The holidays are upon us. Shoppers have learned they can order their gifts from the comfort of home without having to endure the craziness of malls. While shoppers relax with hot cocoa and laptop in hand, businesses are busy preparing for the holiday rush. We put together a list to help you get shipping-ready!
1)Estimate your order volume
Your volume will inevitably increase during the holidays, so make sure you’re prepared! The National Retail Federation projects a solid 3.6% increase in sales during the holiday months. Take a look at your 2015 holiday sales and your overall historical sales data to project the volume you may see. If you have increased marketing efforts or have a growing customer base, don’t forget to take those numbers into account.
2) Pre-order supplies
Don’t ruin someone’s holidays because you ran out of boxes. The holidays are a hectic time and accidents happen. Boxes can get ruined before they get out the door and printers can jam. We recommend ordering 20-30% more boxes, envelopes, labels and packing materials than your projected demand from Step 1. Carriers like USPS offer free supplies, but remember to order them early! The closer you get to the holidays, the higher the risk that you may not receive your supplies.
3) Recruit part-time staff
Accidents happen – especially when the workload is overwhelming and everyone is rushing to keep up. Preventable issues like packing the wrong item or missing gift messages can be easily solved by making sure you have enough people to tackle the workload. If you are projecting an increase in sales from the year before, take a look at hours worked and the number of people working. Do you need to increase current employee hours, hire additional part-time help, or enlist the help of friends and family? If you hire part-time staff or have more people shipping, make sure that you have enough workstations and equipment to keep a good workflow.
4) Order an extra scale
Do you need an extra scale, workstation or printer? If not, make sure that you have a detailed plan so everyone knows what they should be doing. There’s no reason to hold up the shipping process while waiting for someone to weigh a package or print a label!
5) Optimize carrier selections
Compare rates and delivery times. This ensures you make the carrier cutoff dates without breaking the bank. By taking a look at this now, you can project shipping costs and keep customers happy by ensuring their package will arrive in time for the holidays. Clear cutoff dates can eliminate any frustration for the buyer.
6) Invest in automation
If you are standing in line at the post office or copying and pasting order information, it might be time to start looking for a solution that can automate your process. As your volume increases, your time decreases. Shipping solutions that offer direct integrations can eliminate manual order entry. Rules, saved weights and saved carrier selections/packages can shave hours off your shipping time. This can help decrease the amount of people needed to assist with shipping as well as give everyone more time to spend with their families. If you do opt for a new shipping solution, make sure that there is sufficient time for everyone to get familiar with it. Great customer service and trainings can speed this process up.
7) Calculate turnaround times
With the panic of the holidays, customers can get antsy when they see their package hasn’t shipped. Monitor turnaround times and assess the percentage of packages being shipped same day. The faster packages go out, the better the experience for the shopper. Happy customers are more likely to return.
Download the checklist .pdf here.
For more tips on how to prepare for the holidays, check out our comprehensive guide: Holiday Shipping for eCommerce Sellers.