An increase in sales from your online store is a good thing, except when it isn’t. If you’re not prepared for a sudden jump in activity over the holidays, those orders could feel more like a curse than a blessing.
One of the areas that easily trips us up over the holidays is shipping. You always want to get a product to a customer in a timely manner but this time of year it’s even more important for several reasons. First, many people will be buying gifts so they’re counting on the item to arrive in time. Don’t assume a gift needs to arrive by December 24th. Hanukkah begins on December 6 and some people hand out presents to friends, co-workers, teachers and far away family members throughout the month of December.
That leads us to our first shipping tip. . .
Post your “last day to ship” schedule now
Create a custom page on your IndieMade site that shows clear deadlines for both Hanukkah and Christmas orders. Give yourself a day or two leeway unless you know you can get a package out the door in under 24 hours. We want to make everyone’s holiday wish come true but saying no is better than making a promise and then missing the delivery date.
The second thing to consider is holiday backlog at the post office. With more people than ever buying their gifts online, there can be a delay in getting first class packages from here to there. That leads us to our next shipping tip. . .
Print postage online
You do not want to get anywhere near a post office from now until January 2. Buy a postage scale (if you don’t already have one) and then print your postage through the US Postal Service website. Paypal also has a system for printing postage but it’s a little trickier to use. Best of all, if you buy your postage online, you’ll get a discount. Print the label, tape it to the box and then drop it off at any mailing center including Staples, your local mailbox store or even a large post office dropbox.
If you send your products Priority Mail, you can arrange to have them picked up at your home or office.
If you have products that weigh more than 13 ounces (the limit for First Class), look into rates for Fedex Smart Post or UPS delivery. These alternatives aren’t as expensive as you think and they’re just as, if not more efficient, than the post office since all they handle are packages.
Stock up on supplies
You can’t mail it if you don’t have a box, tape and some kind of label. Stock up now on everything you need to pack everything you sell – big or small. That includes bubble wrap, tissue paper, business cards or holiday notes, holiday wrapping paper (if you’re offering to gift wrap) and an extra pair of scissors that lives at your packing station.
If you do run low, you can have supplies delivered in under 48 hours from Amazon or Staples. You might have to pay a little more but spending an extra $5 online is better than spending an extra 20 minutes trying to find a parking space at the mall.
Usually, we’re all for saving money but at this time of year, saving time and your sanity is more important.
Hire some elves
If your store is crazy busy this time of year, consider hiring shipping help. A young teen or a retired senior would be equally helpful for a few hours a week. Shipping bulky items? Take the item to a shipping store and let them pack it.
Also, consider using a service like Task Rabbit to hire a delivery driver or personal shopper. These gig economy workers will take the load off your shoulders if you have little ones at home, a turkey in the oven or a snow storm on the way.
Tea and chocolate
When you go out this week to stock up on shipping supplies, stock up on tea and chocolates, too. Then, when all of your orders have been packed and shipped, you can sit down and celebrate your success with a relaxing cup of tea and a sweet treat. You earned it.