Holiday Logistics Guide

Preparing for the holiday shipping season requires a logistics strategy that enables fast, consistent, and reliable delivery.

But keeping up with a high-volume of orders during the holiday shopping season can be challenging.

Luckily, you don’t have to tackle the holidays alone.

To meet customer demand during the busiest retail season of the year, ShipBob can help.

ShipBob is a best-in-class 3PL that can help you prepare for the holiday season. You can store inventory with ShipBob, choose what fulfillment locations to use, and have customers orders picked, packed, and shipped quickly and affordably.

Learn how ShipBob has partnered with online brands in a wide range of industries to prepare for the busiest season of the year.

I was cutting it very close to securing a last-minute fulfillment provider before the holidays. I can’t express how happy I have been to work with ShipBob. I know it would not have been possible to manage without them, especially during the holidays.

Steve Staffan,

founder and CEO of Brummell

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What is holiday logistics?

Holiday logistics involves an efficient supply chain process that can take on a high volume of orders. Without a proper holidays logistics strategy, it’s a challenge to accurately pick, pack and ship orders quickly and on time.

Preparing an online store for the holiday peak season takes extra preparation. That’s why many online brands partner with a 3PL like ShipBob who can enable fast holiday fulfillment, allowing brands to focus on other initiatives such as holiday marketing and promotions.

Impact of the holidays on logistics

Come Black Friday and Cyber Monday, if your business isn’t ready for an influx of website traffic, orders, customers, and even returns, the holidays can become a stressful time — and may even cause your business to lose money.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, US retailers will face an additional $223 billion in costs this holiday season due to global supply chain issues. Fortunately, sales continue to rise, but the supply chain has become more complex.

ShipBob takes on holidays logistics on your behalf. That way, you can prepare your site for an influx of online shoppers, plan marketing and holiday promotions, and ensure that your customer service team is prepared to handle more inquiries, as well as ecommerce returns.

5 tips for holiday logistics

Black Friday through Christmas Eve is the time of year when the majority of ecommerce brands experience the biggest surge in orders.

Here are some tips on how to optimize logistics for the holiday season.

1. Forecast demand

By forecasting demand, you can optimize stock levels by tracking fast-selling vs. slow-moving items and make better decisions on how much of each SKU to reorder and when.

To better forecast inventory needs, look at historical data, think through planned promotions, and decide how you will handle massive influxes in demand.

2. Prepare inventory levels

By understanding production lead times, you lower the risk of stockouts, backorders, and running promotions on out-of-stock items.

To ensure you have enough inventory to meet demand, be sure to work closely with your manufacturer or supplier by sharing predicted Q4 order volume ahead of time to avoid potential stockouts during the holiday season.

Work in longer than normal lead times, due to not only Q4 demand, but port delays and other supply chain issues.

3. Distribute inventory for faster delivery

By storing inventory in multiple locations, you can lower shipping costs and increase conversions by offering free shipping thresholds and 2-day shipping.

If you partner with a 3PL like ShipBob, you already have access to multiple fulfillment center locations to optimize shipping costs and reduce transit times.

ShipBob also provides data and analytics reporting tools to help you understand which regions (and countries) can optimize your strategy. That way, you can identify your brand’s ideal product allocation strategy. 

Distributed inventory enables you to offer competitive shipping options, such as 2-day or free shipping with a minimum spend threshold that’s above your average order value (AOV) can increase AOV by 24% and decrease cart abandonment by 18%.

4. Know holiday delivery deadlines

Especially after last year, it’s important to plan for and track carrier transit times (example here) and communicate potential delays to your customers. 

As always, be sure you offer your customers order tracking, so they can track orders in real time.

5. Prepare your returns management process

Having a proper returns management strategy in place can improve brand loyalty and maintain sales by making the returns process as simple as possible for the customer.

A great returns experience can also encourage your customers to make an exchange, so you don’t lose out on a sale.

Be sure to review your returns and exchange policy in place, and ensure that is easy to understand and accessible on your online store or product listings.

