The 2017 holiday season is expected to break more than a few records. For the first time ever, holiday shoppers plan on spending most of their budget online this year. As a result, ecommerce sales in the U.S. will make up an unprecedented 11.5% of all holiday retail sales. And because of all of this online shopping, UPS plans to deliver over 750 million parcels globally between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
The U.S. market represents a great opportunity for European online retailers. And thanks to the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, international purchases under $800 are no longer subject to formal customs procedures. This means American consumers can receive their orders more quickly and at a lower price.
However, in order to drive more sales from the U.S. this holiday season, Europe eCommerce merchants need to be 100% confident shoppers will receive their orders on time. A positive international shipping experience can earn you a customer for life. But a negative one can turn a shopper off your brand forever. If you want to guarantee a memorable shipping experience, you must know ship-by dates for all the top carriers in the U.S.
To help online retailers across the globe, ShipStation put together this “2017 Holiday Shipping Deadlines” infographic. It contains the cut-off dates, holiday and weekend closures, and availability of pickups and deliveries for USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
Now that you can better plan your holiday shipping schedule, the next step is to prepare your packing and shipping area for the upcoming rush. Here are a few tips:
Place your packing and shipping area in the best location.
Think about the different ways team members will be entering and exiting the area. Make sure they can easily navigate to the packing and shipping zone, even when they’re carrying bulky items. The design and location of your packing and shipping area should be determined with efficiency and productivity in mind.
Keep important supplies and equipment nearby and easily accessible.
Because your packing and shipping area is home to many different supplies and tools (such as boxes and envelopes, packing slips, cushioning, packing tape, a label printer, and a postal scale), it can quickly become disorganized. But if you have designated shelves and storage bins for every item, team members can quickly find what they need (as long as their colleagues consistently put everything back where it belongs.)
Be proactive, not reactive.
If you have been in business for a while, you likely know which of your products tend to increase in popularity during the holidays. To prevent team members from having to waste by time from repeatedly retrieving the same products, keep a stash of them near the packing and shipping area. You can also have team members pre-assemble some of the more commonly-used boxes so they’re ready to go when an order comes in.
Have a carrier quick reference guide.
In addition to posting a physical copy of the infographic above in your packing and shipping area, make a cheat sheet for the carriers you use most often. The guide should include:
- Available shipping methods
- Delivery timeframes
- parcel restrictions
- Shipping rates
- Fees and surcharges
- parcel weight and dimension guidelines
- Delivery zones
Team members will have all of the important shipping details they need at a glance and won’t have to go searching for information.
Think about the steps before and after packing and shipping.
Your packing and shipping area isn’t home only to orders that have been packed. There are two other types of orders: 1) Ones that have been sold, but not yet packed, and 2) Those that have been packed, but not yet shipped. Set aside places in the packing and shipping area for these two types of orders to make it easier on team members to get orders out the door.
The holiday season is fast-approaching. But the more prepared your packing and holiday shipping process is, the more confident you can be about fulfilling orders on time. And when you can consistently meet (and exceed) holiday shopper expectations, they’ll be more than happy to return to your site.