the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
4 Essential Holiday Shipping Tips for Retailers
09/04/2018 — Jen Deming
Holiday shipping is fast approaching for retailers. Though the season of gifting and good tidings seems miles away (and most of us have probably not even begun to think about our OWN shopping lists), it's never too early to start your holiday shipping prep. You may have already brainstormed your plan of action and received some inbound items and supplies, so now's the time to make that yearly best practices list. We've compiled a few holiday shipping tips specific for retails to make sure your busy season passes smoothly.
Tip 1: Prepare your inventory and manage your inbound shipments
As the saying goes, you have to learn to walk before you run. The very first step in great holiday shipping preparation is getting your inventory and inbound shipments from vendors in order. Taking control of your inbound shipping is crucial to being set up for holiday success. Plan ahead by looking at your past holiday seasons' wins and opportunities, check industry trends, and do your best to forecast just how much product you may need to make it through your holiday season. If you feel you will need a replenishment order, communicate with your vendors to make sure they are clear on when you will need the product (and build in some extra time as a cushion). If you are able to, consider managing your own routings by selecting your own carrier and directing your vendors on your precise shipping expectations and needs. This control can give you better peace of mind that shipments are being handled reliably and to your specifications. An added benefit to managing your own inbound shipments from vendors is that you can price shop for the best service level and carrier that fit your budget.
Tip 2: Invest time in planning and budgeting
The elevated cost of shipping during holiday peak season is just a reality for shippers, but most believe it's just the price of doing business.. Budgeting and planning what you can expect to pay during the crunch can make or break your bottom line. Not only will you be spending more overall due to an increase in volume, certain carriers implement surcharges during this period, so it pays to do your research. For the second year in a row, FedEx has announced it will NOT apply a peak season surcharge on residential shipments. UPS, however, will be implementing a surcharge on those shipments from November 18 through December 1 (in line with Black Friday) and again from December 16 through December 22 (last minute rush). The surcharge ranges depending on the service, from $0.28 to $0.99 on most residential packages, which can add up as volume increases. Larger packages will also include peak surcharges by both small package carriers, with the most expensive charge costing $165 per package. Which charges apply will depend on your package dimensions and weight, so make sure to educate yourself before the holiday rush begins.
Tip 3: Take control of setting customer expectations
The best way to ensure your holiday shipping will run smoothly, specifically from the customer's perspective, is to let them know what they can expect even BEFORE they make a purchase. It's a good idea to take a look at how your business performed last year, check through any customer issues for common themes, and adjust where you may need to. Use your website to its full potential - utilize clear and consistent language that addresses shipping costs, delivery times, order deadlines, and return policies, and make sure they are easy to find. Update your FAQ section and any links that may be relevant to holiday shipping time tables or price breakdowns.
In addition to your website, be sure to use email as an additional measure to touch base with your customers. Send out communications to past customers about any new policy changes BEFORE they put in this year's order. Send order confirmations, followed up by shipping confirmations. Many businesses send out notifications for delivery attempts or completions. These added touches not only communicate effectively to your customer but leave a positive impression of your company's reliability.
Tip 4: Make your returns process easy
As we touched on in the last tip, communication with customers is key to keeping expectations realistic and managing the consumer experience during the holiday shipping season. Another area that many retailers tend to overlook during peak holiday boom is the returns process. According to the National Retail Federation, three out of every four holiday shoppers checks the company return policy before committing to making any purchase.
Every retailer can do their best to avoid returns by being sure each product listing is as accurate and updated as possible, in order to avoid most surprises when it arrives at your customer's door. However, despite all of your efforts, returns are going to happen. If your business is going to handle and accept online returns, the more you can automate the process, the easier it will be on both you and your customer. The majority of customers are not willing to pay premium for return shipping. Price is the most significant deciding factor, so don't waste time offering faster, more expensive return services. Providing pre-printed return labels, packaging, and instructions can all improve the customer experience, lessen the returns headache for your operations team, and increase future value for your brand.
Summer may only just be winding down, but retailers are already thinking of what's on winter wish lists. It's never too early for holiday shipping prep, and being proactive is the best way to avoid a stressful peak season. In addition to our tips on planning, inventory, and streamlining your returns process, it's helpful to have the experts on your side. At PartnerShip, we know a thing or two about the peak season boom. We are happy to help you ship smarter, and with less stress, this holiday season, contact us today!
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FedEx and UPS Peak Season Surcharges: The Important Differences
08/09/2018 — Leah Palnik
FedEx recently announced that for the second year in a row, it won’t be applying a peak season surcharge on residential shipments. This is good news for retailers who expect a significant amount of e-commerce orders over the 2018 holiday season.
