How to Work with Your Carrier to Strengthen Your Holiday Shipping Operations

With eCommerce to account for 17% of the total retail sales market by 20221, shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully. This is especially true during the holidays, which, for some retailers, accounts for 30% of total retail sales.2

Because of this, planning for the holiday season can be stressful. You might worry that your current shipping options won’t meet your business needs during the holiday rush. However, you can put your mind at ease knowing that there is likely a solution. Read on to learn how establishing a good working relationship with your day-to-day shipping carrier can benefit your business operations leading into the holiday season.

“…shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully.”

How a Carrier Can Help Improve Your Operations

By establishing open lines of communication with your shipping carrier, you can:

Proactively create a holiday game plan.

Instead of last minute scrambling around the holidays, set up a tight plan of action with your carrier ahead of time. This plan could include the timing of your holiday shipping needs, when you’ll need shipping materials by, the costs involved and how you and your carrier will tackle issues that arise. You can also ask your carrier how they handle the increase in volume during the holidays, which will enable you to plan, anticipate and avoid setbacks. Ultimately, by connecting person-to-person with your carrier and having these conversations, you’ll be able to improve your working relationship and craft a plan that accounts for your holiday shipping needs while providing you with a greater sense of trust in your carrier.

Confirm your pick-up and delivery schedule.

Rather than adjusting your business model to fit set timeframes, work with your carrier to find a schedule that works best for your business needs. This should specify where, when and how often the carrier should ideally pick up and deliver items.

Adjust quickly to unforeseen events.

The holidays can be a particularly chaotic time, which means you should expect the unexpected. With a close working relationship with your carrier, it is easier to communicate last minute changes or needs on your end, such as additional pick-ups needed due to an influx of express or last minute orders. See if you can establish a local contact and find out the best way to reach them through email or phone, so you can stay in close contact.

How a Company Leveraged a Relationship with their Carrier

Vermont Teddy Bear Company—a company that delivers teddy bears around the country—found that working closely with USPS opened up shipping options, such as free Saturday delivery and flat, regional or Priority Mail Express® services. With these options, the company can be confident that customers will receive products by a specific date. Given the time sensitive nature of their business, as many customers order teddy bears for birthdays and other celebrations, these shipping options are imperative for their business to succeed. With no additional surcharge for Saturday delivery3, they gain an extra delivery day and can even get some of their last minute Friday orders delivered the next day.4,5

In Conclusion

By establishing a strong working relationship with your shipping carrier, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and quickly problem solve, which can ultimately help your business’ productivity.

The Most Important Dates on the 2018 Retail Holiday Calendar

When it comes to the holidays, retail businesses must keep a laser focus on the busiest season of the year. The final months of the year are filled with shipping deadlines, peak shopping days and peak return days. Beyond capitalizing on profits, businesses can get an early start making decisions about stock replenishment, holiday marketing and return communications—all by using the calendar below.1 Print it, bookmark it or download it for easy access in the busy season ahead.

Working with a Drop Shipping Supplier

Using a drop shipping strategy for your retail business can be a profitable endeavor, but it takes time, research and effort to build a successful operation. In this e-commerce fulfillment model, wholesalers and, sometimes, manufacturers ship products directly to the customer, avoiding the typical distribution channels. Retailers, in turn, invest less capital, have less overhead and, in some instances, reduce their risk of having too much inventory. Needless to say, finding the right supplier is crucial to setting up shop. Below, we map out the most important questions to ask when choosing a drop shipper.

Consider Your Needs

Before contacting drop shippers, consider what products you need. Are you looking to sell a variety from multiple companies? Do you have your eye on specific brands? How much are you willing to spend? What kinds of warranties and guarantees do you expect? Once you’ve mapped out your answers, research drop shippers who fit your criteria through certified databases or by contacting wholesalers and manufacturers directly.

Find Out Partner Accessibility

When contacting each drop shipper, it’s important to find out how you’ll be contacting them and how you’ll be placing orders. Here are a few important questions to keep in mind:

  • How will you be placing your orders: email, phone, website, XML or CSV file?
  • Who will be your point person at the supplier?
  • How often can you contact them?

Establish Fees and Costs

Drop shippers can impose additional fees when you work with them. Be sure to learn what you’ll owe your supplier and how you’ll be expected to pay. Consider the following:

  • Are there purchasing minimums for the products you’d like to sell and have the drop shipper fulfill, whether monthly or on your first order?
  • Will you encounter any fees? Are they negotiable?
  • What credit cards does the supplier accept?
  • Will your supplier accept trade credit, allowing you to purchase goods on an account and pay for it later?

Learn Order Fulfillment Times

Picking a drop shipper with fast order fulfillment times is good for your business and your customers. With clear communication, you’ll be able to relay shipping times to your customers and set expectations that can help reduce customer care calls and questions. Think about the following questions when comparing drop shippers:

  • How long are the drop shipper’s processing times?
  • How long does it take to ship out a package?
  • Are they capable of shipping out an order the same day they receive it?
  • If applicable, what’s the deadline for shipping out the product same-day?

Question the Quality Control (QC) Process

Since products are stored at the drop shipper’s warehouse, a retailer never sees them before they’re shipped to the customer. For that reason, routine QC checks are highly important. Consider the following when making your decision:

  • Does the drop shipper perform QC checks? If so, how often?
  • Can they send routine photos of the products?
  • Can they send QC reports once they’re performed?
  • How will they handle quality control issues when they do come up?

Ask About Warranties and Guarantees

Every drop shipper does things differently. Be sure to confirm what their warranty and guarantee policies are before partnering with them.

