Office potlucks, fresh breakroom cookies and breakneck shipping logistics – it must be the holidays. Shippers face the same challenges every December: carrier rate changes, tighter booking windows, last-minute shipments and bruised boxes. (Thank goodness for those cookies, right?) On top of these issues, complications from COVID-19 will push shippers and carriers hard this year.

To help you through what’s shaping up to be a hectic holiday, we put together tips to plan ahead and beat the rush.

Carrier costs, calendars and coronavirus considerations
Instead of Black Friday shoppers elbowing for doorbusters, shippers will likely spend the season fighting for truck space. Less store foot traffic means a spike in e-commerce orders, making truck availability tighter than Santa shimmying down the chimney. For context, retail website traffic totaled over 16 billion visits globally in January 2020. June saw 22 billion visits1 — showing a significant bump from pre-pandemic to the “new norm.”

Many big-box retailers, such as Target and Amazon, shifted their respective sale events due to COVID-192, which will spur e-commerce activity, with carrier availability feeling the impact accordingly. In fact, UPS already announced its hunt for 100,000 workers to handle the oncoming box blitz.3 Even with other transportation companies and retailers doing the same, trucks will be packed early and often. Booking trucks in advance will be critical to getting shipments out the door on time.

When booking, don’t forget that carriers operate on modified schedules and always change rates for the holiday crunch. Check each carrier’s calendar — closures and operating hours may vary for each company. And be sure you’re aware of how they’re charging for shipments. Parameters change for the holidays and could be based on dimensional weight, actual weight or other factors.

Tips to remember:

  • Watch for each carrier’s unique holiday schedule
  • Look to retail events for capacity forecasting
  • Be aware of rate changes and how rates are calculated
  • Book trucks early and often – expect limited availability

Keys to customer communication
As important as it is to work closely with carriers, this holiday may be more volatile for customer relations than any other in recent memory. Let’s face it: people are already on edge. They’re relying on shippers to close the year with a smile. But, even with the best-laid holiday plans, things can slip through the cracks. It’s the nature of the business.

Offering shipment information proactively helps cooler heads prevail and shows that your company cares. Build a communications plan. Help customers understand the benefits of early shopping. Let them know about delays, damages or other issues upfront. Build guides for package tracking and properly documenting lost or damaged shipments. These touchpoints reduce call volume, change customer service calls from irate to rational and generally help customers plan their holiday.

Tips to remember:

  • Don’t forget your customers in the process; keep them informed
  • Provide realistic delivery estimates to set expectations
  • Offer tools and make these resources easy to access

Operational resources and gameplan
Shippers sometimes turn routine orders into fire drills this time of year. It’s hard to resist cutting corners, but taking the extra second to recheck labels or add an extra layer of wrap goes a long way for successful small package, FTL or LTL freight. Don’t take chances – individually label each box; protect every label; use new boxes and higher-quality materials. And as fun as it is to spread cheer, leave the ribbons and bows in the drawer.

Beyond protecting boxes physically, consider insurance for your packages. You’re probably shipping higher volume and maybe even more top-shelf inventory over the holidays. Understand the differences in coverage, repayment and deadlines between insurance and limits of liability for freight and parcel to protect end-of-year revenue. When in doubt, opt for insurance – typically the benefits and peace of mind when protecting profits far outweigh the costs.

If you expect shipping hardships this year, consider adding tools and resources. A transportation management system (TMS) offers various advantages, such as faster booking, instant quotes, rate comparisons, truck availability and travel timeframes. A third-party logistics (3PL) partner like Worldwide Express can quickly add the technology and hands-on support needed to meet your holiday challenges.

Tips to remember:

  • Take a moment to double-check your packages
  • Over-protect shipments physically with better materials
  • Ensure business profits with insurance
  • Leverage a TMS to ship more efficiently
  • Find a 3PL shipping partner for an extra hand and resources

More cheer, less chaos
The holidays are coming fast and with a few more challenges than usual. But with the right shipping resources and strategy, you (and your customers) can have a happy holiday. As a 3PL with more than 30 winters behind us, we know how to get you there. Let’s build a plan to beat a historic holiday shipping rush.

1Coronavirus impact on retail e-commerce website traffic worldwide as of June 2020, by average monthly visits, Statista  J. Clement, 2020
2From Black Friday to parking lot pop-ups: 5 ways holiday shopping will charge, The Washington Post  Abha Bhattarai, 2020
3UPS hiring 100,000 workers as retailers anticipate whopping holiday shipping season, Forbes  Lisette Voytko, 2020