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10 Tips to Prepare for Peak Shipping Season

by EasyPost
Two men using touchpad in industrial building

Every year, businesses brace themselves for peak shipping season. This is when orders start pouring in, and shipments need to be sent out quickly and efficiently. To ensure you don't fall behind during peak shipping season, follow these 10 tips to manage peak season like a pro.

When is peak shipping season?

For many businesses, peak shipping season falls between November and December. However, peak season can vary depending on the industry. For example, retailers who sell summer items may experience peak season during June and July.

How to prepare for peak shipping season

There are many ways to prepare for peak shipping season, but the best advice we can give you is to start planning early. The best time to start preparing for peak season is as soon as the previous year's peak comes to a close. Then, when the highs and lows of the season are their most fresh, you have plenty of time to start implementing changes. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for peak shipping season.

1. Don't wait to implement changes

It will be too late if you wait until peak season to start making changes. When peak season arrives, you should have a solid plan in place, and every employee should know exactly what needs to be accomplished to achieve success. Trying to make last-minute changes will only lead to chaos and confusion.

Start by looking at what went well during the previous peak season and what didn't. Then, identify areas that need improvement and plan to address them, whether changing software or finding more reliable carriers. If you're unsure where to start, talk to your employees and ask for their input. They're the ones who see the day-to-day of your logistical operations, and they may have some great ideas on where to make improvements.

2. Know your deadlines

A large part of peak shipping season is meeting internal and external deadlines. Your employees need to be aware of deadlines to plan accordingly and ensure everything runs smoothly. It would be best if you also communicated with your customers to let them know when they can expect their orders to arrive.

If you're unsure when your deadlines are, talk to your carriers and find out when their peak season shipping deadlines are. Once you have that information, you can start planning backward to figure out when orders need to be placed and shipped out to arrive promptly.

It's also important to remember that peak season is a busy time for everyone, so don't expect things to run as smoothly as during the rest of the year. There will be delays, so build some cushion into your deadlines to account for that.

3. Revisit previous peak seasons

One of the best ways to prepare for peak season is to learn from previous peak seasons. If you have data from past peak seasons, take a look and see what worked well and what didn't. This will help you identify areas that need improvement so you can build out forecasts and make changes accordingly.It's also helpful to talk to employees who have been with the company for a while and see what they remember about previous peak seasons. They may have some great insights that you didn't consider. Don't forget to talk to your customers either. They're the ones who will be directly impacted by any changes you make, so it's important to get their input and feedback through surveys, one-on-one outreach, and monitoring social media and online activity.

Person working while wearing a headset

4. Ensure data visibility

Another valuable way to prepare for peak shipping season is to ensure data visibility. This involves clearly understanding your inventory levels, order history, and supply chain information. This data will be critical in ensuring you have enough inventory on hand to meet customer demand–plus, it will help you track down any orders that may get lost in the peak season shuffle.

The best way to achieve complete data visibility is to invest in software with real-time analytics. It is even better if it ties in directly with your shipping software, like EasyPost, and provides you with up-to-date information on your inventory levels, order history, and supplier information.

5. Be on top of your supply chain

To successfully manage peak season, you need to be on top of your supply chain. This means understanding your supplier's capabilities and capacities. Additionally, you should have a backup plan in place if one of your suppliers cannot meet your needs. A well-managed supply chain will help you avoid disruptions during peak season that could lead to costly losses.

That way, you will have the inventory to meet customer demand and increase satisfaction. To be on top of your supply chain:

  1. Start by doing a full audit of your current suppliers.
  2. Identify any potential risks or weaknesses and start working on building backup suppliers.
  3. Continue to monitor your suppliers throughout the rest of the year, and especially into peak season as demand continues to rise.

6. Review your return policy

Another critical step in preparing for peak season is to review your return policy. This is important because you'll likely see an increase in returns during peak season. To avoid any issues, make sure your return policy is clear and easy to understand. You should also have a process for handling returns to avoid any disruption in your operations. Finally, make sure your customer service team is on the same page with handling these mishaps when they arise to ensure a smooth and consistent return experience on the business and consumer side.

7. Establish communication channels

Communication is key to a successful peak season. By establishing clear communication channels between your various departments, everyone will be on the same page and you can avoid any confusion or mix-ups.

As we mentioned earlier, one communication channel you'll want to stay on top of is data visibility. That way, everyone is on the same page with what parts of the business are thriving and where additional support is needed. Another way to establish communication channels is to create a peak season task force. This team should be responsible for coordinating peak season action items and ensuring that everyone is on the same page. In addition, this team should send out regular communications across the company and be the first to know when problems arise during peak season.

Workers in a distribution warehouse

8. Connect with carriers and collaborators

Your business isn't the only one impacted by peak season, so connect with your carriers and collaborators–particularly 3PLs, suppliers, and any other companies you rely on to ensure they have the resources to carry you through peak season.

Send out a few emails and hop on phone calls to set your expectations for the coming months. Not only will you be doing your part, but they might have valuable information for you, such as shipping deadlines, rate changes, or suggestions to help you navigate this crucial time of year.

If your partners cannot handle the peak season surge, it may be time to start looking elsewhere. Utilizing multiple carriers, choosing a larger 3PL, and upgrading to more reliable software can significantly affect how your peak season plays out.

9. Build a digital strategy

In today's digital world, it's important to have a solid digital marketing strategy in place. This is especially true during peak season when you're likely to see an increase in online sales. In many cases, this will fall back on your social media strategy.

Developing a social media presence is a great way to connect with potential customers and promote your products or services. Niche down your audience and target them through advertising. There may be certain products or deals that you know will entice shoppers to buy. Put those at the forefront to avoid missing out on any potential sales.

10. Optimize your website

Staying on the digital end of things, you'll also want to make sure your website is optimized before peak season hits. This means making sure your website is easy to use, mobile-friendly, optimized for search engines, and that it can handle all of that peak season traffic.

If you don't have someone on your team who specializes in digital marketing, you may want to consult with a professional to ensure you get everything out of your website. Slow and unoptimized websites can cost you sales. You'll want to do what you can to rank at the top of Google searches and above your competitors to show you are the best and most trustworthy place for consumers to spend their hard-earned money.

How to manage peak shipping season

By following these tips, you can be sure that you're ready for peak season. By being proactive and planning, you can avoid disruptions to your operations and ensure your customers are satisfied. Looking for more information on how to make your peak season the smoothest and most successful yet? Look no further than our e-book called How to Survive (Your Next) Peak Season: A How To Guide.

Start preparing to make peak shipping season a breeze by using EasyPost. We have shipping APIs that will help optimize nearly every aspect of your logistics operations. With shipping, rating, tracking, address verification, insurance, and more, EasyPost removes the technical complexities so you can get back to growing your business. Sign up for free today or get in touch with one of our shipping experts to learn more.