Holiday Shopping Tip: Setting Clear Shipping Time Expectations

2020 has been a big year for eCommerce due to COVID-19. With Americans quarantined, workplaces shifting to work-from-home, and bricks-and-mortar stores shuttered, online sales of everything from clothing to groceries saw increases.

With just a few weeks left before the start of the holiday shopping season, online store owners can expect to see their biggest (and busiest) fourth quarter ever.

As we have seen throughout the pandemic, UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service have experienced unprecedented package volume that impacted service level expectations for delivery times.

While a one-day delay in a ground package containing a non-essential item during the pandemic may be considered acceptable by a consumer, when it comes to holiday delivery that one day delay could mean an important present missed being opened on Christmas morning.

One of the things every eCommerce store owner should do for holiday shoppers is to set clear deadlines and expectations for when they can expect to receive their orders. First, let’s take a look at some important dates coming up:

November 11, 2020 – Veterans Day:

    • UPS – regular pickup and delivery
    • FedEx – regular pickup and delivery
    • USPS – no pickup or delivery

November 26, 2020 – Thanksgiving Day:

    • UPS – no pickup or delivery
    • FedEx – no pickup or delivery
    • USPS – no pickup or delivery

November 27, 2020 – Day After Thanksgiving:

    • UPS – regular pickup and delivery
    • FedEx – regular pickup and delivery
    • USPS – regular pickup and delivery

December 24, 2020 – Christmas Eve:

    • UPS – pickup for air packages only.  Regular delivery for ground and air.
    • FedEx – pickup for air package only.  Regular delivery for ground and air.
    • USPS – regular pickup and delivery

December 25, 2020 – Christmas Day:

    • UPS – no pickup or delivery
    • FedEx – no pickup or delivery
    • USPS – no pickup or delivery

With this knowledge in hand, you should create a Holiday Shipping Information page on your eCommerce store. This page should contain the above information so your shoppers know specific days when packages will not be delivered by the major carriers.

In addition, you need to look at your own operation to determine exactly when the cut-off date will be for packages to ship in order to arrive in time for the holiday. UPS suggests that packages be shipped by these dates to ensure holiday delivery:

    • December 15 UPS® Ground
    • December 21 UPS 3 Day Select®
    • December 22 UPS 2nd Day Air®
    • December 23 UPS Next Day Air®

Of course, you will need to adjust those dates to include any additional processing time on your end due to volume or normal operations.
If you drop-ship, check in with your dropshippers to determine what their “drop dead” dates are for holiday orders. If you have specific items that will not fall into your standard holiday delivery timeframe, such as drop-shipped items, be sure to notate that the item(s) will require additional delivery/processing time.

Now that you’ve established your holiday shipping schedule, be sure to communicate it properly with your customers. Put a graphic together and display it on your site with a link to your policy page, send out an email blast to your subscribers two weeks before the holiday, and make sure you share it on your social media channels.

Here’s a sample graphic:

Properly communicating your holiday shipping policy and setting clear expectations with your customers will go a long way to ensuring that their orders arrive on time and without disappointment.

In the unfortunate event that a package arrives late, do you best to accommodate the customer and keep them happy. Remember, 2020 is a year full of challenges, and logistics is one of them. With so many shoppers new to eCommerce, you’ll want to gain their trust and keep them as a customer long after the holiday season.

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