The numbers do not lie; gone are the days when consumers buy most of their holiday gifts by traveling to the store. Online retail shopping is tremendously convenient for customers but, conversely, can make an already busy holiday shipping even more stressful.
Holiday shipping: how to prepare
Preparing is critical, but here are some additional tips to take some of that stress out of shipping freight during the holiday season. The holidays are stressful enough. No one wants to add more pressure by trying to keep everything under control.
Have a plan
Managing your supply chain successfully around holidays without extensive planning is asking for a disaster. Set production and order deadlines to have the product ready and allow yourself some lead time.
Most transportation providers will be closed for the holiday or run limited operations, which might jeopardize on-time pick-up, increase the estimated transit time, and delay delivery. Your business needs to ship early to prepare for this peak. Despite trying to ship early, you will still be dealing with a high volume of shipments that could cause delays in docks and warehouses, leading to backup and congestion. When you ship as early as possible, you give yourself enough flexibility for on-time delivery to customers.
Consider all shipping options
Every shipping company has its own shipping needs. Small businesses, for example, can utilize less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping for their shipments to help ensure on-time delivery while helping lower shipping costs. More prominent companies with larger shipping volumes can consider different shipping modes, like FTL and intermodal, to help handle their shipments before the holiday season. No matter your business size, it is essential to have a plan for what shipping you will use.
Communication with customers and suppliers
Customers expect to know of delays or issues receiving their shipment as quickly as possible. Delays occur, so you must communicate with customers effectively about when they should expect their freight. Companies have order and shipping deadlines so remember to communicate with your customers about when those deadlines are. In addition, inventory levels change constantly. When an item is out of stock, ensure that you mark that on the website to prevent backorders.
As well as communicating with your customers, you should also be in touch with your suppliers. The holiday season is busy, so you must share any order volume ahead of time to stay caught up on orders. Especially with the busy season, companies look to expand their manufacturer mix if the primary ones are unavailable. Having a backup decreases risks during the busy season—factor in everything that will help you with your company and suppliers during the peak season.
Holiday shipping: what to expect
Capacity will be tighter
Finding capacity during peak times can be more challenging than usual. The shorter the lead time, the tighter the capacity. This is always the case, but even more so during the holidays. All the last-minute orders, which must be delivered before the facilities shut down, will increase the shipping need and demand more capacity.
Drivers will be pickier with the destinations as they try to get home for the holidays. Most of them will try to plan and book their homebound holiday runs in advance to ensure they do not end up with a load that takes them anywhere but home.
Expect price hikes
With lower capacity comes higher shipping rates. The best way to keep the cost under control is to give yourself a decent lead time. Plan and be ready for potential issues.
Allow yourself to have options – waiting until the last day and trying to push all the orders out will be costly. You might have to pay more even if you started planning your holiday loads earlier – usually for not-so-desirable lanes. However, more lead time allows more time to find that one driver who wants to go exactly in that direction and raises your chances.
Track & Trace
Check and then double-check. Pre-planning and shipping everything out is only half the battle – the holidays always affect transit and delivery. Whether it is less-than-truckload or full loads, make sure to be on the same page with the carriers. Most companies will limit or cease operations around a holiday.
It is essential to communicate the estimated delivery times. Some carriers are working and might be willing to deliver during a holiday. Poor communication will result in the load arriving at the customer’s closed door. The best way to stay on top is to have proper operations visibility.
Holiday shipping with PLS Logistics
PLS Logistics Services has experience in navigating the struggles of the peak shipping season. Regardless of the season, we provide visibility into your supply chain and will help you through the process. We can help you during the craziness that comes with busy shipping! Start by using our online form to Get a Freight Quote today!