UPS, however, will be instituting a surcharge on residential ground shipments from November 18 through December 1 and then again from December 16 through December 22. UPS will be charging $0.28 per package for most residential shipments using ground services. For UPS air services the fees are as high as $0.99 per package.
UPS delivered around 700 million packages during the 2017 holiday season – a huge jump compared to the rest of the year. Ordering online has become so commonplace and easy for shoppers, and the carriers are feeling the effects. The increase in volume over the holidays drove UPS to introduce this new peak surcharge for the first time last year.
Typically UPS and FedEx have comparable rates and surcharges and will mimic each other’s changes, so this is a notable distinction between the two small package giants.
FedEx is sending a clear message to shippers. “FedEx delivers possibilities every day for millions of small- and medium-sized businesses,” said Raj Subramaniam, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer at FedEx Corp. “We are demonstrating our support for these loyal customers during this critical timeframe by not adding additional residential peak surcharges, except for situations where the shipments are oversized, unauthorized or necessitate additional handling.”
It’s important to note that both carriers are implementing charges on larger packages. With the rise of e-commerce, people are ordering items online that they would’ve exclusively purchased in-store in the past – including televisions and appliances. FedEx and UPS have made several adjustments to account for these trends, including a pushback on larger packages. Heavy and bulky packages don’t move through their automated systems and require more attention. FedEx and UPS are putting a price tag on that loss in efficiency and shippers need to stay aware.
FedEx will apply peak surcharges for larger packages from November 19 through December 24:
- $3.20 per package for shipments that necessitate additional handling
- $27.50 per package for shipments that qualify as oversize
- $150.00 per package for shipments that qualify as unauthorized
UPS will apply peak surcharges for larger packages from November 18 through December 22:
- $3.15 per package for shipments that necessitate additional handling
- $26.20 per package for shipments that qualify as large
- $165.00 per package for shipments that qualify as over maximum limits
If you’re not careful, the surcharges can add up fast. These peak surcharges are in addition to the already existing surcharges that apply to larger packages, and any others that may apply including delivery area and residential surcharges.
Retailers should take note of these peak season changes to ensure a profitable 2018 holiday season. If you see a significant amount of online orders over the holidays and ship with UPS, you’ll be paying an extra $0.28 per package, which will eat into your bottom line.
To prepare, take a look at what you shipped last year around the holidays and determine a forecast for this season. From there you’ll be able to see how much more you can expect to spend during the designated peak season. You may find that switching from UPS to FedEx for the busiest time of the year will provide you with a decent cost savings. Depending on the billable weight of your shipment and the destination, the base rate could be lower with FedEx – compounding the savings during peak season. It’s worth evaluating the options, when the holiday season can make or break your year.
There are many factors to consider when deciding how to ship your small package shipments. You need an expert on your side. ParterShip manages shipping programs for over 140 associations, providing exclusive discounts on small package shipments to their members. To find out if you qualify or to learn how you can ship smarter, contact us today.
FedEx and UPS rates will be going up after the holiday season! Make sure you know what to expect so you can mitigate the impact to your bottom line. Our free white paper breaks down where you'll find the highest increases and explain some of the complicated changes you need to be aware of.
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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint With These Eco-Friendly Shipping Tips
03/16/2018 — Leah Palnik
With freight trucks being a top contributor to air pollution, eco-friendly shipping may seem like an oxymoron. However, there are some green shipping options that can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
According to SmartWay, an EPA program committed to advancing supply chain sustainability, the transportation sector is responsible for over 50% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, over 30% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions, and over 20% of particulate matter (PM) emissions in the U.S. All of these pollutants contribute to poor air quality and put the health of people and our environment at risk.
SmartWay also adds that by 2025, shipments of U.S. goods are predicted to grow another 23.5%, and a total of 45% by 2040. As this trend continues upward, it’s more important than ever to offset the harmful effects of transportation-related pollution and harm to the environment.
1. Choose partners committed to eco-friendly shipping
You have options when it comes to selecting brokers and carriers to work with. It’s imperative that if you’re interested in eco-friendly shipping, that those responsible for moving your freight make concerted efforts to reduce the environmental risks involved with that transportation.
Before choosing to work with a broker or carrier investigate what kind of green shipping options they offer. For example, FedEx provides EarthSmart solutions, which includes initiatives like environmentally friendly packaging, fuel efficiency management, and eco-friendly vehicles. UPS has options for sustainable packaging that include reusable envelopes and an eco responsible packaging program.
