6 Indispensable Holiday Shipping Tips for Online Retailers

Holiday shipping tips for an error-free warehouse

Even if your warehouse runs like a well-oiled machine nine and a half months out of the year, all bets are off during the holiday season. As order volume skyrockets so do the opportunities for error.

Prep Your Packing and Shipping Stations

Your shipping workstation must have all the essential supplies in stock and close at hand. This includes packing tape, boxes, cushioning (such as packing peanuts, kraft paper, and bubble wrap), shipping labels, and envelopes. Your postal scale, tape measure, label printer, and tape gun should all be within arm’s reach as well.

Assign each item in your catalog a designated shelf or storage location. Make sure employees always return supplies and equipment to the appropriate place so the next person who needs something can find it quickly and easily.

Create a Carrier Cheat Sheet

Every postal carrier has its own policies, restrictions, and guidelines. It’s crucial to know the quirks of each shipping provider, especially during the holidays.

Post a quick reference guide next to the shipping station with the following carrier information:

  • Available shipping methods
  • Shipping rates
  • Fees and surcharges
  • Package weight and dimension guidelines
  • Package restrictions
  • Delivery timeframes
  • Delivery zones
  • Holiday shipping deadlines

Having this information on hand eliminates the need for repeated Google searches, speeding up the packing and shipping process and allowing you to account for each carrier’s unique rules, requirements, and limitations.

Upgrade Your Warehouse Management System (WMS)

Too many eCommerce brands adopt an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mentality when it comes to their warehouse management system (WMS). But even if something “ain’t broke”, it may still have a lot of room for improvement. You shouldn’t have to get by with a WMS that doesn’t meet all of your needs. Worse still is making do with manual inventory management processes.

For many online sellers, the holiday season is when their inventory is subject to the most fluctuations. This is when you need a user-friendly and robust inventory and warehouse management platform to give you on-demand insight into stock levels and order status.

Identify and Stock Up on Top Sellers

Ideally, your existing inventory management process will allow you to perform at least basic data analysis. Take a look at historical sales data to determine which products consistently sell well both year-round and during the holiday season. Use this information to create objective, data-driven forecasts that can help guide your purchasing decisions.

Consider taking a look at what your current and potential customers are talking about on social media. This can give you additional insight into the season’s more popular products and help you avoid unexpected stock shortages.

Pro Tip: Consider stockpiling a few of your best-sellers near the packing and shipping area. This can help expedite the packing and fulfillment process.

Review Your Pick-Pack-Ship Process

Take a look at every step of your pick-pack-ship process to identify and eliminate inefficiencies. A delay of a minute or two during the summer months may not impact your ability to ship orders on time, but once order volume starts to creep up in October and November, two extra minutes on every shipment adds up fast. It may make sense for you to bring on temporary help for the holidays and/or rent additional warehouse space for surplus inventory.

Feel free to be extra nitpicky. While it may be a bit annoying now, it’s a lot better than losing sales because you didn’t realize until too late that your pick-pack-ship process wasn’t scalable.

Be VERY Communicative

When it comes to holiday shipping cutoff dates, there is no such thing as oversharing. Every visitor to your website should know the exact date and time by when they need to place an order to have it arrive on time. Include time zones and days of the week. Make sure the deadlines are plastered all over your site: on the homepage, on product pages, on the checkout page—everywhere. If you have different ship-by dates for domestic and international orders, make the distinction obvious.

There can be zero room for holiday shipping deadline misinterpretations. It’s the reality of eCommerce that if there is any way your statement regarding shipping deadlines can be misunderstood, at least one shopper will manage to misread it.

Final Thoughts

Warehouse inefficiencies, clunky shipping processes, and confused customers can make holiday order fulfillment a nightmare. Keeping these tips in mind during your holiday rush preparations can help things proceed smoothly. With careful planning, clever warehouse management, and frequent customer communication, you can make your business’ holiday season a little less scary and a lot more merry.

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Callie Hinman is the Content Marketer & Writer at ShipStation, a leading provider of shipping software for eCommerce fulfillment.

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