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NOW LIVE! Peak Season Tips and Tools in the 2021 Holiday Hub

7 Ways to Get Ahead of Parcel Holiday Shipping Delays

Tie A Bow on the Holiday Shipping Season With Our Tips

Small businesses know the holiday shipping season is very different from the rest of the year with delays threatening to take the ho-ho-ho out of your holly-jolly holidays. No need to stress; we've got everything you need to know to make sure the season is merry and bright — and delivered on time!

In this blog, we'll discuss what to expect during the holiday shipping season, then walk you through seven important ways to best prepare so you are ahead when holiday delays strike.

A basic overview of parcel holiday shipping

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the peak shipping season. Everyone is shopping and shipping, and with the COVID-related shipping boom, we see the holiday rush starting earlier with more treacherous navigation demands. Even if you're not in the business of shipping for the holidays, your parcels are jockeying for space on already-full trucks. And with only so many drivers and working days before the holidays, delays are inevitable.

It's why preparing early and choosing the right shipping partner are critical. Even with demand exceeding capacity by millions of parcels each day, UPS® led the carrier pack last year, delivering more than 96% of packages on time during the holiday season.1

Helpful ways to combat holiday shipping delays

Now, let's walk through seven easy steps you can take to get your operations ready to handle any delays that head your way this holiday shipping season:

  1. Learn from years past
    We can always learn from the past, so let's start there. What shipping choices and decisions worked well last year? The year before that? What methods didn't work so well and consequently cost you, whether in time or profit? Reflect back on the successes from seasons past, as well as the opportunities for improvement. Refine your shipping strategy accordingly.
  2. Plan your schedule
    For a rock-solid holiday shipping plan, you absolutely must start with a well-planned schedule. This way, you'll have fewer surprises and more time to gather needed information and supplies leading up to the busiest months. Starting your schedule early accounts for potential weather-related shipping delays, increased holiday demand and other incidentals that may arise. Map out the steps to your shipping process, and don't leave out any details. Each step will take a set amount of time, and yes, you already know what we're going to say: put it into your schedule.

    Be sure to review carriers' holiday shipping schedules, too. Many carriers will not pick up or deliver packages on major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We recommend checking the carrier's website for specific holiday closures or changes to their hours of operations.
  3. Account for cutoff times
    As we said in a previous blog post, it will also help if you account for your carriers' shipping cutoff times. Generally speaking, customers expect that if they place an order before your daily cutoff time, you'll process it that day. Make sure your cutoff time coincides with your carriers' cutoff times, so you can make good on your fulfillment promises. If your times aren't in sync, it could cause a single-day difference that might be critical if, say, a blizzard shuts down highways and airports.
  4. Gather your supplies
    Obvious, but absolutely vital. Have you stockpiled a sufficient amount of boxes? Tape? Labels? Packaging supplies? Preparing for your anticipated demand with these materials will help avoid your process getting bogged down with basic supply shortages that could've easily been prevented. Don't forget: just as much as your outbound shipments may be delayed, it may take extra time to receive your supply orders this year. Order early so you have supplies on-hand when you need them.
  5. Package the right way
    Package your parcels properly (say that three times fast!). During the holiday shipping rush, it can be tempting to take shortcuts in order to get your shipments on the road faster. But trust us: properly preparing your shipments is well worth the effort and will save you time and money in the long run. How? If your shipment isn't sufficiently boxed or taped, it could be more susceptible to damage (read: costly repairs!) or may get returned to you if it doesn't meet packaging requirements (that's an unnecessary delay!).
  6. Consider parcel insurance coverage
    One of the best ways to protect yourself is to evaluate your insurance options. No one likes dealing with the aftermath of lost or damaged packages — but it's especially frustrating during the holidays. That's why many savvy small business shippers choose to insure their holiday shipments — especially if you are shipping perishable goods that are susceptible to spoilage in the event of a delay.
  7. Set customer expectations
    You know delays happen. But your customers still expect to receive their orders on time. Helping to educate them on the delays that winter storms and carrier closures can cause will go a long way to retaining repeat customers in the new year.

And once you're comfortable that you're ahead of the holiday shipping delays, go ahead and turn your attention to the new year and parcel returns. You don't want to be caught off guard as customers begin to return those "not quite right" gifts from their best friend's doctor's mother-in-law! Make sure you have a plan for parcel returns as the holiday shipping rush begins to slow down.

Need more help? Worldwide Express can help you navigate holiday shipping, delays, peak shipping times and more. Get a free, custom shipping consultation today, and let us help you win at shipping this holiday season.

1 Garland, M. (2021, Jan. 6). Here's how on-time FedEx, UPS and US Postal Service were for holiday shipping season. Memphis Commercial Appeal.

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