Even in a typical holiday season, consumer fervor to get their gifts in time is sky-high. And keeping up can feel nearly impossible — until you can finally breathe a sigh of relief in January.
But this is 2020, so, of course, it’s going to be way, way worse. Some are even calling it “Shipageddon.”
Everywhere you look, pundits are predicting a holiday shopping season that will be largely digital. With health concerns keeping them out of stores, consumers are turning more to online shopping.
And that means more packages in the system. In fact, shipping volumes are expected to exceed capacity by 5% worldwide, possibly delaying up to 700 million holiday packages.
Holiday 2020 shopping statistics — and what they mean for shippers
If these statistics don’t start your shipper’s heart racing, I don’t know what will:
- 43% of shoppers plan to shop exclusively online. (More packages to compete for space with.)
- 66% of shoppers want their orders delivered to their homes. (Hello, Residential Delivery surcharge!)
- 33% of consumers say that delays in receiving items creates a bad shopping experience. (Customer lifetime value is in danger.)
Why holiday 2020 shipping capacity will be an issue
Holiday shipping always strains carrier capacity, but thanks to the pressures of the pandemic, it’s going to be even more competitive this year.
Both UPS and FedEx are warning of potential capacity shortfalls that could mean millions of packages are kept out of the network each day. UPS reported a 13.8% increase in volume in its latest quarterly earnings report, and FedEx reported an increase as well. Both jumps are credited to the rise in residential deliveries driven by the pandemic. UPS encouraged shippers to shift volume earlier in the holiday season or even to avoid shipping when possible.
What you can do to avoid shipping issues during the 2020 holiday season
If you’re an enterprise shipper, you might get some help from your carrier rep in planning the best days to get your trailers into the system, but what about small and medium-sized shippers?
No matter your volume, there are steps you can take to mitigate the 2020 holiday shipping crunch.
1. Encourage your customers to shop sooner.
As UPS advises, do what you can to incentivize earlier holiday shopping. This is a great opportunity to work with your marketing department and other teams in your business to strategize messaging and discounts that will help you shift orders earlier in the season. But use caution! Don’t offer a deal that eats up your profits.
2. Be transparent with customers when they place their orders.
Consumers know by now that shipping in 2020 can be a guessing game for everyone involved, but 73% still want real-time tracking of their orders from your door to theirs. Be very clear about the fact that shipping times might vary from the estimates you provide and that you can’t guarantee expedited shipping, even if they pay for it. If you don’t have the technology to offer your customers shipment tracking in your own system, there are many services available that can help you keep customers informed.
3. Open the lines of communication with your current carrier.
Your carrier rep will be as helpful as they can, and making it clear that you have questions and need attention never hurts. Ask specifically about:
- Time in transit expectations
- Capacity issues and updates
- Contingency plans they have in place
- Any situations in which they would not let your shipments into the network
4. Look into other carrier options.
It could be a good idea to explore your options — the sooner, the better. Ask about better rates, of course, but also compare time in transit and capacity with your current carrier. Don’t just stick to the major carriers. Check out LTL and regional carriers as well.
5. Consider alternatives to shipping directly to customers.
Buy-online-pickup-in-store, curbside pickup, and shipping to retail locations or lockers are all viable options in 2020. In order to get what they want and need for the holidays, many shoppers are willing to get out of the house — particularly if the pickup can be made safer by reducing contact. Nearly half of shoppers in a Google survey said they planned to use contactless and curbside services this holiday season.
6. Keep an eye on your data.
Watch your KPIs daily to stay ahead of trouble. Don’t wait for loads of data to validate trends — look for concerning issues and make adjustments quickly where possible.
Of course, knowing your own data and what’s “normal” is the starting point for finding anything out of the ordinary. It will also help you when you talk to your carrier, so you can start the conversation from an educated place.
Stay agile and look for the silver lining
Keeping your customers happy while also holding your costs down requires a positive, nimble attitude. Authenticity and transparency with both your customers and your carrier will go a long way. Be ready to act, and, hey, and look on the bright side — only 38% of shoppers intend to return purchases this year.
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