As a shipper, you know peak season is the busiest time of year for your business. But once January rolls around, you don't need to think about holiday shipping until October, right? Not so fast! In order to prepare for the next peak season, shippers should immediately conduct a thorough examination of what went wrong and what went right during the most recent holidays.
As a leading third-party logistics (3PL) provider, Worldwide Express is here to help! We have created a shipping checklist that shows you what to consider when evaluating your peak season shipping successes. It will also help you identify those areas where you could use a little help.
PEAK SEASON FREIGHT SHIPPING OPTIMIZATION — QUESTIONS TO ASK
It's imperative that shippers take a hard look at last year's peak shipping season freight services, budget and expenses to determine where you can re-allocate your costs and take advantage of more economical shipping solutions.
- Did you diversify your shipping toolbox? Utilizing both parcel and freight shipping offers companies maximum flexibility. It allows you to select the right solutions for your shipments regardless of size, weight, destination and other variables. If your 3PL doesn't offer both, you should consider switching to another provider. You should also look for a partner that offers less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) freight shipping options.
- Did you spread your freight shipping among multiple carriers? Utilizing a network of carriers will provide you with a wide range of shipping solutions during the time you need it most. Look for a 3PL that has an industry-leading carrier portfolio that gives you the options you need.
- Were you charged accessorial fees? These unforeseen or "hidden" charges show up on invoices when your freight needs services that go beyond standard delivery or if something unanticipated happens during the freight shipping process. By working with a 3PL, shippers can develop strategies to avoid accessorial fees and protect their bottom line.
- Could you consolidate freight shipments to help lower shipping prices? Shippers have the opportunity to combine multiple shipments into a single load. That can save you money and ensure you meet deadlines. This can sometimes be a complex endeavor, but a 3PL can incorporate this into a shipping strategy and help you understand when it makes sense.
- Did you have the right technology to handle peak shipping season? Today's shipper must be equipped with a reliable and innovative transportation management system (TMS). These platforms allow you to select carriers, choose services, purchase insurance and gain greater visibility over your supply chain, among other tasks. Using the right technology, shippers can integrate a TMS with all their shipping platforms.
- Did you plan far enough in advance to maximize efficiency? As we tell our customers, shippers should prepare for peak season all year around. Working with your 3PL, companies can create a holiday shipping strategy that evolves throughout the year as new services and solutions become available. Additionally, you may consider shifting into peak season mode earlier in the year as well!
PEAK SHIPPING SEASON WAREHOUSE AND INVENTORY MANAGEMENT — QUESTIONS TO ASK
One of the first steps in your peak season analysis is to dive into your sales data from the past year and look at your inventory levels over a 12-month period — with extra emphasis on the holidays. By analyzing inventory levels, you can determine a supply chain strategy for next peak season.
- How effective was your inventory planning? If you found yourself running out of inventory or ending the year with excess stock, be sure to adjust your vendor orders next year. This will most likely require you to evaluate your entire supply chain to accommodate for the increase or decrease in products.
- Were your warehouse and fulfillment services satisfactory? Although peak season is the busiest time of year, you will see fluctuations during the holidays and will find that some days/weeks are busier than others. Your 3PL should be able to provide additional resources when needed and cut back when they aren't. Additionally, automation technology is an option we recommend incorporating. This technology ebbs and flows with the rhythm of your business regardless of how busy you are.
- Did damaged shipments damper your peak season? If so, you should consider testing the packaging you use and determine if it is durable enough. Some 3PLs offer testing or package/crate engineering services at no additional cost to their customers. Worldwide Express also has packaging tips to ensure your shipments arrive unscathed!
- Were your warehouse management processes optimized? A good warehouse management system (WMS) can help maximize your warehouse output — from storage space, labor allocation, inventory management and data reporting. Another option is dropshipping. This process allows you to reduce costs by fulfilling and shipping orders directly from the manufacturer to the customer/end user.
HOLIDAY E-COMMERCE AND PARCEL SHIPPING — QUESTIONS TO ASK
If small package shipping is an essential and profitable part of your shipping strategy, you should evaluate your e-commerce platform and identify any system disruptions, downtime or other inefficiencies you may have experienced. Plus, shippers can determine whether they offered competitive rates and if there is an opportunity to personalize their parcel shipping!
- Were your technology platforms integrated? You can create multiple efficiencies by integrating your shipping technology platforms (TMS, WMS and more) with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and shopping cart solutions. You'll be able to automatically import/process customer orders and provide customers with shipping costs based on your negotiated rates. These processes can save you an enormous amount of time and money!
- Did you offer your customers a personalized shipping experience? Going the extra mile to show your customers that you care about them speaks volumes. Try to incorporate unboxing experiences or provide personal handwritten thank-you notes to let customers know you care about their entire experience.
- Did you offer free or low-cost shipping? Would you have made more sales if you had? For the next peak shipping season, look for ways to lower your small package shipping costs so you can pass on the savings to your customers. Investigate services like UPS SurePost®, that lets you stay within your budget while keeping your customers happy.
WEATHER, SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTIONS AND SUSTAINABILITY — QUESTIONS TO ASK
Weather and supply chain disruptions are out of your control. But you can take measures to limit their impact on your bottom line. Additionally, shippers should account for their impact on the environment. It's the right thing to do and your customers often expect it.
- Did the weather have a negative impact on your freight and parcel shipping? As you look ahead to next peak season, consider making adjustments or mapping out alternative options. You might consider shipping earlier or avoiding routes that are prone to weather disruptions. Additionally, you may want to consider rail and/or air. These are sometimes a more secure option than ground during the winter. Worldwide Express also has cold weather shipping tips!
- Were you affected by supply chain disruptions and market conditions? It's important as a shipper to understand what is happening in the market. A 3PL like Worldwide Express keeps up with trends including hurricane season, holiday shipping, rail strikes, government regulations and other factors that may affect your shipping. And we aren't greedy with that intel! We pass those learnings off to our customers so they can make the most optimal shipping decisions.
- What was your impact on the environment last year? There are steps that shippers can take to ensure they are doing everything possible to ship sustainably. You can look at your packaging, use more direct routes, ship ground vs. air and choose electric trucks when possible. Keeping up with sustainability best practices is not only good for the environment, but also for your reputation.
WORLDWIDE EXPRESS CAN HELP YOU WITH A WINNING PEAK SEASON SHIPPING STRATEGY
Peak season shipping presents many challenges. But you don't have to tackle it alone. Worldwide Express has decades of experience in parcel and freight shipping and helps thousands of customers just like you with their shipping challenges. Get a quote today or schedule a complimentary, custom shipping consultation with our experts!