You can also look for brokers and carriers that are SmartWay certified. This EPA program helps to reduce fuel use and increase efficiency. To become a SmartWay partner, the broker or carrier need to meet strict criteria and accountability standards. SmartWay also provides performance metrics each year for increased transparency.
2. Go green with your packaging
Investing in eco-friendly shipping supplies is another way you can reduce your carbon footprint. For e-commerce shipments, use products that were made from recycled materials or regenerative natural resources. There are a number of companies that sell environmentally conscious supplies. For example, EcoEnclose sells packaging products that meet stringent sustainable packaging criteria. It takes into account the recycled materials a product is made of as well as the carbon footprint across the entire supply chain.
On top of using packaging that is environmentally friendly, right-sizing your boxes is another way you can go green. Not only will it eliminate extra materials, but eliminating the extra space will help protect against dimensional (DIM) weight pricing. When you use packaging that is larger than the contents inside, you run the risk of paying to ship unused space. Not sure if DIM weight pricing would apply to your package? Check out our helpful DIM calculator.
To right-size your packages, look into ordering boxes that are customized for your products. EcoEnclose products are fully customizable from the box style, to the size and strength, and can even add your branding. You can also use FedEx Packaging Services, which offers design assistance as well as package testing so you can be confident that your package will hold up in transit.
For larger shipments, there are green shipping options for your pallets. You can purchase recycled pallets or use a pallet recycling program, like Millwood offers. The Millwood pallet recovery and recycling program will repair damaged pallets or completely remanufacture them. They also offer a green disposal process for pallets that are no longer useable – repurposing pallets into yard mulch, animal bedding, and more.
3. Consolidate orders
If you’re in the e-commerce space and you want to do your part to reduce carbon emissions and implement an eco-friendly shipping strategy, think about consolidating orders. In the age of Amazon Prime, consumers are expecting quicker and quicker delivery, which can make consolidating difficult. However, you can offer customer incentives like credits or freebies for selecting slower delivery options. If your customers are environmentally conscious, developing and marketing a “green shipping option” they can select could even be incentive enough. Also consider setting an order minimum before providing free shipping. This could cause customers to order several items at a time instead of placing separate one-off orders.
Consolidating orders can not only reduce the amount of vehicles on the road and the resulting emissions, but it can also save you money. For example, in many cases the cost to ship three 10 lb. boxes is significantly more than the cost to ship one 30 lb. box. It’s a win-win.
4. Make donations to offset your impact
This is perhaps one of the most obvious ways to move towards more eco-friendly shipping. Making donations to environmental programs for your shipments is a great green shipping option, and Carbon Fund offers an interesting way to do so. Use their shipping calculator to determine the carbon footprint of your shipments, then select a carbon offset project to donate to. They offer projects in energy efficiency, reforestation, and renewable energy to choose from. There are a large variety of projects, from one that collects and destroys landfill gas, to one that reduces tailpipe emissions by providing truck drivers with heating, air conditioning, and appliance services without requiring to idle their engine.
Overall, you can decide to take big or small steps towards a more eco-friendly shipping strategy, and every little bit helps! As a SmartWay partner, PartnerShip is committed to helping reduce the environmental impact from freight transportation. Get a free quote on your next shipment and start shipping smarter!
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Slow Season Tips for Shippers
02/19/2018 — Jen Deming
The make-or-break peak season for shippers has passed, and the holiday rush and subsequent surge of returns is over. Months of preparation and planning have paid off and now is the time businesses get to take it easy and enjoy the lull, right? Truth is, this is the most valuable time you can use to plan and forecast for the next year, so you better make the most of it. Here's some core tips on what shippers and business owners can do during the intermission.
Review and Reflect
One of the most important things a business can do almost immediately after a peak shipping season ends is step back and review how the busy period went. By taking a high-level look at successes and opportunities, it's easier to see what adjustments need to be made for more efficient operations in every area of business for a better bottom line. Is your industry consistently cyclic? Are busy times evolving into lengthier periods? Do you need to prepare earlier than you used to? Did you have a large enough workforce to fulfill orders easily? How effective were your marketing promotions? It's also imperative to take a closer look at this year's expenses and where most of your costs, both anticipated and unforeseen, were invested. How close did you come to your projected budget for the period? These are all variables that you need to look at in order to have successful subsequent peak seasons.