  • Does the drop shipper offer warranties or guarantees for any of its products?
  • If so, how long are they good for?
  • What issues do the warranties and guarantees cover?
  • Will the drop shipper be easy-to-reach regarding these issues?

Dealing with Returns

When it comes to drop shipping, the returns process can be quite complex. Returns may have to come back to you or the drop shipper, depending on your agreement. Customers may also only be able to return some of your products. It’s important to know the policies upfront, since they can heavily affect consumer purchasing behavior. Think about the following questions:

  • What restrictions does the drop shipper have on returns?
  • Will all products be returnable?
  • Are there restocking fees?
  • What is their operational flow for returns?
  • Will the drop shipper or you, the retailer, act as the return location?
  • Do they have a Return Authorization System to make the process easier?

In Summary

Choosing the right drop-shipping partner for your company can be a time-consuming process. But with enough research, it could spell the difference between success and failure. Ask as many questions as you need to know you’ve found a high-quality partner for your business.

Important 2017 Retail Shopping Dates

When it comes to the holidays, retail businesses must keep a laser focus on the busiest season of the year. The final months of the year are filled with peak shopping days and peak return days. To help capitalize on profits, we’ve made sure to note 2016’s highest grossing billion-dollar shopping days. Get an early start making decisions about stock replenishment, holiday marketing and return communications—all by using the calendar below. Print it, bookmark it or download it for easy access in the busy season ahead.

Cross Border E-Commerce Trends

In today’s online shopping world, country borders don’t stop shoppers. Increasingly, shoppers worldwide are turning to e-commerce sites in search of products and prices that might not be available in their country. As U.S. businesses try to take advantage of this trend, here are several countries they might want to consider, based on trends revealed by a PayPal/Ipsos report.

5 Best Practices for Implementing Ship From Store

When it comes to meeting customer demand, responsiveness is the name of the game. A Ship from Store (SFS) system allows companies to address these escalating needs by putting their unused store stock to use. With the right strategy, your business could be on its way to servicing more and more customers. So how do you successfully implement such a system? Below we highlight the most important steps to take, from planning to setup.

  1. 1

    Dedicate the time and space.

    Not all of your business’s physical locations need to have SFS capabilities, but the ones you choose to include in your SFS system must have the space to facilitate fulfillment operations. Consider selecting locations that will enable fast delivery and, if possible, enable packages to reach customers in 1 to 2 days. Once you decide the on stores, section off an area for fulfillment purposes alone and establish how and when merchandise will be picked and packed.1

  2. 2

    Set up the necessary systems and technology.

    A critical part of SFS is managing inventory. With the right order-management system, you’ll be able to treat stores as fulfillment centers and efficiently use the stock they have to manage demand near real-time. That way, when an order comes in, the right store can be notified and begin the picking, packing and shipping process.2

  3. 3

    Train your in-store staff to have warehouse skills.

    Your store staff will need to learn the ins and outs of this new operations process. Teach them how to accurately pick, pack and ship inventory – without taking away from their primary job of selling merchandise and servicing customers.3

  4. 4

    Deliver an omni-channel experience.

    Maintain consistency with your warehouse-based operations, by keeping your packaging uniform regardless of shipping origin. Invoices, return labels, etc. should follow suit. With a consistent brand experience, you can bridge omni-channel gaps between customers, stores and distribution centers.4

  5. 5

    Leverage the services of integration specialists.

    When you utilize the USPS® for shipping services, our representatives can help you launch and refine your own SFS system. Operations Integration Specialists and Technical Integration Specialists can help guide you through setup, transportation, equipment, payment and processing systems, assessing how to use your locations efficiently and addressing any first-day issues that may arise—all free of additional charges.5

In Short

As more consumers expect products to be constantly available, it’s important for businesses to pivot and adapt to meet their demands. With the right strategy and resources, your company can implement a successful SFS system and start answering more of your consumers’ needs.

5 Benefits to your Business by Entering the Global Market

Every company, no matter its size, wants to boost its bottom line. Many look at new ways to improve their metrics domestically, but the global market is ripe with opportunities to find new customer bases, extend product life cycles and, of course, increase sales. Discover five ways exporting can serve your company’s goals below.

  1. 1

    Grow your business, especially if the U.S. market for your product is saturated.

    Introduce your product to new markets around the world. By going abroad, your business can gain access to a world of possibility. Leverage your website, the perfect platform to access the global market. With a few enhancements, it can start taking orders from international customers.

  2. 2

    Diversify your customer base to fuel business expansion.

    New global markets mean new customers. Exporting gives you access to a larger, more diverse audience, one that’s willing to contribute to your business and help it progress to the next level. By tapping into new customer segments, you can optimize your revenue potential and stimulate your growth rate.

  3. 3

    Make up for slack during economic slowdowns.

    When the U.S. economy prevents you from meeting your financial goals, your business abroad can cover the difference. By investing in other markets, you provide new sources of profits and business growth.

  4. 4

    Increase your product life cycle.

    A cycle includes multiple stages—introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Instead of letting your product decline, new international customers can kick-start the cycle all over again. This increases the profitability and shelf life of your product.

  5. 5

    Boost the value of your business, should you decide to sell it.

    The size of your business dictates its value. If you’re able to exploit international markets and reach a healthy, profitable state, your business will be that much more valuable.

In Summary

If your company is willing to dedicate adequate resources, exporting may elevate your business in countless ways. No wonder so many make the jump into international markets each year. Reach out to government agencies at the federal, state and, in certain cases, the local level to access a tremendous amount of support to get you on your way.