Chapter 3 How to Ease Holiday Shipping Anxiety for You and Your Customers & Holiday Shipping Deadlines for 2019

Corinne Watson / 8 min read


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It’s the middle of September. In many places around the nation, this time of year means:

  • Retail stores start quietly setting up Christmas decorations behind the Halloween displays.
  • Everything is suddenly “pumpkin spice” flavored.
  • The leaves are yet to change, but some are beginning to show scarlet freckles.

In short: The holidays are coming. With them comes the stress of planning family gatherings and, worse yet, the impending dread of package delays.

Americans become so stressed about package delays that in 2018, UShip found that almost a third of all holiday shoppers reported worrying that their packages would not arrive in time.

3rd of customers shipping


If that many customers are worried about shipping during the holiday season, you can only imagine how hard merchants are sweating about it, too.

In early 2019, data from Internet Retailer and Adobe showed a 16% increase in 2018 online holiday sales over the 2017 holiday season.

With more online sales comes a higher demand for shipping. A higher demand for shipping invites greater possibilities of shipping issues. No one wants to be waiting on an item that may take what feels like ages to arrive — if it arrives at all — and you definitely don’t want to lose a customer’s trust to lost or delayed packages.

Don’t forget to breathe, though. There is hope.

The unsung hero of your company’s success is your ability to deliver an unbeatable customer experience. During the holiday season, customers’ expectations of their experience with you is even higher.

Developing a strong fulfillment strategy is integral to ensuring customer satisfaction. Here we will explore the different ways to follow up on your strategy despite the pressures of the season.

Provide Expedited Delivery Without Cutting Into Your Margins

If you want to stay competitive amongst the rising tides of ecommerce brands, offering fast shipping is a must. However, because of Amazon, today’s online shopper expects their virtually instantaneous shipping to cost them very little, if anything at all.

How can you offer this without cutting into your profits?

1. Require a minimum spending threshold.

Shipping isn’t free, regardless of whether you make your customers pay for it.

As such, one way you can spare your customers from feeling as though they’re paying more than they want to is by offering free, expedited shipping only after they surpass a minimum spending threshold.

To do this successfully, you should set the threshold at a price higher than the average order value (AOV). The formula for calculating AOV is simply taking the revenue and dividing it by the number of orders.

AOV is calculated using sales per order, rather than sales per customer. Even though one customer might come back more than once to make a purchase, each order is factored into AOV separately.

pasted image 0 3

Source: Optimizely

Setting your threshold higher than the AOV allows you to increase your sales while delivering your customers’ orders faster — at no perceived cost to them.

2. Spread inventory throughout multiple fulfillment centers.

Shipping costs often depend on how long it will take a package to reach a customer. Therefore, why not knock out both shipping time and cost with one stone?

If you distribute your inventory throughout multiple fulfillment centers in various shipping zones, you can make ground shipping less expensive and get your products to customers at a faster rate.

The more you are able to offer expedited ground shipping over expedited air shipping — which is much more expensive to both you and the customer — the fewer abandoned carts you will have as well.

3. Outsource fulfillment services to a third party.

Do you want to cut down on shipping and operation costs, boost your customer service, and extend your reach all at once?

Consider outsourcing your fulfillment services to a third party (3PL) like Shipbob.

Working with a third-party fulfillment service can sound intimidating, but as long as you do your research and look at customer reviews, you can easily find one that’s affordable and trustworthy.

Plus, using a third party frees up resources that can be better diverted to providing quality customer service. The better your customer service, the more likely you are to attract loyal customers.

How to Offer Same-Day Shipping

The introduction of same-day shipping has changed the online shopping landscape considerably. It highly influences your potential customers and probability of purchases.

Now, you don’t need to be a mega-corporation or break the laws of physics to offer same-day delivery. Here are a few methods you can use to stay competitive in a highly demanding market:

1. Set a cutoff time.

A cutoff time is the latest possible time an item can be ordered for it to be applicable for same-day delivery.

For instance, you shouldn’t set your cutoff time at 11:59 p.m. because it would be impossible to deliver the item until the next day. Setting your cutoff time at 9:00 a.m., however, ensures that there’s plenty of time for the product to be sent out on the same day.

Always remember that the cutoff time depends on the time zone your inventory is stored in. As such, if you have customers in one time zone but your closest fulfillment center is in another, you would need to select a cutoff time that would allow the product to be moved before the end of the customer’s day.

Adding “padding time” to these orders is necessary as well. Extra time will help account for the carrier’s pickup and delivery schedule along with anything that may cause delays in the delivery.

2. Limit same-day delivery to customers who are close to your fulfillment centers.

There is only a certain amount of distance you can cover to ensure a package is delivered on the same day a customer orders it. Therefore, the easiest way to provide customers with same-day shipping is to target the zip codes closest in proximity to your inventory.

If you’re wondering about the best place to ship your inventory from, look at major cities. The majority of any population resides in those cities and so if you ship out of a location there, you can reach more customers, faster.

Shipping Providers That Offer Same-Day Delivery

If you’re looking to outsource your shipping department, there are a few good providers to look at.

1. UPS Express Critical.

UPS offers UPS Express Critical, which delivers both light and heavy packages domestically and internationally. They are able to do so via ground and air travel, ensuring that each delivery is made by hand to the intended recipient.



