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3 ways to overcome holiday parcel challenges

We’re not done talking about the holiday peak just yet! The topic this time around? Parcel.

With the holiday season soon to come to an end, this increase in delivery demands means that it’s all hands on deck for online merchants and parcel carriers through to the New Year.

While parcel strategy hasn’t always gotten the love and attention it deserves, it’s playing an increasingly important role as more brands push towards a direct-to-consumer model.

In fact, it’s safe to say that for ecommerce brands, parcel is everything.

Why? Because the customer experience doesn’t end when a package is shipped – but when the customer receives it. In sum, successful shipping is the key to keeping online shoppers happy.

So, how can ecommerce brands minimize costly errors when shipping during the busiest time of the year?

Hassle-free shipping is not an exact science, as customers will most likely end up shopping for last-minute gifts right up to Christmas. However, there are preventative measures that ecommerce brands can take to help both the carriers and consumers during peak season.

1. Prepare a detailed forecast

The ability to scale effectively is a vital to any online business, and proper demand planning is the first step to growing your volumes.

Whether you’re working directly with a carrier or utilizing a 3PL, it’s important to consistently communicate regarding your forecasts. With detailed planning, proper labor and technical support can be ensured to manage peak shipping volumes.

While it’s never going to be 100% accurate (unless you have access to some sort of crystal ball) sales data from the previous year will help paint a picture for your upcoming holiday season.

Using an Order Management System (OMS) can be helpful to measure both shipment and inventory volumes. So, if you’ve seen a bump in sales in November for the past few years, specifically for certain product categories, it’s wise to plan for an even greater bump in the upcoming year.

In addition to analyzing data, it’s essential to keep in mind any promotions or marketing campaigns that your brand has planned for the holiday season when forecasting demand, as this will help to drive demand for different products.

2. Encourage early buying with promotions and deals

While we’re on the topic of product marketing, it’s important to note the significance of campaign timing.

One way to avoid shipping disappointments and unhappy reviews is to encourage consumers to start their shopping earlier than usual.

The early holiday season has become quite the norm in the digital space, with sales beginning well before November. In fact, your customers may be looking for deals even earlier, as 38% of consumers planned to start stocking up on holiday gifts in October this year.

Planning your holiday promotions to begin earlier takes the pressure off both your brand and the parcel carrier, as there’s still plenty of time for orders to arrive at the customer’s doorstep.

Taking it a step further and creating a sense of urgency with flash sales and cutoff dates is a great way to encourage prospective customers to buy gifts sooner.

3. Keep in constant communication with your customers (yes, even the bad news)

Communication might be the most important step of all when it comes to parcel challenges.

When a consumer purchases a product, they’re going to want regular updates on the delivery process: Has it been shipped? What day will it arrive? What time?

  • Set a cutoff date. During the holiday season, most shoppers are going to want confirmation that their package will be at their doorstep before a certain date. Setting a cutoff date (and giving yourself some extra time to be safe) will guarantee a smooth experience for the customer. If they order by your cutoff date, there should be no problem getting their package delivered in time for the holidays. This helps you to manage customer expectations and avoid any disappointments.
  • Provide tracking details and automate your shipping notices. With 88% of consumers thinking that the ability to track shipments in real-time is important, brands need to be proactive about their shipping communications. It’s not enough to simply send a shipping confirmation, leaving the customer in the dark about where their gift is actually located. Instead, you should provide your customers with a tracking number within their confirmation email, where they’ll be able to monitor each step of the shipping process. Better yet, give them the ability to opt into SMS shipment notifications.

Even with all the best planning in the world, unforeseen problems can arise in the supply chain. While it’s never fun to tell a customer that their package is arriving late, it’s incredibly important to be transparent, honest, and open about the status of a delivery.

If you realize there’s a problem with the delivery process and do not communicate this to your customer, they may find themselves feeling blindsided and frustrated with your brand.

Being honest with your customers from the start and setting the right expectations will only strengthen brand loyalty. By keeping them in the loop, you can encourage customers to shop with you even after the holiday season has ended.

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