[Note: If you are a ShipBob customer, view our Help Center article to see ShipBob’s cutoff dates, timelines, and SLAs for peak season.]
The holidays are almost here! With 45 of the 50 best-selling days of the year happening in Q4, merchants have a huge opportunity to drive a lot of revenue — but that doesn’t come without some challenges. For logistics in particular, holiday fulfillment can be stressful for ecommerce businesses during the most wonderful time of the year.
In fact, nearly one-third (31%) of ecommerce businesses expect order fulfillment to be their biggest challenge this holiday season, followed by staffing (29%), and competition with larger companies (23%).
On top of that, shipping during peak season takes longer than the rest of the year given the strain on shipping carriers’ fleets and networks, as millions of packages are getting delivered every day. But paying attention to holiday shipping deadlines can be difficult if you don’t work closely with carriers.
We’re here to help you keep up with international and domestic shipping services across a variety of shipping carriers so you can calculate your own shipping cutoff dates to ensure delivery before Christmas and communicate them with your customers.
2019 holidays for ecommerce brands
While you’re likely aware of Christmas as a common holiday in Q4, here are some key holidays in 2019 to keep in mind for your online store’s promotions:
- Thanksgiving: November 28
- Black Friday: November 29
- Small Business Saturday: November 30
- Cyber Monday: December 2
- Free Shipping Day*: December 14
- Super Saturday**: December 21
- Christmas: December 25
- Peak Returns Day: January 2, 2020
*Participating merchants offer free shipping on all orders, with promised delivery by Christmas Eve.
**The last Saturday before Christmas is historically a huge shopping day for brick-and-mortar retailers.
2019 holiday shipping deadlines
Holiday shipping deadlines are the timelines carriers set to establish a cutoff date for each of their services to ensure delivery before Christmas, which falls on a Wednesday this year. Below we’ve compiled holiday shipping deadlines from USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
Note for ecommerce businesses: It’s not as simple as marking your calendars for these dates — you must add additional days for order processing in your communications to customers — more on that below!
|USPS service name||Date orders must be shipped by||Should arrive by Christmas?|
|USPS Retail (Only APO/FPO/DPO)||November 6||Yes|
|Priority Mail and First-Class Mail (Only APO/FPO/DPO)||December 11||Yes|
|USPS Retail Ground||December 14||Yes|
|Priority Mail Express||December 22||Yes|
|UPS service name||Date orders must be shipped by||Should arrive by Christmas?|
|UPS Ground||December 14||Yes|
|UPS 3-Day Select||December 18||Yes|
|UPS 2nd Day Air||December 20||Yes|
|UPS Next Day Air||December 22||Yes|
|FedEx service name||Date orders must be shipped by||Should arrive by Christmas?|
|FedEx Smart Post||December 10||Yes|
|FedEx Ground||December 14||Yes|
|FedEx Home Delivery||December 17||Yes|
|FedEx Express Saver||December 19||Yes|
|FedEx 2Day||December 20||Yes|
|FedEx Overnight||December 21||Yes|
Are you prepared for holiday shoppers?
With the holidays right around the corner, ecommerce businesses must be as prepared as possible. Here are a few considerations you must think through that relate to holiday shipping deadlines.
Pad your customer-facing timelines to be safe
You should display an “order by” date on your site to communicate the last day in which customers can expect a delivery by Christmas. This will also depend on the inventory location, shipping destination, and sometimes other factors.
As mentioned earlier, the holiday shipping deadlines above are the carrier’s cutoffs — not necessarily yours. What you tell customers should reflect your company’s service levels, taking into account the time it takes to pack and ship out orders.
It’s unlikely you can pack and ship all orders the same day they are placed. For example, if someone purchases an item on December 23 at 10:00 pm, you wouldn’t get it shipped until the next day — even if it’s packed and ready to go. Thus, you wouldn’t start counting the transit time until it’s in the carrier’s possession.
The last thing you want is to face angry customers who don’t get their packages in time for Christmas. Play it safe and add an extra day to give yourself enough flexibility.
If you work with a third-party logistics company or Amazon, make sure you understand their shipping cutoffs for each service as well as any holiday closures on their end.
Promote your shipping offers
To be competitive this holiday season, try offering free shipping, even if it’s in the form of a minimum spend threshold. If you can do this in a cost-effective way, be sure to use shipping in marketing promotions to increase conversions and/or average order value. Also keep an eye on peak surcharges from carriers and account for those amounts in your forecasts.
Take extra precautions for international orders
If you ship internationally, make sure you have all the customs information filled out so that orders don’t get held up or returned to you instead of delivered across borders on time. This includes detailed product descriptions, tariff codes, and more. Without those, carriers and various countries’ customs agencies will send the package back to sender, and the customer won’t receive it in time.
Order more stock than normal
Given the increase in order volume for Q4, you should have more stock around this time of year for holiday inventory. You should also raise safety stock levels and reorder points accordingly. Of course, stay in close contact with manufacturers and suppliers to make sure you have inventory batches coming in on schedule.
Have enough shipping materials available
If you’re self-fulfilling orders, you’ll want adequate shipping materials, boxes, dunnage, and other packing supplies. You may be spending a lot of time packing orders, so you’ll want to organize your workstation to be more efficient and save time.
Expect an increase in returns and customer service inquiries
The holiday season means many more ecommerce returns and exchanges. There will also be more weather or volume delays and mistakes from carriers in the form of damaged packages or other delivery exceptions this time of year. Be prepared for these with additional support.
Don’t know where to start? Let the pros help!
Procrastination gets the best of us, and you and your customers may be no exception. To guarantee delivery before Christmas, make sure you clearly communicate your store’s specific cutoffs and deadlines. To maximize holiday sales, be sure to offer affordable, fast shipping. If you need help with that and are in the market for a last-minute fulfillment provider, it’s not too late to get started with ShipBob. Request a quote below to get in touch with ShipBob today.
- Case Study: How Brummell Co. Delivered on Holiday Sales With Last-Minute Fulfillment
- Webinar: How to Survive the Holiday Sales Chaos
- Webinar Series: The Virtual Ecommerce Holiday Sales Accelerator
- E-Guide: The Ecommerce Retailer’s Guide to Preparing for the Holidays