2. FedEx SameDay.

FedEx SameDay provides reliable delivery within hours of ordering time-sensitive packages. Cross-country delivery is also available every day of the week in all 50 states.



3. USPS MetroPost.

Recently, USPS introduced MetroPost which offers same-day delivery locally. However, this option is listed last because it is currently being beta-tested exclusively in San Francisco.

metro post

Source: USPS MetroPost

4. Other shipping providers.

There are a number of smaller shipping providers that offer same-day shipping, but they may be less reliable than the options with bigger names. The ones listed above have a strong history of reliable delivery to back up their services, making them safer bets to work with.

If you would like to consider the smaller shipping providers, just remember to research customer reviews from more than just their site — companies typically only display the good reviews — and check how long they have been around.

However, if you only want to ship locally, a smaller shipping provider may be right for you. Plus, you would be supporting other local businesses during a time that could either make or break their business.

How to Make Your Shipping Options a Selling Point

Fast shipping is great and all, but you need to make your potential customers aware of it to draw them in. Just look at these statistics:

Shipping costs and arrival dates don’t sound like the most thrilling headline for an ad, but sometimes, that’s all a customer needs to know to be sold. This is especially true for last-minute shoppers who spend 46% of their time shopping online.

Online shopping google charts

Source: Think with Google

These tips will help you leverage your shipping options to attract more customers this holiday season.

1. Put shipping options in your meta description.

The meta description of a webpage is the short paragraph of text you see under the link in a search engine’s results. On the developer end, it’s the section of the HTML code that’s 160 characters long and acts as a mini-advertisement telling the searcher what the webpage has to offer.

Meta description

Source: Google’s meta description for Google

By detailing the options you provide for shipping in your meta description, you instantly show potential buyers what they can expect before they even click on your product page.

For example, a good starting point for your meta description could be: “Get FREE same-day shipping on your order of $30 or more.”

That could be improved by working in your company’s unique voice or incorporating a brief mention of the products you offer. Creativity is key here, as it will set you apart from your competition.

2. Put shipping options in your product pages.

Most customers will not arrive on your website through the homepage. Instead, they’ll find your website through your product pages. When they do, they’ll be wondering whether it will take hours, days, or weeks for their package to ship.

Last-minute shoppers are typically in a haste and don’t want to spend too much time trying to figure out how long it will take to receive their purchase. Therefore, the more clearly and instantly you show your potential customers the kinds of shipping options you provide, the better.

Try pulling an Amazon by listing “FREE delivery,” followed by the soonest day or date the free delivery applies, right under the product price. Similarly, you could put a timer on the product counting down to the last moment the customer has to order the item before they are no longer eligible for same-day shipping.

Amazon example

Screenshot from Amazon

These tactics could also encourage the shopper to buy from you instead of one of your competitors, as it makes the deal sound like it’s only available for a limited time.

3. Advertise on social media.

Even in today’s world of influencer endorsements and social media popularity contests, using these platforms to advertise is still a tool companies can use to garner customer interest.

Having a social media presence is one of the greatest assets to a company’s success, but it can take a long time to build. If you don’t already have a person or a team of people working to make your company’s social media accounts pop, you may want to consider advertising on relevant platforms instead.

Social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter all allow you to buy advertising space with them. They place these advertisements rather covertly into the feeds of users who follow topics relevant to what you sell, so you’re already being viewed by ideal customers.

Advertise on Reddit

Source: Reddit

Most of these ads are low cost and sometimes free. If you simply state your shipping options clearly in your advertisements, that could be what earns you the click of a potential buyer.

What to Expect From Carriers

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

While the ones from 2019 have not been published yet, here are 2018’s dates.

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-and-mortars instead.

Executive Summary

The holidays are just around the corner, and lurking with them is the anxiety of holiday shopping.

Making sure that customers get the right item, on time, and at a competitive cost will soon become the holiday headache of merchants across the nation.

Stay on top of the game by finding the best ways to offer your customers great deals on shipping. What’s more, you can increase your profits and attract more business during the holidays by making shipping a part of your marketing strategy.

The best way to handle the influx of hasty and last-minute shoppers is to be always one step ahead. Show them that you are ready to handle whatever they have to throw at you.

Your customers will take note of your preparedness. They’ll trust your company more and maybe even recommend you to their friends or colleagues. These customers will also be more likely to return, since they know that as long as they shop with you, they’ll be in capable hands.

Want more insights like this?

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Table of Contents

    Table of Contents

    IntroAchieving 2019 Holiday Success: Shipping, Packaging, and Fulfillment Guidelines for Ecommerce Brands
    Chapter 1 Automate and Optimize: How to Improve Your Fulfillment for the Holidays
    Chapter 2 Holiday Packaging 101: Why Last-Mile Enhancements Matter
    Chapter 3 How to Ease Holiday Shipping Anxiety for You and Your Customers & Holiday Shipping Deadlines for 2019


    Corinne Watson

    Corinne Watson

    Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large. Before BigCommerce, she was an education specialist at Skills Fund, where she built resources and ran trainings to give students access to life-changing skills. Corinne holds degrees in graphic design and psychology. After college, she transitioned into the marketing and research space through a self-taught mindset – and works to bring the value of that skill and mindset to others. When she’s not writing, she’s volunteering with nonprofit organizations, traveling the world, or digging into a new book.

    View all posts by Corinne Watson

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