As retailers and online businesses prepare for another holiday season of unprecedented sales numbers, it’s critical that they invest in solutions that will help streamline the delivery process. Investing in a shipping solution that offers automation combined with multiple carrier options can lead to smoother parcel shipping and happy customers.

Shoppers have already been warned by companies such Australia Post that they need to get their orders in early to ensure on-time delivery. (1) Last year’s pre-Christmas sales season was record-breaking, with November 2020 reportedly the biggest month in Australian online shopping history. (2)

This was on top of an already record-breaking year for Australian consumers, as Australia reached one billion in parcel volume for the first time, up from 934 million in 2019, according to the 2020 Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index. (3) And, after recording a 23.4 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth in the 12 months to August 2021, this trend looks set to continue its upward trajectory into the pre-Christmas sales season. (4)

‘Tis the season to prepare for supply chain woes

As Australians prepare to spend the holidays with their families (pending lockdowns), many Aussies are also shopping ahead and preparing to get their gifts ready in advance. This means an increase in online shopping and increased pressure on the supply chain. As such, this will be a stressful time for customers and businesses alike, particularly as the country continues to face supply chain challenges and disruptions, including:
– reduced international flights into Australia
– transport worker strikes
– COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions impacting parcel pick-up and delivery
– increased pressure, congestion, and delays on ports resulting in increased shipping costs.

Therefore, it’s essential that etailers and businesses consider what steps they can take now to ensure they’re better prepared for the Christmas rush as online sales ramp up. There are three primary ways that businesses can take to prepare for a challenging peak season:

1. Increase engagement with local providers

One of the most effective steps businesses can take is to engage with multiple carriers and local third-party logistics (3PL) companies. Investing in partnerships with multiple providers ensures businesses aren’t reliant on a single vendor for shipping and delivery; this lets etailers be better prepared to fulfill more orders in the same amount of time. In addition, leveraging 3PL providers can help businesses meet demand quicker through the ability to manage stock closer to their customers and reduce the cost of shipping.

2. Invest in technology solutions that offer multiple carrier and pricing options

Not all carriers are created equal and not all delivery providers have the same resources available to deliver to difficult regions. Etailers should consider investing in solutions that offer multiple carrier and different pricing options to ensure that customers have the power to choose the best delivery method for them. In addition, having access to multiple carriers ensure businesses can select the best shipping option for each individual order and be better placed to adjust to delays and disruptions.

3. Don’t skimp on communication

Delayed shipping and delivery is not a new concept; like the businesses they order from, consumers have been battling with COVID-19-related delays for almost two years. However, understanding and awareness is not quite the same as acceptance, and it doesn’t mean that companies can stop communicating with shoppers about their orders. Businesses must remain transparent with customers about the extent of disruptions. To assist with this, etailers must provide clear updates on delivery cut-offs and expected delivery time frames and be as upfront as possible with consumers, including listing shipping cut off dates online.

However, it’s not only consumers that businesses need to engage in high quality communication with. Communicating effectively with carriers is paramount to success for online businesses, especially during a peak sales season. It’s essential that companies communicate clearly with their partners and take the time to understand how they can improve processes on the business end to streamline the shipping and delivery system.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

With the support of automation and digital solutions, businesses can achieve a more streamlined shipping and shopping experience for the organisation and its customers this holiday season. By investing in technology sooner rather than later, businesses can continue to provide an efficient service leading up to the Christmas rush, Boxing Day and New Year’s sales and beyond.

Stephen Darracott is vice president and country manager for Pitney Bowes Japan, Australia and New Zealand.