How to Prepare for Peak Shipping Season: A Few Tips for Small Online Retailers

How to Prepare for Peak Shipping Season Most online retailers have to go through peak shipping season (or seasons!) every year, and if they don’t want to deal with unhappy customers, they should start preparing for peak shipping season beforehand to not be overwhelmed with the influx of orders when the time comes. Let us offer you a few tips that might come in handy when you’re preparing your business for peak season.

For most e-commerce businesses, peak shipping season coincides with the holiday season (November and December), which is also peak season for postal and courier companies. However, it can vary depending on what you sell. For example, if you sell summer items, your peak season may occur in June and July. Regardless of when it occurs, though, you need to be prepared.

Start Planning As Early As Possible

Ideally, you should start preparing for peak season as soon as the previous one is over. Give yourself a little time to catch a breath, and then analyze all the things that worked well or didn’t work at all and make a list of all the things that need to be changed. If you have employees, ask for their input: they may have some helpful insights to share when it comes to the areas they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

Once your list is completed, start proactively implementing changes without waiting for the next peak season to begin. Of course, not all changes have to be implemented right away – you need to prioritize – but waiting until the very last moment to change something is not a good idea.

Know Your Deadlines – And Ensure Your Customers Know Theirs

A large part of being prepared for peak shipping season is knowing external deadlines, setting internal deadlines, and meeting both. By external deadlines we primarily mean the carriers’ peak season shipping deadlines if your peak season coincides with the carriers’ peak season. Postal and courier companies typically announce their shipping deadlines at least a couple of months before the holiday season, so you will have time to adjust your plans accordingly and set your internal deadlines to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Since peak season is very busy, mishaps are bound to happen, so we recommend that you set your deadlines a little earlier than absolutely necessary. This way, if something unpredictable happens, you will still have time to solve the problem and ensure that orders arrive promptly. It’s also important to let your customers know when they need to place their orders if they want them to arrive on time; ensure that your cut-off dates are displayed prominently on your website and remind customers about them during the checkout process.

Ensure Your Return Policy Is Clear-Cut

Unfortunately, there is always an increase in returns during peak seasons, even if there is nothing wrong with your products. To avoid any issues with returns, you need to make sure that your return policy is easy to understand and the return procedure is clear and consistent. If you have a dedicated customer support team, make sure they know all the nuances of your return policy and procedure so that return claims are processed efficiently.

Be Ready for Peak Season Surcharges

Most shipping carriers apply surcharges to their rates during peak shipping seasons to recoup their operational costs. As an online retailer, you should be aware of peak season surcharges regardless of whether you offer free shipping or not. If you don’t, you need to ensure that your customers know about seasonal shipping rate increases because they are the ones paying for shipping.

If you do offer free shipping, you need to decide how to go about peak season surcharges: do nothing and absorb the increased shipping costs, slightly increase product prices, establish a minimum order amount, add a free shipping threshold, or look for shipping discounts (for example, printing discounted shipping labels with PostageMaker will save you up to 25% off carriers’ retail rates).

Remember That Communication Is Key

A lot of issues during peak season can be prevented by establishing clear communication channels between all parties involved: the various departments of your business if there are any, you and your suppliers, carriers and other collaborators, and, of course, you and your customers. Remember that you’re working together, not against each other.