How to Take on the Holiday Shipping Rush

Holiday shipping doesn't have to be a headache for your company. Here are three tips to set you up for success.

Holiday shipping, Inventory

Small business owners are keenly aware of how important it is to get everything shipped properly during the high-stakes holiday season. Get your product to a customer's hands on time, and that customer is far more likely to keep shopping with you in the future.

Lisa Scopa, Senior Vice President of Business Services at Staples, has three holiday shipping rules to help businesses navigate this hectic time. To get your items to their destination, follow these tips:

1. Learn Your Shipping Options

Form a specific plan for how you will get your items out to customers. Familiarize yourself with the 2017 holiday shipping dates from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), UPS, FedEx and any other carriers that might ship your product. Small businesses need more options and flexible time schedules to do their shipping, so Scopa recommends looking for storefront operations that will ship items for you, while providing convenient and extended hours during the holidays.

Most of the large shipping companies, as well as some businesses, also have mobile shipping apps to help you check shipping rates, print labels, manage order fulfillment and more.

2. Set Clear Expectations With Your Customers

Small businesses are particularly affected by holiday shipping rushes. According to Scopa: "We see shipping volumes up to three times the average amount during the busiest weeks. Make sure you are clear with your customers about shipping expectations, and let them know if they have options such as delivery notification and insurance."

Clearly outline your processes and shipping rates for everyone to read before purchasing. Remind your customers in a confirmation email when their order is expected to ship, and an estimated delivery date, if available.

Encourage your customers to ship earlier and slower to decrease costs. One way to do this is to lower customers' costs when they buy early. "Provide discounted or free shipping for orders placed before Dec. 14 that utilize ground shipping," Scopa suggests. It's good to check websites across carriers, but Dec. 14th is generally a safe date for guaranteed delivery by Christmas using ground service.

3. Be Smart With How You Pack Orders

Lost or missing orders certainly kill the holiday buzz. Frustrated customers will want you to rush their replacement order, and you'll be eating the added expense of shipping another item. Avoid this as much as possible by packing your orders well the first time with a correctly sized box or envelope, quality labels and strong tape to secure it. "Make sure your packages are clearly labeled and well packed," says Scopa. This means printing the customer's address and your return address, and not handwriting it. Also, print a second label and put it inside the box to be sure it gets delivered in case the outer label is damaged for any reason.

With a little planning and a lot of notice to your customers, holiday shipping can go smoothly — and win you the loyalty of happy shoppers. Get your shipping operations set as early as possible so you can focus on providing the best possible shopping experience.