Buckle up, retailers. With Thanksgiving around the corner, shippers everywhere are getting ready for the highest-grossing peak retail season yet. According to the NRF, this year’s holiday sales will increase by 3.8-4.2% to roughly $728-$731 billion. Of that estimate, online holiday sales will reach a cool $138 billion (Forrester), which amounts to a 12.7% increase over last year. 

Not only will it be the best year yet for online retail sales, but it will also be the shortest: This year, with six days fewer between Black Friday and Cyber Monday — the shortest preparation time since 2013 — retailers need to get ready for one of the busiest holiday shipping seasons in history. 

2018 eCommerce Trends Allow Retailers To Prepare For 2019 eCommerce Fulfillment

With retail sales increasing, so does delivery volume for those shipping both parcel and freight. Last year, we saw a 236% increase year-over-year (YoY) in parcel shipments, and a 638% increase YoY increase in freight deliveries, especially on key dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Especially for those shipping parcel shipments this peak season, check out UPS’s 2019 Year-End Holiday Shipping Schedule for recommended cut-off dates and shipping schedules. 

Growth in Peak Season Deliveries

Key Dates For Retailers This Holiday  Shipping Season:

  • November 15: DTC Friday
  • November 29: Black Friday
  • December 2: Cyber Monday
  • December 9: Green Monday
  • December 13: Cut-Off Date For Customers Ordering Ground Shipping
  • December 15: Free Shipping Day
  • December 19: Cut-Off Date For Customers Using Three-Day Select
  • December 20: Cut-Off Date For Customers Using Two-Day Air Services

With higher delivery volume, more delivery exceptions, such as damaged packages and delays, tend to arise during peak. Although exceptions typically impact 11% of shipments, we saw that number spike during peak season last year. In 2018, we found that 28% of all exceptions that occurred during the year happened during the holidays, and in particular, the highest negative delivery exception spikes occurred right after Black Friday. Customers responded immediately with negative feedback, complaints, WISMO calls (“Where is my order?” calls) and more — the highest spike in negative feedback occurred right after Cyber Monday. 

Shoppers’ Top Concerns This Peak Season Shape Retail’s Priorities

This holiday season, almost 95% shoppers plan on finding at least some gifts online this holiday season, and many of those shoppers already knew where they were going to shop. 7.9% of shoppers planned on exclusively using Amazon to buy their holiday gifts. 

In our annual consumer survey, “Last Mile Delivery Wars: How To Keep Your Promises And Win With Reliability,” over 2,500 shoppers told us their top concerns for the holiday season. While we saw retailers promise various “fast and free delivery” promotions during the holiday, these promises did not alleviate shopper fears.

This year, we found that promise dates made consumers even more anxious than holiday pricing and speed. Four in ten shoppers said that late delivery was their biggest concern this year, and another two in ten shoppers were afraid that their packages would be stolen — a la porch piracy — after the delivery had arrived. 

This Holiday Season, Make Delivery Promises That You Can Keep

Retailers looking to win over shoppers during the holidays and beyond will need to make and keep their delivery promises. Shoppers want to understand how and when their deliveries will arrive, and they want their retailers to give them the confidence that they can solve problems when a delivery goes awry. For shoppers this year, this means both setting accurate delivery expectations upfront, and following through with consistent communication. 

7.9% of shoppers planned on exclusively using Amazon to buy their holiday gifts. 

Essentially, they need to be mindful of promise dates, and make promises that they can keep in order to win shoppers through December and beyond. [Learn how UncommonGoods uses shipment visibility and analytics to locate shipments destined to miss their holiday promise dates.]

Best Practices For Retailers This Holiday Shipping Season

  • Communicate Major Holiday Delivery Dates With Shoppers: Be mindful of your team’s ability to ship out items using Ground shipping, Two-Day Shipping, and One-Day Shipping, and what other options you have available to you. Can your team enable Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store methods? Do you sell online gift cards for shoppers who wait until last minute? Alert consumers early on when shipping cut-offs will be, and what options they have available. 
  • Set Up Proper Expectations From The Product Page: As early as the product page, you can let customers know what the estimated delivery date (EDD) will be. In our survey, we found that 61% of shoppers would be more likely to purchase items if they saw faster delivery dates in-cart. 
  • Keep Your Delivery Promises: It’s inevitable that delivery exceptions will happen, especially during the holidays. Shoppers want to know that their retailers will have a plan of action if an issue occurs — 99% of shoppers want a notification, preferably by email, if there is a delay or damaged package. With Convey Discover, surface issues that occur in real-time, and optimize your data throughout the holiday season.

Learn how real-time network insights and intelligent supply chain data analytics can help your team save costs and keep customer promises, or download our consumer research “Last Mile Delivery Wars.