The holidays are truly a season of rushing as much as they are a season of giving and loving. And with e-commerce becoming an option more preferred by shoppers to buy gifts for their loved ones, online sellers must amp up their game to keep up with the demand the holiday season presents. Everyone is now scouring to find that token of appreciation for their friends, families, classmates, and office mates to celebrate the year that will come to pass and welcome the year to come with big smiles.
Logistics experts have estimated that three times your usual order numbers require far more logistics support, even pegging it at 10 times more than what you have prior. This can be particularly overwhelming for an online business that only works with a small team. But an opportunity of boosting sales during the holidays is too great to pass off.
So here in this list, we will give you a few tips on how to foresee and prepare for the surge in orders this holiday season. We will also teach you how to turn the increased demand smoothly and intelligently into concrete sales for your brand. And we will also leave you with a strong recommendation for a partner you can connect with that will surely be worth your time and money.
Review and map out your shipping process
If you have yet to learn and understand how you conduct your shop’s end-to-end fulfillment processes, preparation for the upcoming holiday season is high time for you to review and map out the entire process, and the steps it takes for you to deliver your products to your customer’s doorstep.
Having a clear picture of the process can help you build a 1-2-3 guide for your team, or let’s say volunteer family members, to help you out in the process of preparing orders in time for the holiday rush. Knowing the steps also helps you identify bottleneck areas where you need to improve on, streamline, or have boosters care of third-party providers or, hire additional staff.
When you outline the entire fulfillment process, it is best to assign an average time for each step for you to estimate how many orders you can fulfill within a certain period so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Stock up your inventory, and packaging supplies
Of course, you do not want that disaster scenario where you get a staggering number of orders for one product and you end up checking your inventory only to find out you’re out of stock. Canceling orders one by one and handling your customer’s disappointment leaves a bad taste in the mouth, so you should avoid that situation at all costs.
Be mindful of storing a larger inventory especially as the holiday season approaches. You can double or triple your usual stock in your trusted warehouses in preparation for the December rush. This can be bigger depending on how aggressively you are targeting your marketing and promotional plans to be.
And make sure you have enough packaging supplies that correspond to the types of items you are selling. Making sure you have packaging supplies and shipping labels (which you can buy in bulk with your favorite online marketplace providers) prevents or lessens shipping delays allowing your deliveries to be delivered at just the right time for the season of giving.
Avoid delays, ship promptly
Approaching the holiday season, you should already expect a high volume of orders and everyone’s expecting their orders to come on time. With that, you must fulfill (that is pick and pack) your orders promptly and beat the deadlines so that the deliveries are brought to the buyers’ doorstep at the right time, or even earlier.
While we all expect that volume during the holiday season, we also have to foolproof our shipping plans because there will always be the possibility of unpredictable untoward incidents which can cause delays and we must make allowance for that. Better to be safe than sorry! And while we’re at it, be sure to partner with a third-party logistics provider with a good reputation, and a decent provision for insurance in case force majeure happens to your shipments.
Set a holiday season shipping strategy
Earlier, we talked about knowing the entire shipping process and identifying bottleneck areas. Now, we must strategize how to overcome these hindrances for you to reach your holiday sales goal. Successful shippers have a variety of methods and strategies that they employ to ensure safe, smooth, and swift delivery to their customers. Here are some tips for the different shipping methods:
Free shipping. This works well as a promotional tool if you can shoulder the shipping expenses to encourage more orders to come in. There also might be cut-off dates set by your 3PL provider for this. You would have to find ways to lower or cover the costs entirely.
Flat rate shipping. You can also opt to use flat-rate shipping. Some benefits include better transparency as there will be one fee for all, so the customers always know how much they have to shoulder for shipping.
Exact cost shipping. Exact-cost shipping, on the other hand, lets your customers know the entire breakdown of shipping costs upon checkout. That way, you avoid shock cancellations, but the downside might be cases of cart abandonment before checkout.
Pick up for local customers. For those residing in your locality of operations, this can be an option. After all, it lessens the delivery time and most prefer to get their items earlier than most. You could also avail of local courier services. Just let your customers know beforehand.
International shipping. International shipping requires mastery of rules and regulations regarding allowed and prohibited items, corresponding fines, and taxes to avoid undue expenses due to shipping troubles. It is best to consult your 3PL provider or seek the help of a logistics engine provider to help you learn the ropes of shipping overseas.
Include products’ weight info
When your product listing includes pertinent details such as the product’s weight and other necessary details such as fragility or perishability, this could save you a lot of time explaining why customers must spend much more than usual on shipping. That way, you could also help them to decide to avail themselves of higher-end shipping options for their deliveries to be safe, smooth, and swift. And if ever they decide otherwise, they can adjust their expectations on the speed of their parcel delivery.
