This post is contributed by Robert Gilbreath, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships at ShipStation. ShipStation is the leading web-based shipping solution that helps e-commerce retailers import, organize, process, package, and ship their orders quickly and easily from any web browser. For a free trial, visit www.shipstation.com.
Are you excited about this year’s e-commerce holiday selling season? You’d have good reason to be. Online sales for the 2017 holiday season are projected to grow 18%-21% compared with the 2016 holiday season, with online sales reaching $111 billion to $114 billion, according to the recently-released Deloitte annual holiday forecast.
While sales are fun, sometimes shipping can be a challenge. The ShipStation team is committed to helping make things easier for you, especially during the busy fourth quarter. Here are our top three shipping tips:
1. Organize Your Shipping and Fulfillment Area or Warehouse
If you have an onsite shipping and fulfillment area, organizing it for maximum efficiency will make your holiday season much less stressful. Here are some ideas:
Organize your shipping station.
This is the heart of all your shipping and fulfillment activity. Make sure all of your supplies (scissors, tape, packaging material, etc.) are together and accessible. Are the scale, label printer and boxes nearby? Do you have enough space on tables or in the area to make boxes and pack and ship them? Do you have a place for orders that haven’t been packed, different from the area containing boxes filled and ready to be sent? Try a couple of test runs with different workers, and determine if tweaks can be made to streamline the process.
Make products easy to find.
While you may know where everything is, other people won’t. If you hire seasonal workers, this is critical. Using a visual system (such as clear bins), as well as a written one (labels or codes) will make the process easier.
Store items strategically.
Do what makes sense. For example, keep heavy items on lower shelves. Put best-selling items within easy reach. Keep items that are often bought together near each other.
Place shipping supplies near top-selling items.
Most sellers have consistent best-selling items. These should be kept near your packing and shipping station for easy access and packing. Even better, if these items sell all the time, pre-pack them.
2. Prepare for and Communicate Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Holiday shoppers (especially the lucrative ones that shop at the last minute) are only going to purchase from you if you’re able to fulfill and deliver by the desired date. That’s why it’s critical to know the cutoff dates that shipping carriers will guarantee Christmas delivery.
Our sellers have told us that this information is very important to them. So each year we create an annual ShipStation Holiday Shipping Deadline infographic with these dates at their fingertips.
While e-commerce sellers use these deadlines to make sure shipments get to their destinations before the holidays, it’s also important to let customers know how and when they need to order to make these deadlines. Two ways to do this include: providing countdown timers and pop-up shipping notifications. Here are examples:
A Christmas Countdown Timer from Fresh Relevance updates in real-time in webpages and at point of open in emails so your customers will know exactly how much time they have for Christmas delivery.
Last-minute shoppers get an immediate nudge to buy with this pop-up shipping notification from Shwood Shop. In this example, shoppers are provided information on dates when they can take advantage of free shipping based on larger order volumes. It’s a savvy way to increase order size while still offering the powerful free shipping option.
Note: Weather conditions in years past have led to carriers not meeting their guarantees. This will reflect badly on you as an online merchant, even though it isn’t your fault. That’s why it’s smart to build in a bit of extra time to those shipping cutoff dates.
3. Use technology to save time and money on shipping during the holidays.
In addition to using a thermal printer to print your labels, shipping software can help save you time and money in the following ways:
- Create a shipping label and packing slip, and email tracking information to the buyer and communicate tracking information to the sales channel with a single click
- Use automation rules to automatically choose the least expensive way to ship, based on product, weight and geography
- Process shipping labels in batches of up to 500 or more
- Offer a Branded Returns Portal and Branded Tracking Page to make the customer experience easier
These three tips will make your busy holiday season a lot easier. Best wishes for your most profitable fourth quarter ever!