The following tips are for small businesses, about shipping (and receiving) packages during the Holiday season. These were provided by Tom Langa, a representative of UPS, on Small Business Trends Radio. We thought we’d share the highlights with these 10 Holiday shipping tips:
1. Plan Ahead
We all know that more people are shipping from November to January, so the earlier you plan, the easier it will be. If you ship retail, Tom says you should “anticipate what your holiday demand is going to be as accurately as possible, so that you can have adequate inventory on hand, as well as staffing.”
2. Manage Your Customers’ Expectations
If it may take you longer to fulfill an order during the Holiday season, let customers know on your website. Tell them how long it will take to ship so they can plan accordingly.
3. Avoid the Rush
If you have Holiday client gifts to send out, ship them as early as possible. The Holiday season starts on Black Friday (the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.s., usually the last Friday of November). As Tom says, “believe it or not, after that, there are only 20 regular delivery days before Christmas.” That doesn’t leave a large window for getting your clients their gifts before they check out for the holidays.
4. Make Sure Your Packaging is Up to Par
You should use a new box for shipping whenever possible, to protect your goods. You should only use approved packing materials like foam packing peanuts, bubble cushioning, and packing tape. Don’t use masking tape, twine, or newspaper to cushion your items — it doesn’t hold up. It’s a good idea to include an extra label, with destination and return address, inside the package in case the outside label gets damaged.
5. Make Tracking Easy
Customers like to track their packages, and services like UPS’ Quantum View Notify, which is free, sends email notification to your customer when the package ships. It empowers them, allowing them to track the shipment. And it saves you time and is more efficient, as you won’t have to manually notify them of shipping status.
6. Set Up for Multiple Mailings
If you ship a lot, either through the holidays or year ’round, set up an account through the UPS site. By doing so, you can save addresses to send to again, create shipping templates with box sizes and weights, store credit card info, and make shipping faster.
7. Schedule Pickup
These days you don’t have to drive around to find a place to drop off your package for shipping. You can schedule a pickup on UPS or by calling 1-800-PICK-UPS. And now, UPS offers its new Smart Pickup service. Once you process an online shipment, the UPS system automatically lets your driver know you have a package to pick up. Again, this saves your business and staff and time and effort, as they don’t have to manually schedule a pick up.
8. Know Your Shipping Time
Many small business owners get caught at the last minute, without time for their packages to arrive before the holidays. Tom Langa of UPS says:
“Most UPS ground packages will reach their destination within 3 days, although time and transit does vary from location to location. For Thanksgiving holiday orders using that 3-day rule, items would need to be shipped by Ground service by Friday, November 18 [in 2011] to be delivered for Thanksgiving Day, or packages can be shipped as late as Tuesday, November 22 if they’re going Next Day Air.
Similarly, for Christmas, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year  and Christmas Eve on a Saturday, so our last day for regular delivery is Friday, December 23rd. That means packages can be shipped by Ground service as late as Tuesday the 21st, or by Next Day Air as late as Thursday, December 22nd.”
9. Check Out “My Choice”
UPS recently launched its My Choice service, which lets residential customers get a text or email the day before a scheduled delivery. “They can request a specific four-hour delivery window for that package to be delivered. They will also have an option to electronically authorize the release of a package needing a signature, so no more waiting around for your packages to arrive,” says Langa. Sounds like the perfect service for business owners who work from home — you no longer need to be tethered to the house, waiting for a package.
10. Ship Perishables Carefully
During the Holidays, many of us are shipping cookies and other tasty goods. UPS suggests freezing the product and packaging it in an insulated container with dry ice whenever possible. Langa recommends shipping Next Day Air to keep the perishable items cool during their journey. “If you’re dropping off your package at a UPS location, keep it on ice, keep it frozen, and drop it off as late in the day as you can so that it remains in the best condition for its journey to its destination,” he says. “Finally, if you need to ship on a Friday, remember that Next Day Air service is available for Saturday delivery, but it will cost an extra fee.”
Great tips for all of us during this hectic holiday season!
Download the full transcript from the radio show interview for all of Tom’s Holiday shipping tips or visit this page to view it.