With the busy holiday season on the horizon, retailers – both online and brick-and-mortar – are busy finalizing discount offers and marketing strategies.  They are verifying inventory, talking to suppliers, and stepping up staffing to ensure top quality customer service. If your business is aiming to maximize the value that the holiday shopping season brings to the bottom line, you have no doubt given extensive thought to what you are selling and how you are selling it. But have you fully considered how it will actually get to your customers? And, do you know for certain that your suppliers will be ready to deliver what you need, when you need it?

To understand how critical it is to get your shipping and logistics plans in order, consider just how active the world of shipping is during the holiday season. At DHL Express, we forecast that the 2019 peak shipping season will see pickup and delivery volumes that are 15 percent higher than the 2018 season. Additionally, peak season pickup and delivery volumes for this 2019 season are forecasted to be 35% higher than the Q3 Average Daily volume.  To make sure your customers receive what they have ordered – on time, on target, and in one piece – then you need a shipping strategy that works, and a shipping partner that understands the demands of peak pickup and delivery.

Here are the top 5 things your business needs to know about holiday shipping:

1. Peak shipping season

Peak shipping season is between the Monday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Be sure to clearly display to customers the estimated delivery dates and ordering cutoff dates for Christmas delivery.

Note that DHL Express forecasts peak season pickup and delivery volumes will be 35% higher than the Q3 average daily volume. Peak Pickup Day will be on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019; and Peak Operations Day and Peak Delivery Day in the U.S. will be Dec. 16, 2019.

2. Free returns and exchanges help businesses stay competitive

During the holiday season, most online customers expect to receive free shipping with a minimum purchase. Consumers often research return policies before making a purchase, and so a “free returns for the holidays” approach can keep your company competitive.  Research suggests that a lenient return policy will boost sales, and a longer window for returns will actually lessen the amount of returns that your business has to process.

3. Don’t unintentionally ship dangerous goods internationally

E-commerce has allowed U.S. companies of all sizes to export to countries around the globe.  In fact, nearly 300,000 American businesses are engaged in global trade, according to the International Trade Administration.  If yours is one of them, make sure to always declare the contents of your shipments. These include but are not limited to children’s toys that contain batteries, electronics and battery-operated Christmas decorations that have lithium batteries, cologne, nail polish, and bath sets.

4. Align suppliers

For both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce companies, constant coordination with suppliers and manufacturers is essential during the holiday season. It’s important to align your suppliers and give them as much notice as possible.

5. Each country has its own standard for which goods are subject to duty

When shipping outside the U.S., it’s critical to understand the rules and requirements that apply so that you can avoid getting your holiday shipments delayed.  For guidance, check out DHL’s Trade Automation System which provides access to a wealth of information surrounding any international transaction.

How is your business preparing for peak holiday shipping? Let us know on Twitter @DHLUS.

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