Somehow it’s already August – my, how the year is flying by! While we’re definitely still in the thick of summer (hello, 100+ degree temperatures), those of us in the e-commerce space know what’s just around the corner – the holiday peak shopping season.
Here at Shippo, we’re beginning to help our customers prioritize and plan for peak season now, rather than waiting until we’re in the thick of it later this year. While it may seem like we’ve still got a ways to go, waiting until October simply won’t give you enough time to get all the moving pieces in place.
In last year’s State of Shipping Report, the word “shipping” was mentioned in 23% of responses to the question “What keeps you up at night when it comes to readying your business for the 2021 holiday season?” In addition, almost ¼ of merchants we surveyed were somewhat *not* confident that carriers would keep up with demand during the holiday season vs just 18% the previous year. With the numerous shifts and disruptions in the industry this year, we’re seeing that not much has changed – shipping still poses a challenge to many e-commerce merchants, and peak season only adds fuel to the fire. Here are our top tips for getting ahead of peak season shipping in 2022.
Define your budget
58% of merchants last year said the cost of shipping was the biggest challenge for their business, which goes to show that accounting for these costs – and figuring out how to optimize them – is the best course of action to take ahead of the busiest shipping season of the year.
We recommend reviewing last year’s shipping budget and expenses during this year’s planning process to help determine the extent to which you might need to reallocate spend and better optimize costs this year. Last year’s numbers and results can inform where you should make adjustments to your operations and holiday shipping strategy as needed.
Get ready to handle upcoming demand
It’s crucial to consider that once volume reaches and then surpasses a certain point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the fulfillment process. Look at your most popular SKUs and those sold at high volumes throughout the year, and research which product categories may be trending this holiday season so you can strategically bulk up on the inventory most likely to fly off the shelves.
We also recommend stocking up on packaging and supplies now to avoid facing scarcity and delays as order volume upticks impact the entire e-commerce industry. It’s also good to note that USPS can help minimize your costs on this front by offering free shipping supplies for certain package sizes.
Stay in-the-know about upcoming carrier rate changes
Stay informed of carrier updates, and maintain an agile mindset so you can reassess options when necessary. For instance, most carriers increase their rates ahead of the busy holiday season. This may be a one-time change at the beginning of the season or several changes rolled out over weeks or months, but either way, it impacts overall shipping spend so staying on top of changes is important. We regularly post updates here on the Shippo blog to help e-commerce merchants stay up-to-date on carrier peak pricing changes as they happen.
Building relationships with multiple carriers – and checking in with those carriers as soon and as often as possible – will also help ensure you’re well-equipped to make adjustments on the fly. For example, certain carriers are cutting down on weekend delivery options, and remaining aware and agile in the face of these changes is crucial to providing a positive experience for your customers.
Optimize efficiencies with tech automations
Harness the right tools and technology to efficiently make the best decisions for your business. Comparing carrier rates across service-levels will help you determine which options are the best for your needs at any given time, but you need the right technology in place to do so in a way that’s both time and cost-effective. With Shippo, for instance, you can compare rates across a vast network of carriers in real time, and easily integrate with e-commerce platforms to sync order data for seamless end-to-end fulfillment.
Features such as manifests, batch label printing, partial fulfillment, and automations — which apply predetermined rules to label purchases according to factors such as package weight, destination, or SKU — can cut the time it takes to ship in half. That time saved will come in extra handy as you scale your fulfillment operations during the busy holiday season.
Show your customers some holiday season love!
Delighting customers is a top priority year round, but the holidays offer an excellent opportunity to stand out from the rest of the retail crowd. One way to make a memorable impression is with a festive unboxing experience, adding creative brand elements to your packaging, or personalizing each order with a handwritten ‘Thank You’ note.
Other simple ways to show customer love during the holidays include offering multiple fulfillment options at checkout (eg. free vs fast) to meet a variety of preferences, and adding shipping insurance – especially to higher-value items – to deliver some much needed peace of mind.
Another great idea is to provide order tracking to keep customers informed every step of the way. You can even use your order tracking experience to further engage with your customers by recommending products, promoting sales, and highlighting upcoming holiday specials and events.
Be sure to sign up for the Shippo newsletter below to stay up-to-date on all things peak season shipping as we close out the summer and head into fall. If you’re not already a Shippo customer, sign up for your free account to seamlessly connect your online store, compare rates across our network of 85+ carriers, and access features for improved operations, tracking, and returns experiences as we head into peak.