Be transparent with shipping costs
Aside from adding the details necessary for the justification of costs, you must provide a breakdown of these shipping expenses right away. We don’t want you to lose orders just before your customer clicks the Checkout button or get cancellations because they change their minds after mulling over the shipping cost. When the customers finally decide to buy and order, we want that to be a solid, informed decision. And afterward, we’ll do our absolute best to provide them with the best possible shipping experience. Make sure the shipping costs are reflected across all your communication channels, be it graphics, banners, or text descriptions.
Establish a return policy
Establishing a return policy streamlines the process we undergo in case of complaints or other situations that we encounter during the shipping process. Particularly important within your return policy (which, according to research, is paid attention to by 67% of customers) is the return shipping cost. Return shipping costs can be handled by either buyer or seller, or you can split the cost. Deciding on the best strategy will depend on your margins. Consider though that there may be a lot of returns during the holiday season. Whichever you prefer among the strategies, make sure they are communicated well and are visible on your sales channels.
Provide an enjoyable unboxing experience
All over social media, users are creating unboxing videos of their favorite products and as sellers, this is advantageous for us because we want viral and organic promotional efforts to complement our branded content. But of course, the beauty of unboxing relies on the beauty of our packing and shipping. Making sure your products are packed well and handed over safely makes the most impact on whether your brand will land well on that TikTok unboxing video.
With good unboxing experiences, you can get greater chances of increased shares of social media (hence, more promotion and brand visibility) and a better bid in winning those repeat orders to establish a more solid customer base even beyond the holiday season.
Monitor and track orders
Monitoring and tracking orders, especially those which are shipped in batches, or delivered overseas, is incredibly important for businesses because untoward incidents can be detrimental in terms of shipping and damage costs if not handled promptly and accordingly. The major 3PL providers who handle local and international shipping have ready-made systems to handle the monitoring and tracking of your orders from warehouse to last-mile delivery. Just make sure to check them regularly.
Be responsive to customer inquiries
Good customer service brings you to the top and sets you apart. Many online buyers are better inclined to write complimentary reviews, rate 5 stars, and place repeat orders when chat responders and customer service providers are respectful, responsive, and helpful with their queries. Even crises such as major delays can be handled well by proper responses by trained sellers. Disappointment in an unforeseen incident can only be soothed by an assurance that your concern is being approached properly.
Too much? Let a logistics engine handle your shipping
If by this point in the article, it seems to you that preparing for the holiday season shipping rush is not for you or it’s beyond your capacity as a small business, and yet you truly, madly, deeply want to upscale your business and you feel it in your gut that this holiday season is the right time, you shouldn’t fret so much and let us introduce you to our trusty friend – the logistics engine.
Logistics engines like Locad integrate groundbreaking software and a vast, streamlined physical infrastructure strategically spread across the world to increase delivery speed, decrease inventory errors, and lower shipping costs. Even better, after housing your products in a warehouse, you just leave them there and Locad does the 1-2-3 for you.
Store. Should you sign up for a fulfillment subscription plan with a logistics engine, they can place your products in the warehouse closest to your buyers, which is but one of the many in a vast network of warehouse locations across the world. The good news? You only pay for the inventory you use. Flexible payments for your dynamic needs.
Pack. Less time for picking and packing, and more time for planning and strategizing to propel your business to greater heights. With a logistics engine, all you must make sure of is to drop your products in designated centers where they can be picked up. Once they are online with the service, you can see real-time fulfillment orders via your Control Tower. Here, every order across all your channels will be reflected and handled by Locad’s logistics professionals. Don’t worry, syncing your channels will be part of the onboarding process.
Ship. Locad’s integrated approach to shipping with the most trusted 3PL providers worldwide will make sure that your deliveries are safe and on time. Available in major origins and destinations across the world, Locad’s system even suggests the most appropriate shipping option for your specific shipments. With this streamlined process, shipping is three times faster than usual, for half the costs.
Track. With a unified sales channel management hub called the Control Tower, you can track your inventory and orders to make sure that you are on the upper hand at every step of the process. The inventory tracking lets you identify stockout danger zones so you can restock at once to prevent order fulfillment delays. Through the Control Tower, you can also monitor where the deliveries are in real time. Aside from that, Locad ships from the nearest warehouse hub to the customer’s location.
The Control Tower also provides in-depth insights such as which of your products are selling the best, and where the orders are coming from. In addition, the insights also suggest ways to sell the products that are lagging in your inventory. The system suggests methods such as bundling and other promotional tools.
If you wish to avail the services of the Locad logistics engine, we suggest you contact them right away and book a call with a sales agent. There are three subscription packages available starting from AUD 500 per month for the Startup Plan. For more details on pricing, check here.
So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today and stop worrying about logistics woes!