet, but to give you an idea here are the deadlines from 2017.
- Dec 12: Deadline for Smart Post shipments.
- Dec 17: Deadline for Home Delivery and Ground Delivery shipments.
- Dec 20: Deadline for Express Save shipments.
- Dec 22: Deadline for 2-Day and 2-Day A.M. shipments.
- Dec 23: Deadline for Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, First Overnight shipments.
- Dec 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, we’ve provided a holiday preparation from our friends at Pitney Bowes. You can also view our most recent webinar discussing tips to prepare for the holidays here.
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Have any other holiday shipping tips that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments down below!