On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—nothing, because it wasn’t delivered on time.
Jokes aside, there is a reason why retailers and carriers both encourage holiday shopping earlier and earlier each year. Shoppers are buying more, and carriers are straining to keep up with the extreme package volume. FedEx alone delivered 3 billion packages throughout the 2020 holiday season, and their mantra for consumers became “shop early, ship early.”
All hands are on deck this year as UPS hopes to hire 100,000 additional workers for this holiday season, USPS follows suit with hopes to hire at least 40,000, and FedEx at least 20,000. This mass hiring movement is simply another confirmation that we have another record peak season on our hands.
Much of the attention goes to carriers and how they are handling peak season, but they are only part of the story. There are also steps that your business can take to ensure that your customers are satisfied this holiday season.
- Be transparent about item stock. With material shortages, oversea shipping times, and general delays, items that would traditionally be restocked may not be. Be up front with customers on what you have in stock and when and if they can expect a restock before it is too late. This can include notifications like “selling fast” or “5 left in stock.” An informed customer is better than a customer left in the dark. This is also an ideal time to upsell customers and provide alternate product suggestions that are similar so that they do not wander elsewhere to find what they want.
- Run sales early. As stated in Tech Radar, “[last year] retailers pushed their sales earlier than ever to create a safer shopping experience and avoid shipping delays. We expect that trend to continue this year but prepare for the best Black Friday deals to drop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday proper.” Running sales early not only incentivizes customers to shop early but will also ensure that their items will arrive on time—a win-win-win for retailers, carriers, and shoppers.
- Communicate last days to shop. If customers are aware that, for example, December 15th is the last day to order an item and have it delivered by Christmas via standard shipping, disappointed customers and the burden on carriers will hopefully be diminished. This information can be communicated through a banner on your website, text messages, and even social media! Not only with customers thank you, but so will your customer service team, and the carriers!
- Drop new product launches early. Customers may be holding out to the last minute for a certain product launch, or to make sure that they get the hottest items. Don’t keep your customers waiting and consider moving up product launches to avoid any ‘mad dashes’ too close to the holidays! As always, communicate this to customers!
- Lean into data. Having visibility into your supply chain operation is crucial for decision making, especially when it comes to choosing your mix of carriers and building out a contingency plan. Important information like shipping surcharges and guaranteed-service refunds are all points that an internal audit software would track and shed light on, thus assisting your strategy. Don’t worry about building your own software though, rather utilize the capabilities of a 3PL.
Once a product ships and it is in the care of the carriers, it is literally out of your hands. This peak season, hopefully, your business takes all precautions to ensure that both you and your customers have very happy holidays!