Get Your Ship Together for the Holidays—And Do it Sooner Than Usual

 In Ecommerce

In some ways, it feels like it’s still March, but the calendar says we’re nearing the end of this weird year. Thanksgiving is in a matter of days, and at that point holiday shopping will be in full swing. The shopping will be largely taking place online (like most things in 2020), so e-tailers are getting ready for an even bigger rush than normal. 

Shipping carriers are bracing themselves, too, because they are about to have the busiest holiday season on record. There have already been plenty of shipping delays this year, which is something e-tailers should consider when setting their own order-by dates. In short: Get your ship together, if you haven’t already.    

If you haven’t yet finalized your holiday shipping strategy, do it as soon as possible so you don’t miss the new shipping cutoff dates.

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Prepare for “Shipageddon”

Online shopping exploded at the beginning of the pandemic and is still going strong. Meanwhile, the holidays are rapidly approaching with Thanksgiving in a matter of days. The intersection of these phenomena could be the breaking point. 

Retail Geek is calling the upcoming holiday season “Shipageddon” when delivery companies and supply chains are strained by the deluge of holiday packages. Carriers already struggle to keep up with holiday demand in non-pandemic times, so this year they are trying to discourage last-minute shipments with surge pricing

Additionally, after several months of selling at holiday-level volumes, retailers have less inventory than usual and are unlikely to discount items in short supply. If that’s the boat you’re in with your ecommerce business, be transparent with your customers—it’s better they know as soon as possible so they can shop early. 

E-tailers can prepare for Shipageddon by running holiday promotions early so customers are likely to be done shopping far in advance. You might also want to build in a buffer and ship a few days before your carrier’s cutoff date to ensure your products arrive before Christmas specifically. It’s important to note that all carriers are closed on December 25th, so same-day shipping is not an option. 

Read on for more information about cutoff dates for the most popular shipping carriers.

DHL Cutoff Dates in the US

DHL is the preferred carrier for many businesses with international customers. Average transit times are one to three days, and they can handle parcels of any size and weight. There is also a single point of contact for all shipping needs, so e-tailers don’t have to navigate a unique system for each country. For countries that get the most shipments (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and Tahiti) DHL’s cutoff date is December 18th. Cutoff Date: December 18, 2020

FedEx Cutoff Dates in the US

FedEx is another popular carrier for both domestic and international shipments, and they specialize in express long-haul deliveries. In fact, FedEx moves more than 15 million shipments each business day to over 220 countries and territories around the world. Its air freight service is its bread and butter, so it’s a solid choice for e-tailers with customers all over the world. For a full breakdown of the differences between shipping services and their respective cutoff dates, visit the FedEx holiday site.

Cutoff Dates

  • FedEx Smart Post: December 9, 2020
  • FedEx Ground: December 15, 2020
  • FedEx Home Delivery: December 15, 2020
  • FedEx Express Saver: December 21, 2020
  • FedEx 2nd Day: December 22, 2020
  • FedEx Overnight: December 23, 2020

USPS Cutoff Dates in the US

The United States Postal Service delivers to every residential and commercial address in the U.S. and typically offers the best rates out of every domestic carrier. Additionally, the Postal Service processes and delivers 472.1 million mail pieces each day.

Cutoff Dates

  • USPS Mail and First-Class Mail APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 Only): December 9, 2020
  • USPS Priority Mail and FirstClass Mail APO/FPO/DPO: December 11, 2020
  • USPS Retail Ground: December 15, 2020
  • USPS Priority Mail Express APO/FPO/DPO: December 18, 2020 
  • USPS-First Class Mail and Packages: December 18, 2020
  • USPS Priority Mail: December 19, 2020 
  • USPS Priority Mail Express: December 23, 2020

UPS Cutoff Dates in the US

If FedEx rules the air, UPS rules the ground. The United Parcel Service delivers worldwide—around 21.9 million packages and documents each day, or 5.5 billion total. Ground-based parcel delivery is their bread and butter, and a recent focus on logistics has made them the preferred carrier of many ecommerce brands. E-tailers shipping with UPS Ground should be ready by December 15th, but there are shipping options that have later cutoff dates. 

Cutoff Dates

  • UPS Ground: December 15, 2020
  • UPS 3-Day Select: December 21, 2020
  • UPS Second Day Air: December 22, 2020
  • UPS Next Day Air: December 24, 2020 

For international options, see the UPS Holiday Operations schedule

Landmark Global Cutoff Dates in the US

Landmark Global offers low prices, fulfillment services and flexibility to its users, making it a solid choice for e-tailers shipping internationally. Its service cutoff dates for Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Tahiti (the most commonly shipped countries) is December 2, 2020 – December 12, 2020. Additional destination country cut-off times are available online.

Cutoff Dates

  • Landmark to Australia & New Zealand: December 7, 2020
  • Landmark Express to Canada: December 12, 2020
  • Landmark Standard to Canada: December 14, 2020

Avoid These 5 Common Shipping Mistakes

Shipping is a core function of your ecommerce business, so your process should be streamlined and effective whether this is your first holiday season as a seller or you’ve been doing this for years. If you can avoid these troublesome mistakes, you’ll have smooth sailing. 

First, avoid taking a one-size fits all approach to shipping. Some e-tailers may assume that all customers want free shipping, even if that means waiting longer for their orders to arrive. In reality, however, your customers want options. Some may opt to wait so they can score that free shipping, but others may want next-day or even same-day delivery. 

Second, avoid packing your products poorly. UPS recommends shipping items in new boxes with at least two inches of room on all sides. This is called right-sizing in the supply chain world—the box should be the right size for the item(s) being shipped. If the items are fragile, take extra precautions like bubble wrap or other cushions. It’s extra important during the holidays because your products will likely be gifts. 

Third, avoid complicating the returns process. The return rate for products bought online is as high as 30% in some categories, and there’s no getting around it. Instead, turn your returns into an opportunity for higher customer satisfaction and more future sales. How do you do it? Offer automated, frictionless returns on your site. Your customers will be relieved that it’s so easy, and they’ll be more willing to shop with you again. 

Fourth, avoid not using your data properly. This applies to both your outgoing and incoming shipments. By analyzing your data, you can determine where to make cuts or changes to save on shipping expenses. 

Finally, avoid relying on one carrier for shipping. By putting all your eggs in one basket, you could be subject to extra-long delivery times, expensive shipping rates and more. The employees could even go on strike, leaving you stranded. Instead, develop relationships with multiple shipping carriers so you always have options and can continue running your business without any hiccups.