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Year over year, trends have shown an uptick in online shopping around the holidays – presumably, a result of the fast and often free shipping offered by retail giants. In fact, studies show that e-commerce sales hit a record high in 2019, up 18.8% from 2018. 

This year, you can expect more of the same. The uncertainty surrounding coronavirus will likely have even more shoppers skipping crowded stores in favor of the safety of their own homes. 

Unfortunately, a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall could also mean shipping delays and headaches for retailers. That means that now, more than ever, business owners need to prepare a holiday season shipping plan in advance.

Let’s take a closer look at the options customers have come to expect – and some tips for shoring up your supply chain management plan in time for holiday shipping.

Should you offer free shipping?

It’s no secret that when it comes to shipping, Amazon changed the game. Consumers today don’t just want free, fast shipping: They’ve come to expect it.

Here are some strategies that can help you stay competitive:

  • Free Shipping: offered with no strings attached, all products qualify, no limitations.
  • Membership Option: free shipping guaranteed with membership to your company’s loyalty program or when the consumer provides their email address to receive marketing communications in the future.
  • Minimum Order Threshold: free shipping guaranteed if the customer spends a certain amount of money.
  • Free Shipping on Select Items: only certain products qualify.
  • Free Shipping to Store: used to incentivize additional purchases at a brick-and-mortar location.
  • Promotional Period Free Shipping: used to drive sales during a specific time period only.

Offering free shipping with no stipulations gives consumers a strong incentive to complete their purchase – especially when they’re already in holiday shopping mode. 

Not sure if it’s right for you? Assess how much you would need to sell by factoring the shipping cost into the overall product cost. If the numbers don’t work out, explore some of the other tactics mentioned above.

Should you offer express shipping?

Expedited shipping is another popular option among shoppers as it promises to get them their products faster – usually in two days or less. One study conducted by RetailMeNot regarding retail challenges for 2020 shows that 81% of shoppers expect expedited shipping options during the upcoming holiday season.

If free shipping isn’t an option for your business, this is a great way to go!

Here are some ways to incorporate express shipping into your holiday season shipping strategy:

  • Spread your inventory across multiple shipping zones. The less distance products have to travel, the faster they can arrive for your customers using less costly ground transportation methods.
  • Keep your profit margins in check by requiring a minimum spend on purchases.
  • Hire a trusted and reliable 3PL provider to help you meet expedited shipping requests. This is their specialty so you can know deadlines will be met.

Should you offer same-day shipping?

Same-day shipping is another method of getting your customers their orders fast, but it should not be confused with same-day delivery. Same-day shipping guarantees the product will leave the warehouse on the same day that it’s ordered, not that consumers will receive the product on the same day.

How can you offer this option as part of your holiday season shipping strategy?

  • Target your customers by zip code and ship from multiple fulfillment centers to offer this option to a wider range of consumers.
  • Make sure to establish a cutoff time for orders and coordinate that with your carrier’s cutoff time.
  • Consider the invaluable expertise a 3PL provider can offer. With a logistics company working for you, you can greatly reduce shipping costs while leaving all the fulfillment requirements up to them.

How should you prepare your supply chain for holiday season shipping?

When done right, supply chain management gets your product from the supplier, to your manufacturer, and then to your warehouses for shipment – all before being delivered to the end-user seamlessly and efficiently. It can be a complicated process!

In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, it’s crucial to track your product at every step through the supply chain network to ensure it is available for fulfillment and delivery when your customer expects it to be.

We recommend developing a contingency plan in advance! Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances result in delays during part of the process and you NEED to have a workaround!

One way to make the busiest time of the year a little easier to manage is by hiring a third-party logistics provider to coordinate transportation, warehousing and more, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of your business.

Gorgo Group, located in Vineland, NJ, is an experienced third-party logistics provider ready to help with every aspect of your shipping needs during the busy holiday season. Contact Gorgo Group today to learn more about how we help take the worry out of warehousing and logistics.