In 2018, there were almost 2.5 billion packages delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas; that’s a LOT of boxes! Shipping during the holidays can be a tremendous headache for businesses and their customers if something goes wrong and a delivery winds up in Portland, Maine instead of Portland, Oregon.

Here are five suggestions to help your business run more efficiently over the next two months so you can enjoy some holiday cheer.

Be Proactive – 2019 is a very short holiday season. Black Friday lands on November 29th (which means Small Business Saturday is on November 30th). There are only 27 days from Black Friday until Christmas (four weekends and 23 shipping days). By comparison, Black Friday was on November 23rd last year and shoppers had five weekends to make their purchases. In order to make the most of each day, you need to plan accordingly. Review your plans with employees, vendors, and anyone else who needs to weigh in so that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and contingency planning (e.g. someone gets sick, an order doesn’t arrive in time, a 5-day polar vortex is in the forecast).

Ship it on Time! There is nothing worse than having gifts sent by your customers arriving a day or two late; that isn’t joyous for them, their recipients, or you.

Here is a link to the key dates on getting your packages delivered in time for Christmas this year if you use FedEx, UPS, or the USPS. I suggest posting the dates on your website, in your store, and in any email correspondence you send to your customers. Remind them that it will be more expensive to ship something after December 13th and, as we get closer to the 25th, there is less certainty that packages will arrive on time if there are any problems with delivery.

Don’t Skimp on Packaging Materials. If your shipments are breakable, take extra care to make sure they don’t arrive in more than one piece (unless that’s the way the gift was supposed to arrive). With 2.5 million packages jockeying for position in trucks and on planes, imagine a box weighing 2-3 times more than your porcelain doll sitting on top of it for an entire plane ride. The only thing worse than a gift not showing up on time is one the arrives damaged or broken. Bah humbug!

Provide Tracking Numbers – You want to provide tracking numbers to customers for two reasons, first, so that customers aren’t calling you repeatedly to ask about the status of their packages, and second, see my first point. Time is even more valuable to your business during the holiday season. Don’t spend it trying to figure out where someone’s package is while in delivery. Hand that job off to the shipping company. Bonus – Sign up for SendPro online and save even more time and money on your shipping and mailing. Compare costs between FedEx, UPS, and USPS and have the shipments picked up right at your door. Click here for more information on SendPro.

Be Prepared for Calamities – To expand on my first point (be proactive) – Polar Vortexes, other weather-related issues, power outages, and missing shipments – happen. When they do, you want to have a backup plan. At the very least, let your customers know that something happened with their package, but you will keep them posted on when they, or the recipient, can expect it to arrive. If/when this happens, be as transparent as possible; trying to cover up a calamity usually makes things worse.

The 2019 holiday season is coming. It’s a great time to thank your customers and employees for being part of your success this year. It’s also a excellent opportunity to end the decade on a high note. Don’t allow shipping mistakes to sour the season for you. Follow the suggestions above and avoid costly mistakes.

Brian Moran

Brian Moran

Prior to rejoining the world of entrepreneurship, Brian was the Executive Director of Sales Development at the Wall Street Journal where he oversaw the sales development and marketing programs for the financial and small business categories among the many Journal brands. From 2002-2010, Brian was President of Veracle Media and Moran Media Group.

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About Small Business Edge

Brian Moran & Associates is dedicated to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs run better businesses. Brian Moran, along with a team of experts, is leveraging his 20+ years of experience in publishing magazines for business owners to assist entrepreneurs with everything from social media to accessing growth capital to expanding into the global marketplace.