Manage Holiday Shipping with Our Software
It’s almost that time of year. Time for gingerbread, dreidels, and ornaments. The snow is falling, the fires are lit, and the hot cocoa is coming out steaming. But at the same time, the wallets are opening. As a business owner, it’s time to ramp up your capacity for the busy holiday retail season. Proper planning for order management and shipping can make or break a business during the holidays, and every business owner must be ready for the best- and worst-case scenarios when it comes to their order flow.
Fortunately, shipping management software can make the process a whole lot easier. Using software to manage your shipping and order flow can add a degree of efficiency and accuracy to your fulfillment system that would be impossible just a couple decades ago. There are a number of ways one can use software to manage shipping during the holidays.
Consider Shipping Costs and Speed
In just the last few years, both shipping costs and times-to-customer have plummeted. E-commerce is now more competitive than ever in these areas, and retailers must optimize as much as possible to stay competitive. A good shipping software will track shipping time and cost to the end-user. As a business owner, you should use this data to find the sweet spot that allows you to maximize your capacity.
This becomes particularly important during the holidays, when consumers are spending more than they do the rest of the year. Make sure to factor that in when ordering new inventory. Depending on your industry, your numbers for November and December should be higher than they are for other months, and typically the data after the fact shows this. Keeping up with that holiday demand can be tough, but with the right data, any business can stay in the ring.
Plan for Returns
No matter how good your product is, there’s no getting away from the fact that you will occasionally have returns. Sometimes people order the wrong variation by mistake. Maybe they thought your product was something different when they ordered it. But during the holidays, there is one thing that will make your returns go through the roof: gift-giving.
Every holiday season, thousands of online retailers experience high levels of returns. This occurs because their products are being bought not for the person ordering, but for someone entirely different. When someone gives your product as a gift, there is always the chance that it will not fit (in the case of clothes), or it’s not the right color, or it’s simply not what the recipient wanted. While this is a perfectly normal part of the holiday season, it’s important to plan for it.
Using your shipping management software to plan for a high number of returns is crucial in maintaining operations during the holidays. Keep a bigger cushion in your business account so you can issue any amount of refunds in a timely manner. If you run on thin margins, consider scaling back some expenses to prevent unwelcome surprises when trying to fulfill returns. Nothing is more irksome to a customer than waiting on a simple refund.
Order Supplies in Advance
When preparing for the holiday season, it’s crucial to be proactive in ordering the right packaging supplies. If you delay, you put your business at risk of missing valuable opportunities and possibly falling behind. Remember that it’s always better to be early and order the packaging supplies you need well in advance of the holiday rush. Everything from boxes to labels should be taken care of properly so you don’t waste any time shipping packages to your customers. By planning ahead, you can enhance your holiday delivery method and keep your customers happy.
Consider Getting Insurance
If there’s one thing that you must watch out for as a business owner, it’s loss exposures in your order flow. A loss exposure is any possibility of loss that might occur due to something that is outside of your control. This includes stuff like weather delays, stolen packages, “no-call no-shows” from your staff, and supplier malfunctions.
As business owners, we do everything we can to combat contingencies like those. But sometimes, it’s just not possible to prevent a loss. In the case of a risk that cannot be prevented or hedged, consider adding insurance to your business plan. Insurance is a great way to transfer that risk to someone else (i.e. the insurance company). Sure, you’ll have to pay the premium, and that might cut into your bottom line. But that’s nothing compared to the loss you’d retain yourself with no insurance in the event of a supply chain failure or total recall.
One of the biggest benefits in using shipping software is the sheer amount of data you can generate. Data is more valuable than ever, so it’s important to utilize it as much as possible both for your back-end as well as for the benefit of your end user.
Use the data generated by your management software to inform your customers about stuff like current package location and time-to-delivery. You will likely get many new customers over the holidays, so make a good first impression with full transparency and a real-time tracking method. For the back-end, use that data over time to measure your busy seasons (likely, the holidays) as well as to test different supply chains and delivery method. More data equals more accurate information that you can use to make your business better.
Provide More Options
The consumer population has made one thing very clear in the last few years. When they want something, they want it their way. Free shipping is great for marketing and getting your customers the lowest prices possible. But sometimes, particularly around the holidays, customers want their orders delivered faster than free shipping will allow.
We’ve all done it. You think you’re finally done with all your Christmas shopping. Then you remember that one coworker who always gets you a gift, so you need to get him one too. You know just what he wants, but the party is in two days. You need that thing shipped fast, and you’re willing to pay for it.
Giving your customers options when it comes to shipping not only makes it more likely that they’ll go to you rather than a competitor, but it also ensures that they remember your business next year when they need a gift for that same coworker.
How You Can Prepare
We covered a lot of tactics for coping with the volume this holiday season. It’s time for you to incorporate these tactics into your own operation. There’s nothing worse than problems arising just as volume is ramping up, so make sure you implement these changes as soon as possible.
For a clean, easy-to-use, and very effective shipping management software, we heartily recommend using XPS Ship. It’s a great way to make sure your shipping is as effective as possible this year. Best of all, it’s free! Complete with e-commerce integrations that feature some of the biggest carriers, our shipping management software allows you to swiftly navigate and coordinate your holiday shipping to maximize customer satisfaction and make your season just that much jollier.