Secure a 3PL partner

Fulfilling holiday demand on your own is very challenging and leasing your own warehouse is expensive and time-consuming.

The sooner you get started, the easier it will be.

If you’re in a time crunch to get started with a 3PL, ShipBob can help you get onboarded fast so you’re prepared for the busy holiday season. 

Here is an overview of ShipBob’s holiday logistics solutions:

1. Inventory demand forecasting tools

ShipBob can help with demand forecasting. With ShipBob, you can view your stores historical data and predicts which SKUs will be more popular during the holiday season and advises retailers which stock they should order more of.

ShipBob aggregates transit times, cart values, shipping methods, and ecommerce shipping destinations to help you optimize your costs and test different shipping price strategies.

We also help you understand how much inventory to order and keep on hand — without running out of stock or over-spending on manufacturing or warehousing.

Our order volume has seen ebbs and flows, and ShipBob has fulfilled over 10,000 shipments per month for us, with Black Friday/Cyber Monday and our summer season being our most in demand times of the year.”

Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.

2. High order accuracy rate

ShipBob is always implementing new technology and automation to improve order accuracy, such as automated sorting and box selection algorithms that use dimensions and your packaging preferences to tell us which package size to use for any order combination to provide consistent, predictable fulfillment pricing and a good customer experience.

ShipBob customers can upload photos of their products for the picking and packing teams to see and validate upon fulfillment to reduce the possibility of an order being picked or shipped the wrong way.

You can even edit an order in ShipBob until it is picked in the event that a customer wants to change something after they place their order.

“ShipBob ended up shipping a few thousand orders with minimal issues. I loved watching it happen in the ShipBob portal this year, rather than in my living room. I’m thrilled with ShipBob and how they handled Q4 for us.” 

Andrea Hamilton, founder of The Finer Things 1920

3. Custom packaging options

If you’re looking for custom packaging options, ShipBob can cater to creating a unique unboxing experience for your customers.

ShipBob offers the option to use standard packaging at no extra cost. But if you decide to use your own custom branded packaging, ShipBob partners with leading packaging solutions, including eco-friendly options. You can view our packaging partners here.

“ShipBob offers the option to customize packaging and tell a story through our products when shipping to our customers, giving us more control over our business and brand.”

Matt Dryfhout, Founder & CEO of BAKblade

4. Fast shipping options

ShipBob has a robust fulfillment center network and is able to ship orders faster with inventory placed closer to your customers.

Our fulfillment technology is designed to automatically process and verify customer orders placed online and then generates picking lists with optimal picking routes to speed up processing in the fulfillment center.

We partner with major shipping carriers to provide discounted shipping rates, and packages are picked up at our fulfillment centers daily.

“Our experience with ShipBob has been outstanding thus far. This past Q4 was really good, with December being our best month yet, even though it was really competitive. ShipBob was solid during the holidays, and at one point they even paid for expedited shipping for everyone, keeping their customers happy.”

Josh Hollings, Founder & CEO of Drop FX

5. Built-in inventory management software

The native technology that ShipBob implements across their fulfillment centers allows retailers to have a transparent view of their inventory at all stages of the supply chain. Once your store is connected to ShipBob’s dashboard, you get a number of valuable inventory management tools at your disposal.

View inventory levels in real-time, set reorder points, keep a safety stock, and allocate inventory strategically so you always have product in the right place at the right time.

“Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we will release many new products and we anticipate selling two months of unit volume in that weekend alone. I feel confident that ShipBob will make Black Friday and Cyber Monday a success for us, helping us live up to our customers’ expectations and deliver on time.”

Carl Protsch, Co-Founder of FLEO

6. Streamlined return management process

More orders means a higher amount of possible returns. ShipBob has worked hard on optimizing the return management process and with it managing customer expectations.

Our retail fulfillment solution can handle returns for you or lets you manage returns on your own and even easily integrates with leading ecommerce returns platforms such as Happy Returns and Returnly to better streamline the returns process.

The ability to work with one of the co-founders of ShipBob to launch a new, custom returns process was awesome. Returns were taking a lot of time and resources to process on our end, but ShipBob was super helpful and critical in creating a solution for us.”

Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses

7. Premium customer support

ShipBob is a partner and an extension of your brand. We understand what a stressful time the holiday season is and offers customer support to successfully get you through this busy period. With ShipBob, you always speak to real people who you can get in touch with, and the same reps who know your account and products.

“We’ve had three holiday cycles with ShipBob, and the most recent Q4 was our smoothest yet. There will always be bumps in the road with logistics, but it’s how your 3PL responds that counts. Our Account Manager is really on top of it. She’s very responsive and a big part of our success with ShipBob.”

Manuel de la Cruz, CEO at Boie

For more tips on how to prepare for the busy holiday shopping season, download The Ecommerce Retailer’s Guide to Preparing for the Holidays.

Distributed inventory

With ShipBob’s network of fulfillment centers, you can strategically split your inventory across our locations to get your products from point A to point B more quickly and affordably. Storing inventory near your customers helps reduce the shipping zones and costs associated with shipping orders to faraway destinations.

Distributed inventory also helps you stay competitive by offering fast shipping to your customers. When an order is placed, ShipBob’s algorithm automatically selects the warehouse and carrier that will give you the quickest turnaround at the best price. This strategy has helped our merchants bring 13% savings to their bottom line.

100% Coverage Across the Continental US

If you’re looking to expand into the United States, ShipBob has 2-Day Express Shipping that provides 100% coverage in the continental US from even just one fulfillment center.

You can also distribute your inventory across ShipBob’s fulfillment centers across all regions of the United States. We leave it up to you to decide where you want us to store your inventory.

Order management

At ShipBob, we track your orders from A to Z. Filter orders by status, search for specific orders, see a quick timeline view of where your order is in the fulfillment process (e.g. when an order is picked, packed, or shipped), easily find shipping-related information (e.g., weights, dimensions, or carrier service), and get a quick snapshot of any orders that require action.

With order management software for your direct-to-consumer and wholesale shipments, you can manage subscriptions, make changes to your orders post-purchase, map your store’s shipping options to ShipBob, and automatically share tracking information with your customers.

Inventory management

At ShipBob, we empower merchants to manage their inventory with the right tools and guidance. It’s easy to view the status of inventory and quantity on hand across locations at any point in time, identify slow-moving inventory with high storage costs, and gain insights into the performance of units sold over time by channel.

Our inventory management software helps you set reminders to proactively replenish inventory with reorder notifications, bundle your products for promotions, make inventory transfer requests, and much more.

Reporting and analytics

To provide you with visibility into our operations and performance, and also hold ourselves accountable, ShipBob’s free analytics tool is packed with charts to help you with everything from year-end reporting, to better supply chain decision-making.

Data can be a competitive advantage, and our reports show an analysis of which fulfillment centers you should stock, days of inventory left before you run out, impact of promotions on stock levels, each shipping method’s average cart value, shipping cost, and days in transit, your fulfillment cost per order, storage cost per unit, and much more.

End-to-end customer experience

We care about the customer experience as much as you and strive to be an extension of your team. From custom branded boxes to free plain packaging, ShipBob works with you to provide the unboxing experience you want. We also help you offer the fastest, most cost-effective shipping options to meet your customers’ expectations.

As soon as an order ships, tracking is pushed back to your store. We also offer return management services, allowing customers to generate return shipping labels and track returns, while getting your products processed and back into your available inventory as efficiently as possible.

Save on fulfillment costs

Coffee creamer brand Prymal joined ShipBob in 2019 and was quickly able to save $8,000 per month on fulfillment costs, while at the same time achieving 4x growth.

Learn more about Prymal’s growth

Improve your conversion rate

Not only was BAKblade able to scale internationally by partnering with ShipBob, but they found adding 2-Day Shipping increased their conversions as well.

Learn more about BAKblades’s growth

Store, ship, and grow internationally

Sunglasses brand Ombraz distributed their inventory across 3 fulfillment centers in two different countries. This has allowed them to ship to 55 countries on seven continents.

Learn more about Ombraz’s growth