Fall has made its grand arrival bringing with it the official start of the holiday season. Whether you are an online retailer or a brick-and-mortar retailer, shipping is a big factor on whether you will be successful this year. All retailers hope for increased volume, but do you have a peak season plan in place to handle the holidays seamlessly?
How to prepare for the peak season of shipping
Create a strategy for your discounts and seasonal specials
All shoppers are looking for good Christmas and Black Friday deals. Holiday promotions are a great way to motivate shoppers to spend more. If you don’t offer a discount during the big-name holidays, your customers might be disappointed to find out you are not participating. If you can’t afford to offer a deep discount, you can try free shipping, a BOGO offer, or even include a free item with a certain purchase. Consider dividing promotions geographically to avoid overwhelming fulfillment and transportation processes.
A lower price point isn’t the only way to compete during the holiday season. Don’t forget to promote your return policy too. An appealing returns process can give you an edge over other businesses. Share a Refund parcel managed services is one way to reduce costs during the returns process as it ensures you never overpay for shipping, even when it comes to returns.
Read more: Brace yourself for the impending e-commerce returns
Keep your IT team in the loop
If your website is expected to have an increase in shoppers browsing during the holidays to cash in on those great seasonal specials, your IT team should be aligned with your Q4 strategy. If a website crashes or a glitch occurs when customers are putting items in their shopping cart, you will want your trusted IT team to be available 24/7 to troubleshoot problems. If there are complications with the systems in the warehouse, all hands should be on deck to fix the issue.
Partner with a third-party logistics provider
Are you current operations at capacity? Is it becoming increasingly complex to manage the distribution for your products? Every retailer at some point faces the decision to either continue to scale operations or to turn a portion of operations over to a third-party logistics provider (3PL).
3PL providers pride themselves in being experts at warehouse management. Enlisting the help of a financially stable 3PL could set you up for success during the holiday season. If you are anticipating an influx of orders, the right 3PL can properly manage inventory, customer relations, and communication with carriers. Of course, finding a 3PL you can trust to conduct business in a manner that matches your values is key.
Review your past process
It is said that those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it in the future. Your past operations can give you clues on what to expect during the holiday season. If you are not using a 3PL, examine your past shipping operations over the last year and last Q4 season. Are there any bottlenecks that have stalled production, caused delays, or hurt your operations somehow? Brainstorm methods to avoid repeating the same problems. The lessons from the past are the key to a successful future.
Map out shipping schedules
Stay on top of the holiday rush by mapping out shipping schedules. This can’t be emphasized enough. You should know your carrier’s shipping schedule like the back of your hand. For example, if you ship with USP the last day to ship UPS Next Day Air package to arrive on Monday, December 24, 2018, is Friday, December 21, 2018.
Read more: UPS peak holiday shipping surcharges for 2018
It is equally as important to know the dates when certain peak surcharges do not apply. UPS has a window of time between December 2 and December 15 where peak residential surcharges aren’t applicable on Ground shipments. Some services will only have residential surcharges December 16 – 22, 2018. You can’t make your customers purchase Christmas gifts during a certain period, but if there is a way to target the gaps with a special promotion it lowers shipping costs.
Read more: FedEx shares 2018 holiday surcharges
It’s important to note that carriers often suspend or change their money-back guarantee during the holiday season. Share a Refund works to track and audit every shipment and file claims to recoup costs on eligible shipments. Not only is shipping drastically more expensive during the holidays, but carrier performance suffers and the carriers try to eliminate their customers from getting refunds.
Be transparent with customers
The holiday season is prime time for gaining new customers and building stronger relationships with your current customer base. You can troubleshoot any delayed, damaged or lost shipments by providing regular updates to your customers. Don’t leave them in the dark. This could do further damage to the relationship and hurt sales.
Share a Refund audits every single package and alerts you when a lost or damaged package is identified. While you focus on providing excellent customer service, Share a Refund audits shipments and files disputes with the carriers to receive a refund.
Keep in mind that no matter how meticulously you plan, disruptions are inevitable. You can put rigorous procedures and practices into place, but even the best-laid plans go awry. The holiday season is the most profitable season for retailers and, simultaneously, the most chaotic.
It makes sense to have emergency plans in place for crisis communication and operational errors, but also know that some lessons will be learned through mistakes that can’t be prevented and are out of your control. Remember, it’s technically the most wonderful time of the year.
Share a Refund helps shippers get ahead this holiday season
The holiday season can generate enormous revenues and severely stretch every aspect of a retailer’s operations from warehouse fulfillment and distribution to returns management. Be proactive by creating a peak season plan that takes every angle of business into consideration. The Share a Refund Auditing Team is here to help make your holiday strategy a success.