For many retailers, the end of summer signifies the start of peak season. This busy period is a great opportunity for businesses to positively impact their sales. But to do this, retailers must understand how the peak season can affect shipping.
What is peak season?
In the shipping industry, peak season is when import volumes rise sharply. The demand for consumer goods rises during two periods throughout the year.
The first is the traditional holiday retail peak season, experienced during the second half of the year. The second peak season bump occurs in the beginning of the year spurred by emerging markets (read: the Chinese New Year).
A strong economy bolsters consumer confidence, which can greatly increase freight forwarding services and shipping demands during these two peak seasons.
Customer expectations during peak season
If a retailer is not fully prepared with a comprehensive shipping plan to address this increased inventory demand, delays can happen. This results in unhappy customers. And unhappy customers can have a direct effect on a retailer’s future success.
Significant delivery delays can draw sharp criticism. This can lead a business to experience a dent in profit margins and its reputation.
To address and combat the possibility of unhappy customers, deliveries must occur in a timely manner. But this is easier said than done.
Challenges of peak season delivery
While international forwarding is never smooth sailing, the challenges get exacerbated during peak season. At best, navigating international shipping during peak season can be a rocky experience.
The main challenges that retailers will experience during peak season include:
- Volatile ocean and air rates
- Rolled cargo
- Container capacity scarcity
- Trucking delays
- Increased cargo theft
This is why businesses should not be underestimating the importance of partnering with the right international freight forwarding provider. Their years of experience and knowledge of the international shipping industry can make or break a business.
The fulfillment steps below will help you navigate the tumultuous international shipping waters and ensure your business has the most wonderful “shipping time” of the year.
1. Plan early
The often quoted phrase, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” is significantly relevant to businesses looking to achieve success in shipping during peak season.
Creating a fulfillment strategy that leads to happy customers starts with forecasting. A projection model allows you to forecast what your shipping requirements will be for peak season. Use tools to try to get as detailed as possible with your forecasting.
Use historical data trends to create a baseline. Or, if this is your first year in business, speak to mentors or friends in the same industry. Examine inventory volume by unit and order levels. Do the same for each sales channel your business manages.
It’s important to break down volume by sales channel as shipping requirements can vary by channel. This will also ensure your supply chain is ready to accommodate the increase in inventory volume.
2. Increase resources
To maintain delivery guarantees when your business experiences an influx of customer orders, it’s best to increase resources. This must be done across all fronts, from staffing to facility space and shipping material.
While many businesses will address labor shortages by increasing staffing, few recognize the importance of increasing equipment and shipping material. Identifying where resources may be stretched thin will ensure that your business is ready to accommodate additional volume.
Your international freight forwarding partner is a great resource for managing peak season volume. They have the capacity to meet your logistics needs without massively increasing overhead costs.
3. Consider all your shipping options
There is no one-size-fits-all method to successful peak season fulfillment.
Each business has different objectives and operational requirements unique to their specific customer base. Creating sustainable momentum during peak season requires a customized approach to shipping.
When it comes to ensuring timely deliveries during peak season, be flexible. Certain third-party platforms will allow your business to offer varying delivery options during peak season. This can include anything from on-time delivery to premium same-day delivery.
If your business manages both a brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce channel, a multi-carrier strategy may make considerable sense during peak season. This allows your business to address specific channel needs while ensuring consumer goods are delivered in a timely manner.
At the same time, if you’re a small business focused on a single sales channel, such as e-commerce, varying shipments according to appropriate shipping options ensure on-time deliveries.
For example, less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping allows you to address demanding fluctuations. This is particularly useful in handling overflow volume and ensuring deliveries get shipped when container capacity is scarce.
4. Manage expectations
On the customer front, few things are as important as communication in meeting shipping deadlines during peak season.
Customers, particularly last-minute shoppers, must be informed of your business’s holiday shipping deadlines well in advance. This allows your business to set clear expectations and avoid disappointment.
Each major shipping service will have certain cutoff dates for both international and domestic shipments.
Likewise, you should also inform your freight forwarding partner of any operational changes, such as reduced holiday hours that may occur at peak season. This fosters a more cohesive professional relationship between both parties, resulting in better service.
5. Get freight insurance
While every shipping carrier is obligated to provide businesses with insurance, it’s limited at best. During peak holiday season, when delivery volumes are at their highest, minimum insurance coverage simply won’t cut it.
No fulfillment strategy is complete without a comprehensive insurance plan.
As previously mentioned, shipping during peak season is fraught with challenges. Delays, theft, and lost inventory can negatively impact a business’s reputation, or worse, its future growth and success.
Having insurance on your shipped goods protects your financial interests. A comprehensive insurance plan will reduce your company’s exposure to financial loss.
To determine the insurance policy for your merchandise and cargo, research is crucial. This will enable you to select the right freight forwarder or insurance company to insure your goods. Knowing what each insurer provides on shipments gives you more control over insuring terms.
Final tips to consider
Peak season is the most challenging yet most important time of the year. It plays a vital role in your company’s future success. Failure to ensure timely deliveries during peak season can mean increased challenges in the future.
Logistic management is essential in order to mitigate such risks. This entails order accuracy, identifying key pain points, timely order fulfillment, and working with trusted forwarders.
Remember, “ship happens.” But with the right shipping management plan in place, it won’t affect your products reaching their destinations in a timely manner.