Seller Handbook

A guide to navigating the holiday shipping rush

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The most magical time of year is approaching, but sometimes it doesn’t feel all that magical for ecommerce retailers.This is because during such a busy time, there are plenty of problems that can arise.

During this period, retailers may find themselves struggling to keep track of inventory management, fulfilling and shipping large order volumes in a short amount of time and dealing with damaged or lost packages.

There are a lot of unknowns that can happen in a high-pressure time, but the best way to meet this moment is through organization. Planning ahead and anticipating the preparation that’s needed for this holiday season will help you avoid most hiccups – and be ready for the ones that do arise.

Not sure how to get started? Follow our five seasonal shipping tips for the holiday rush below.

1. Prepare your product inventory.

First things first, make sure your product inventory is prepared for what’s coming. Review last year’s holidays sales data during the busy months and gauge any insights about what was most popular, what worked well and what didn’t, and make this year’s inventory correspond to those seasonal trends to safeguard yourself from any surprises.

It’s also a good idea to look at trends happening in your industry and the sales that are predicted to boom in the 2020 holiday season. Covid-19 has shaken up sales globally and driven more people to turn to ecommerce over bricks-and-mortar shopping, so be prepared for online sales to potentially be even larger and expect the unexpected.

2. Order your packaging supplies now to make sure you’re well stocked.

If you’re planning on giving your packaging a festive overhaul and switching up the usual colors and themes, ordering ahead of time is advantageous as most packaging providers require a couple of weeks notice.

noissue, for example, takes 21 days (three weeks) from approval of design, which is different to the date you place your order. This means that if you want to begin sending out holiday packaging from November, it’s best to place your packaging order in October.

As well as this, it’s best to plan ahead with your packaging if you think there’s a chance of larger sales than normal. Get prepared for high volumes of orders by ordering a surplus of packaging to take you through until the end of December, as you won’t be able to reorder new packaging in a hurry.

3. Simplify your returns process

Don’t get caught off guard when there’s a flood of returns around this busy season. Events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Christmas soon after that mean shoppers are prone to impulse buying around this period. Communication is key, so make sure you’ve stated your returns policy clearly on your website to customers so there’s no confusion. 

You can also make this process easier for both parties by including prepaid returns labels, instructions and packaging to customers with their orders. It also enhances the customer experience and earns you brand loyalty and trust. According to Return Magic, “89% of repeat customers who had a good return experience are likely to buy again.”

4. Be aware of shipping deadlines

Your shipping process should run smoothly over this period to save yourself any unnecessary stress. To stay on top of order fulfilments, make sure you’re aware of shipping deadlines for peak season with your chosen shipping carrier and whether parcels will arrive by Christmas Eve. 

Seeing as these are unprecedented times due to a global pandemic, the earlier you ship your parcels out, the better. This is because there will likely be record numbers of ecommerce orders being shipped out in 2020 due to it being one of the main avenues of shopping for people who have stay-at-home orders, or simply don’t want to be out and about in public. Check out Stockabl’s run down on shipping deadlines for 2020 here.

Make sure your customers are aware of these dates by including them on your website (which will encourage them to spend by a certain date, too).

5. Remember the unboxing experience.

After all the hard work you’ve put into fulfilling and shipping orders, you want to make sure the end result is a positive experience that sparks joy for the customer, too. 

Product presentation is especially important during the holidays because it’s the season of gifting and giving. A beautifully wrapped parcel symbolizes festivity and celebration, so consider adding in branded packaging such as tape, ribbons, tissue paper, or a custom card with a thank you note to make the package feel more personalized.

Thoughtful unboxing experiences by @thekindcurator

As well as this, think about how your product will be presented the moment your customer opens the package. Whether you’re using a mailer bag or a box, you want your products to look carefully arranged rather than messy. Custom tissue paper can fill up empty space, position products and make a box feel fuller.   

According to Dotcom Distribution, 40% of online shoppers would share an image of their purchase on social media if it came in branded packaging – so consider refining your unboxing experience as a great marketing strategy. 

So there you have it – preparation is key when it comes to navigating an often chaotic season as a retailer. 

Custom designed packaging from Melanie Johnsson

To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, expect the unexpected, start early with your planning, look back on the year that was to gain any insights into what worked and what didn’t, and be sure to think about and order your packaging well ahead of time. We hope you have a brilliant holiday season!

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