The holidays are quickly approaching, which means retailers are once again planning for the busiest shipping season of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to reach $656 billion in 2016. Many retailers are finalizing their processes for handling these high shipping volumes. Here are some key strategies that even the most seasoned retailer may not be aware of.
1. Manage inventory appropriately. It's important for retailers to have a true understanding of inventory, especially during the holiday season. Knowing what's in stock and where that stock is located allows retailers to accurately market products to customers. This practice also ensures items are in stock and ready to ship so customers aren't disappointed by products on back-order.
2. Reach more customers globally. Many e-tailers don’t ship internationally because of the time it takes to fill out customs forms and verify proper documentation. However, these e-tailers don’t know that some shipping software systems offer international shipping capabilities. These systems carry the required documentation and customs forms for countries across the globe, ensuring easy electronic filing. The software can also automatically create carrier-compliant labels to expedite shipping. By shipping globally, retailers can reach a much broader customer base and significantly increase revenue.
3. Consider new ways to save on shipping. Many think that selecting a carrier based on cost and shipping times will yield the best shipping rates for a retailer. However, that's not always the case. Choosing the best carrier for parcels is a great practice, but lowering dimensional weights (i.e., DIM weights) can have the biggest impact on savings.
To lower DIM weights, it's best to pack items in the smallest box possible. This reduces shipping costs, as today’s carriers charge by the amount of space the parcel occupies. Automated packing systems can also lower DIM weights and overall costs by creating fit-to-size parcels in seconds. These systems use less packing material and require only one operator, which can significantly increase warehouse efficiency.
4. Test software systems. The holiday season is a highly profitable one, bringing large increases in orders for many retailers. However, peak-season shipping volumes can also cause stress on retailers’ computer systems. Software systems may not be able to handle the large influx of orders, creating havoc for retailers and their customers. To ensure systems don't cause issues during the busiest time of the year, retailers should perform stress tests on their software. The tests will notify retailers if a problem may occur, giving retailers time to contact the system’s support desk to fix the issue before it becomes a real problem.
With the holiday season upon us, now is the time for retailers to strategize how to handle higher volumes, test their systems, explore international shipping and create fit-to-size parcels to help to provide a great customer experience, all while reducing costs. With these tips in mind, retailers can enjoy a 2016 holiday shipping season that's both successful and profitable.
Tim Casey is executive vice president of ProShip, Inc., a Neopost company, and is a global provider of logistics software and product solutions, including enterprisewide, multicarrier shipping and manifesting software, automated packing solutions and intelligent parcel lockers.