Cyber Five Frenzy: Are You Ready for Holiday Shipping?

October 3, 2014

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59 days until Cyber Monday — are you prepared? Over the coming weeks leading up to the big day, we are sharing top tips on our blog that aim to get retailers prepared as they head into one of the busiest times of the year. Today, let’s talk shipping.

Before you go on autopilot and treat holiday shipping the same as you would during any other time of the year, check out our list of nine tips to get your holiday shipping department in shape.

TIP 1: Create a shipping plan for the holidays.

It’s a good idea to meet with your packing team before the holiday onslaught and get on the same page about procedures and processes. Create an open forum and hear from each of your packers, who probably know how to make things smoother and faster.

TIP 2: Prioritize orders by shipping speed. Prioritize everything else by date.

In other words, package and ship your urgent overnight or express orders before your standard delivery orders. Also, look for and ship your urgent orders more often than your standard orders. And last, prioritize your standard orders by “first in, first out.” We can count up a surprising number of sellers that didn’t have this process solidified because they either a) didn’t think about this point, or b) assumed that their packing team was following this process when they weren’t.

TIP 3: Reconsider packaging.

Are you using boxes when bags would do? I recently got an order of shoes (at a great price — from one of our top sellers), and they arrived on my doorstep in a bag. This is the first pair of shoes I’ve ordered online that was delivered in a bag, and to my surprise the shoebox within the outer packaging bag was in perfect condition. What a time and cost savings to the seller!

If you aren’t sure which packaging alternatives are out there, consider asking the company you buy your shipping supplies from to help. They’ll often make suggestions and even send you free samples as part of their service.

TIP 4: Look into shipping partnerships like UPS Mail Innovations and SmartPost.

When it comes to standard shipping, you can cut costs by using shipping services like UPS Mail Innovations and FedEx SmartPost. These hybrid services use the commercial carrier for the first leg of the shipping trip, then the package is dropped off at the customer’s local post office, which will deliver to the buyer’s address. Services like this don’t necessarily increase delivery speed, but they can shave costs and hopefully allow you to offer free standard shipping — which buyers love.

TIP 5: Ensure your quantity stays live when your FBA stock runs out.

Often, when sellers use fulfillment Amazon (FBA), they’ll also stock that same product in their own warehouse. Sometimes, though, the quantity in FBA will sell out and the seller’s listings on Amazon will show as out of stock, even though there’s quantity in their seller-fulfilled warehouse. Put a plan in place to make sure this doesn’t happen and cause you to miss out on sales (or slow your sales velocity). ChannelAdvisor customers can breathe a sigh of relief because we can automate this process for you — flipping between FBA and seller-fulfilled stock as quantity levels change.

TIP 6: Use eBay’s Global Shipping Program.

If you haven’t checked out eBay’s Global Shipping Program (GSP), you need to read up on it. This program allows sellers in the US (and now in the UK) to offer their products to as many as 60 international countries. However, sellers only have to send these packages to a domestic address, and eBay will export and forward the package to the end buyer. EBay will also quote international shipping and import charges for the buyer and collect that payment for these costs when the purchase is made.

Starting in late September, sellers not using GSP (or using it minimally) will have their products shown to buyers in 10 English-speaking countries. Sellers can still specify regional, buyer or country exclusions, if needed, and even opt in to full international promotion to the 60 countries currently supported.

TIP 7: Know (and communicate) “last delivery” date.

Calculate when the last day to order is for customers using standard, expedited and overnight delivery. Communicate these dates on your website and eBay listings. Also, make sure your shipping staff is prepared to put in long hours on these dates, in case you have an influx of orders.

TIP 8: Make returns easy.

Cut your losses on a return and don’t make the process more complicated than it needs to be. Consider including a return postage label and even offering free returns. Also, consider including a customer service phone number for requesting returns, and train your customer service staff to encourage exchanges or gift receipts. Buyers will take note when you process their return request promptly and go the extra mile to make them happy.

TIP 9: Audit your shipping department. (Stopwatch optional.)

Now is a good time to get a handle on what your team is doing and how it can be better. During the holidays, don’t assume that things are running smoothly. Head down to your shipping floor and see for yourself. Track a customer’s order from purchase to out your door. Consider offering incentives to your shipping team when they break records or meet accuracy thresholds. This is a stressful time of the year for these employees, and they’ll likely respond well to recognition and rewards.

BONUS TIP: Manage Multiple Distribution Centers with ease.

As online retailers grow, we’re seeing more and more add warehouses to gain space or simply be closer to their customers. Other retailers are using suppliers and dropshippers to expand their product catalogs and reduce their capital investments.

Managing multiple locations for inventory doesn’t have to be a pain — especially with ChannelAdvisor’s Multiple Distribution Centers. Track quantity across locations, prioritize warehouses differently for each of your marketplaces — and, for US sellers, even fulfill orders from the warehouse closest to the buyer’s address. Call to speak to one of our e-commerce experts about how Multiple Distribution Centers can help your business grow.

Take these tips back to your team and get prepared to have your most fulfilling holiday season to date. Be on the lookout for our next blog in our holiday series that will discuss managing your reputation and making sure you’re optimized for Google’s Shopping Campaigns!


Blog post by Rachel Miller, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor

EBook-holiday-checklist-pt1_LPWant this holiday season to be the one you brag about when you finally get to relax in January? This free eBook contains a checklist of holiday tips and strategies.