Holiday Ideas & Strategies

How to Make Holiday Shipping Anxiety a Thing of the Past for You and Your Customers: Tips, Strategies & 2019 Shipping Deadlines

/ 3 min read
holiday shipping

Americans are stressed during the holidays.

Their biggest shopping concern? Package delays.

It even beats worrying about money.

And if customers are worrying about it, you bet merchants are worrying right there with them.

Not to mention that with last-minute shoppers making up nearly 30% of online holiday sales, ‘tis truly the season for some ecommerce nail biting.

In addition, year-over-year ecommerce holidays sales increased 21%.

More sales means more revenue. More sales also means more shipping, and more possible shipping issues.

The sheer volume of packages on the road is mind-boggling.

Here’s what USPS, UPS, and FedEx predicted they would deliver between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2017:

Just between these three carriers, that’s more than 50 million packages delivered each day in the roughly 40 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Given the numbers, it makes sense both customers and brands are anxious about holiday shipping.

Let’s put some of those fears to rest.

The single best way to build your brand is by offering an impeccable customer experience and — especially during the holidays — your fulfillment strategy is a key driver here.

That’s why it’s so important to set the right expectations with your customers and ensure you get your shipments out in time as promised.

You miss delivery of that one special gift during the holiday season, you will have probably lost a customer for life.

What to Expect From the Carriers

Every year, carriers publish their “Last Days to Ship” schedules.

USPS ServiceShipping Cutoff Date
Retail GroundFriday, December 14, 2018
First Class MailThursday, December 20, 2018
Priority MailThursday, December 20, 2018
Priority Mail ExpressSaturday, December 22, 2018

FedEx ServiceShipping Cutoff Date
SmartPost ServicesMonday, December 10, 2018
GroundFriday, December 14, 2018
Home DeliveryMonday, December 17, 2018
Express SaverWednesday, December 19, 2018
2Day ServicesThursday, December 20, 2018
Overnight ServicesFriday, December 21, 2018

UPS ServiceShipping Cutoff Date
GroundFriday, December 14, 2018
3 Day SelectTuesday, December 18, 2018
2nd Day Air ServicesThursday, December 20, 2018
Next Day Air ServicesSaturday, December 22, 2018

You can get a downloadable infographic from ShipStation with the cut-off dates for UPS, FedEx, and USPS.

It’s important you know what these dates really mean.

For instance, you don’t have to quit selling once those deadlines hit. Instead, you can alter your strategy to sell gift cards or certificates to push folks to your brick-ad-mortars instead.

Don’t overpromise and underdeliver!

Every merchant is different. And each carrier and each service has different deadlines.

You want to ensure you offer the right mix of affordability, service, and speed to deliver your holiday sales efficiently and on-time.

You may see a lot of overnight or 2-day shipping requests from all the last-minute holiday shoppers.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

These dates do not have a fulfillment lag built in. They are carrier cut off dates, not your “Order By” dates!

You may take 1 or 2 days to get an item into the mailstream.

When you communicate your “Order By” dates to your customers make sure you account for this lag time.

You may also want to check your carrier’s peak surcharges.

USPS does not charge peak surcharges.

UPS is charging a surcharge for residential packages during some peak dates in November and December.

And FedEx is waiving those surcharges for a second year in a row.

But both FedEx and UPS have an additional handling surcharge that will apply to packages that require special handling.

So you will want to make sure your fulfillment is optimized and on point so you can avoid these charges.

Want more insights like this?

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Steps to Eliminate Stress During Peak Shipping Season

How do you make sure your ecommerce shipping is on point during the holidays?

1. Plan early.

Inventory, staffing, promotions, forecasts for all your selling channels, and a systems check-up.

You’ll want to know where you stand — like right now.

2. Prepare your packing and shipping workspace.

Now is the time to clean up your space and stock up on packing materials.

We’ve got 5 great tips on how to get your space ready:

  1. Situate your packing and shipping area in the best location.
  2. Have all necessary supplies and equipment on-hand and readily accessible.
  3. Stay ahead of the game.
  4. Create and post a carrier quick reference guide.
  5. Don’t forget the steps before and after packing and shipping.

3. Review and communicate.

Review your policies, establish realistic shipping expectations, and communicate them clearly to your customers.

For example, an “Order By” callout on your website makes sure your customers understand and it can even create a sense of urgency to buy now!

4.Know your limits on shipping offers.

Talking about buying now, free (and fast) shipping is the best conversion tool in ecommerce.

Know how and when to offer it.

If you simply can’t offer it on all orders, use it as a promotion or set a minimum order amount to boost cart size.

5. Don’t forget returns.

With record-breaking holiday sales come record-breaking returns in January!

When you review your policies, be sure to review your returns policy as well.

A positive returns experience will turn customers into repeat shoppers.

6. Expect the unexpected.

This all comes down to managing customer expectations.

A snowstorm may hit the days before Christmas and throw deliveries for a loop.

While the weather may be out of your control, your response and communications is how you’ll be remembered.

Executive Summary

How do you deal with holiday shipping anxiety?

You take a deep breath, you plan, and you manage (your customers’) expectations with great communication.

If you’ve got your ducks in a row, you will be able to handle the stresses that come with the holiday season.

You may even be able to enjoy and celebrate your successes!

And if you are prepared and you exude this preparedness in your processes and communication, your customers will have the confidence to buy from you again and again.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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    Callie Hinman

    Callie Hinman is the Content Marketer & Writer at ShipStation, a leading provider of shipping software for ecommerce fulfillment. Callie holds a B.A. in English from the University of Texas and is staunchly committed to following Ann Handley’s Rule of FIWTSBS (“Find Interesting Ways to Say Boring Stuff”).

    View all posts by Callie Hinman
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