Forget about last year. Expert consensus indicates people are going to be hitting online shopping this Christmas more than ever before. Businesses need to prepare now. Whether you run an eCommerce business or ship freight regularly, shipping lanes, carrier pricing, and sourcing will look a lot different this year.
Some statistics to keep in mind:
- Salesforce anticipates that 30% of global retail sales will be online due to COVID
- Statista says 49% of US consumers are planning on holiday shopping online
- Multinational e-commerce company Radial says 66% of shoppers are planning to spend more online this holiday than last year
- Air freight rates continue to fluctuate wildly, with 37% of shippers indicating COVID has impacted their air transport
- Spot quote rates are surging, but making predictions is challenging as some of this strength may be due to supply chains catching up from May and June demand
- Intermodal shipping predictions are murky as they are being impacted by the current spot market and increasing parcel business from online sales
These higher online volumes coupled with a cloudy outlook on freight market capacity and costs mean shippers need to make preparations now heading into this holiday season.
1) Be Early, Be Nimble
As we covered in our post Disruption as the New Norm: Coronavirus Impacts on Supply Chains, make your inventory bookings early, consider increasing high volume inventory stock, and find alternative vendors and sources where possible. Having backup plans and being agile will make a significant difference in navigating issues that impact your suppliers and carriers as they come up over the holidays.
Part of your strategy here should also be considering intermodal shipping options for freight if you are not already shipping this way. Although direct shipping is more straightforward, costs and delivery times may be improved using multiple modes. Please see our post outlining the specific considerations and shipping software to use when shipping intermodal.
2) Improve Communication to Your Customers
Due to ongoing media coverage, most of your shoppers know that holiday orders will have longer turnaround times and that COVID continues to impact supply chains. However, over-communicating during the shopping, ordering, and delivery process will help manage expectations, reduce customer service calls, and generally keep your customers happier during this time.
Your communications should include:
- Prominent messaging on your website, POs, and receipts to expect prolonged shipping times
- Clearly stated stock availability - let customers know what you have on hand and when more stock is expected
- More shipping options - many customers will appreciate the option to pay for expedited shipping to help ensure items arrive before Christmas
- With eCommerce, consider offering gift wrapping options as well so shipments can ship directly to gift recipients
- Clearly posted return policies to manage expectations further—and experts warn that you should prepare for an influx of returns this year
- Business open confirmations - where you are shipping to businesses, consider incorporating a process confirming their location is open
3) Prioritize and Look for Opportunities
Prioritize your clients and customers and plan what you need to do to keep your top performers. Increase marketing to communicate your value, brand initiatives, and special incentives to them during this time. Add a personal touch to messages to engage them, such as handwritten cards, custom emails, and phone calls. And monitor, evaluate, and make improvements as needed during the holiday season.
Lastly, identify your strengths during this time. There may be opportunities you can fill over the holiday period that positions you over your competition. Perhaps there are add-ons or alternative products you do not usually offer that you can quickly arrange that will help you attract more business.
For more shipping tips, download our Parcel & Freight bundle. Learn how to rate shop aggressively, find carrier invoice discrepancies, automate supply chains, and more!