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5 Critical Holiday Shipping Tips to Get Product to Your Customers in Time

It’s that time of the year where the Christmas holiday season is just around the corner. For retailers this is the most important few months of the year and is the measuring stick for how successful their business is and even how the economy is doing. Companies are already gearing up with inventory and looking at strategies for how they will get their product to market and customers on time. Even if your company does not seasonally ship, you can be affected by the holiday madness. This article shares 5 valuable holiday shipping tips to prepare your company for what’s ahead this season.

As the Christmas season is fast approaching your shipping department needs to be running efficiently and able to handle the incoming surge of orders. However, there are several key elements in your processes that can go awry and in the end cause packages to not arrive in time. We have put together a list of 5 must-have guidelines to ensure you don’t fall short of delivering during your shipping peak.

Advanced Rate Shopping

Basic rate shopping may help you save money and choose the least cost carrier but when it comes to delivering packages on time you may need “Advanced Rate Shopping”. Advanced rate shopping can really benefit your business if you add “Time in Transit” rules that can compare air services to ground services to not just select the least cost carrier but also use the transit days to pick the right service.

In many cases the ground service by national carriers can get the package to its destination in the same amount of time. And using regional carriers can extend the footprint for next day delivery to a much larger area than national carriers. If your company is picking up the tab for shipping then this is a must-have in your operation to reduce your overall freight costs and improve your profit margins.

Automatic Service Upgrade

You have a deadline looming when packages must get to their destinations, whether it is on or before a holiday or tied to a product release. And it happens to all businesses – a shipment slips through the cracks and ends up getting delivered past the expected date. There is a simple way to prevent this and that is to incorporate an “In-hand Date” into your business rules. As each order is processed the shipping software can check the in-hand date and make sure the transit days for the service can get the package there on or before it is expected.

To fully utilize “In-hand Date” rules you can also incorporate the carrier holiday pick-up / delivery dates and also eliminate non-delivery days such as Saturday and Sunday unless the shipment specifies Saturday Delivery and the carrier allows it. For instance Christmas Eve is on Monday and Christmas Day is on Tuesday, this means you need to make sure the carrier can still deliver on Monday and which services can be used – some carriers limit holiday deliveries to only certain air services. If the shipping software knows this information, you know the package will be delivered on time.

You can even enhance your business rules where the shipping software can automatically upgrade the service (i.e. Ground to Next Day Air) to ensure the package arrives on time. Service upgrades can be a very valuable tool and allow you to control when it is enabled/disabled, set an effective date range, and even exclude certain carriers and services that don’t have a guaranteed transit time. There may be a bit of a cost and effort to setup these types of rules, but it is worth knowing every package gets to its destination on time.

Regional Carriers

Regional carriers are an added benefit if you frequently ship to zones 2 and 3 with the national carriers. Not only will you have an opportunity to save more money but they also have a bigger overnight footprint for ground service than the national carriers. This can come in handy when you need to get packages delivered overnight without paying the premium price for an overnight service. Some regional carriers will also go the extra mile for you during that peak season by offering later pickup times or even letting you induct packages directly into the hub.

Order Hierarchy

Most companies process and ship orders based on FIFO – first in, first out. During the peak season of shipping it can become more difficult to manage orders because you also have an influx of “Expedited” orders that must be put to the front of the line. The shuffling of packages can often lead to chaos and potentially cause some expedited orders to get mixed in with the rest of orders. The best solution is to set up a dedicated expediting workstation that is where all orders that must be rush shipped to be processed through. This gives the orders the extra handling and attention needed to get the packages out on time using the right carrier and service. If there are any issues, the person at the workstation knows exactly how to escalate the issues without getting distracted and forgetting what the priority is.

Inventory Issues

When it comes to an abundance of orders it can become a game of supply and demand and how much inventory you have on hand to fulfill orders. Even though this is not a shipping-related matter it is a note-worthy one in this article to make sure your holiday shipping is smooth and successful. Because let’s face it, when an order doesn’t ship often the shipping department is where the finger points.

At the point inventory is not available to fulfill an order, immediate action should be taken. This can be as simple as informing the customer that the product they ordered is not available or won’t be delivered on time. Timely information is key! And with this information the customer now has the option to cancel their order or look for an alternative item before it is too late. In any case the customer will still be happy to do business with you because you took the time to address a potential issue before it became too late and past the point of no return.