SALT LAKE CITY – While it may seem early to start talking about holiday shipping in October, the ‘trick’ is to start planning now to manage your holiday shipments during this peak season. The ‘treat’ is that Unishippers Global Logistics, LLC, a leading provider of third-party logistics (3PL) services, has put together a checklist to help small to mid-sized business owners recognize seasonal trends that can affect their businesses and maneuver the strain on the shipping industry during hectic shipping period.
This year was significant due to trends and challenges that kept the shipping industry on its toes. Between conforming to the ELD mandate, navigating the impacts of major natural disasters, and the conversion of two major issues that drove carrier rate increases—the capacity crunch and truck driver shortage—the supply chain in 2018 has been carefully steering its way through frequent disruptions. Industry-wide pressures will intensify as the holidays begin, with peak season surcharges, a rush of orders and more weather-related delays.
Unishippers recommends businesses take these six steps to get ahead of seasonal demand and minimize the impact of lost, delayed or damaged shipments:
- Set Realistic Expectations with Customers: No one is exempt from delays due to weather conditions, driver shortages and other industry realities. Embrace transparency with customers when there is a spike in shipping volume and carriers are stretched thin. This is your opportunity to be as accommodating and realistic as possible when setting expectations for customer orders. Troubleshoot any delayed, damaged or lost shipments by providing regular updates on an estimated solution.
- Clearly Label Your Packages: A year-round best practice is to ensure you are properly packaging and labeling both your freight and express shipments. This can make a huge impact on whether a shipment gets to where it needs to go without delay. Consider using label sleeves or place a strip of clear packing tape over the address area and be sure to avoid covering any barcodes that require scanning.
- Be Diligent with Scheduling: Be mindful that there are fewer business days and more weather disruptions during the holiday season, which means transit times for shipping may increase and service guarantees are often suspended. Planning ahead by shipping your ‘just in time inventory’ early and expediting critical shipments whenever possible will help you avoid delays. Don’t put your business and customers in a bind by not allowing for the correct number of transit days.
- Also note:
- Most carriers reduce their hours or don’t deliver packages on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or News Year’s Day, so check the carrier website for specific closures and reduced hours.
- Know the shipping cutoff times of your carriers. Orders received before the cutoff time on the same day will be ready to process, whereas orders received after the cutoff time will be processed the following day. By sticking to shipping cut-off times, you can avoid missed pick-ups or drop-offs that require additional resources to see the order through.
- Also note:
- Plan Accordingly for Complex Orders: Be aware that time-sensitive merchandise such as food or medical supplies requires more care and attention. Ensure all paperwork and labels reflect the priority of the shipment and consider contacting the carrier representative to reiterate the shipment’s time sensitivity. Additionally, be mindful of your shipping technique since a loading dock may treat a shipment as a lower priority if it requires more accommodation due to awkward or odd-proportioned packaging.
- Add Insurance to Your Shipment: Properly insuring your shipments can make or break your holiday season. If a shipment is damaged in transit, basic liability typically does not cover the full value of the shipment. With shipment insurance, you are more likely to recover your loss and the process for filing a claim is often easier. Read more about Carrier Liability Basics.
- Consider Hiring a Helping Hand: Logistics is a multifaceted industry, and it helps to have someone as your shipping advocate – throughout the year, but particularly during peak season. A third-party logistics expert like Unishippers, with more than 30 holiday seasons under their belt, can provide you with a level of service and expert consultation that ensures you’re taking advantage of the best shipping options for your specific needs. Whether it’s considering seasonal price spikes, understanding insurance, accessing vast carrier partners or getting help with tracking and troubleshooting, a third-party logistics provider is your industry expert.
“With proper planning and knowing what to expect and prevent, there is no need to fear the holiday season,” says Unishippers President Steve Leavitt. “These tips can help you get in front of potential shipping issues year round but are particularly important in setting your business up for success during peak season so you can enjoy fulfilling an influx of orders.”
With a reliable network of 30+ carrier partners that are vital to maneuvering through industry challenges and holiday pressures, and nearly 300 franchise locations and affiliate outlets, Unishippers services over 50,000 small and medium sized businesses per year.