With less stress on order production, fulfillment, and replenishment, it's a great time to get organized and focus on what you can't during peak season. In order to operate more productively, it's important to make sure everything is in order from top down – office space, production facilities, and warehousing. Reviewing everything from payroll applications, updated production equipment, inventory strategy, and warehouse management technology is crucial in identifying potential roadblocks that may impede your business from operating at maximum potential. It's also a great time to reinvest in your staff, from developing additional training programs to conducting employee reviews on workplace culture and performance. With less immediate emphasis on production and meeting deadlines, a forward-looking business can also evaluate industry trends as well as evaluate peers. That way, you can better project what you need from purchasing inventory to hiring your sales force.
Good inventory management procedures are important in creating a seamless peak period, specifically for order fulfillment and replenishment. Now is the time to implement proper organization and best practices, in order to maximize efficiency and save time and money on the front-side. Depending on budget and expenses, the slower period is a good time to take a look at updating tech and software. RFID (radio frequency identification) systems, wireless LAN, and bar code systems can all help with monitoring of your sell-through cycle by improving accuracy giving you real-time data. It's also a very good time to take a look at your inbound shipping procedures for your supply orders. Are your vendor-directed options making sense for your business and your customers? If you haven't already, it's a good time to take control of your inbound shipping and take advantage of available alternatives.
To piggyback off of inventory management, it's a great idea to take a look at your shipping procedures as a whole. Was there a high amount of damages to your shipments during transit? Limiting the costs put into freight claims replacement orders is a great way to avoid unexpected expenses, and you can do this by reevaluating packaging type and procedures. Did you have difficulty hitting delivery deadlines? Oftentimes, fulfillment centers can charge for late arrivals or hold-overs in addition to sort and segregation fees. It may be smart to take a look at your available carriers or service options to see which make the most sense for your business and your customers. Different service options can save you time and offer peace of mind about the security of your shipments. With more time available to shop options, it's a great opportunity to collect shipping invoices and conduct a shipping audit with different carriers to see if you are getting the best rates available. Shipping costs add up, especially during heavier freight times, and this is another effective way to keep your expenses down.
Remaining vigilant and being proactive after peak season is crucial for businesses to prepare for upcoming peak periods. Taking a look at what can be improved going forward, and what worked for you in the past an ensure success, and less stress! A huge portion of preparing your business is making sure you have your shipping processes streamlined, and the experts at PartnerShip can help. From analyzing your freight costs, to making sure you have the proper services selected for your shipments, we find the solutions that are right for you. Call 800-599-2902, email sales@PartnerShip.com, or click below to get a free quote today!
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Get Control of Your Holiday Shipments
10/11/2017 — Leah Palnik
As a consumer, it might feel like it’s too soon to start thinking about the holidays, but retailers know that waiting is not an option. If you’re in the retail industry, you’ve probably already been receiving shipments from your vendors and preparing for the increase in business. As you’re getting ready for this busy time of year, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Set up inbound management
While you’re forecasting sales and preparing your inventory for the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are properly managing your inbound shipments. You need to have a good relationship with your vendors and be assured that they’ll be able to deliver your goods on time. You need efficient routings set up and you need to be able to plan ahead so you can avoid costly expedited services when you’re replenishing throughout the season.
This is where working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider or broker can make a big difference. A quality 3PL will create routings for you and ensure vendor compliance. They can also make sure you’re getting the best rates and service options for your time-sensitive shipments, by utilizing their buying power in the market.
Make sure your website is prepared for increased traffic
Online shopping is more popular than ever and will be a crucial part of your sales this holiday season. Don’t let technical issues get in the way of sales, when customer traffic to your site will likely be the highest of all year. Use a reliable web host and develop back-up plans in case of problems.
Clearly communicate shipping deadlines
There are some of us who are guilty of waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. When’s the last day to order for Christmas? Do you offer expedited options or any special seasonal guarantees that could give you a leg up over the competition? Managing customer expectations will increase your customer satisfaction. Clearly communicate this information on your website, during the purchasing process, and in emails to your subscribers.
Consider special promotions
Now is the time to pull out all the stops to maximize your sales. People are looking to buy, and it’s your job to incentivize them to bring their hard earned dollars to your store. According to a report by the National Retail Federation, 50% of shoppers cited a limited-time sale or promotion as the reason they were swayed to purchase an item they were on the fence about.
Even more notable, 64% of shoppers said that free shipping has influenced them to make a purchase. Offering free shipping has become the new normal in the world of ecommerce. If you’re worried about the costs of “free shipping” there are several different strategies you could try. For example, try setting the free shipping threshold above your average order amount to increase the amount people spend when making a purchase on your site. When executed properly, consumers will be more likely to add items to their cart to meet the minimum and it becomes a win-win.
Be aware of holiday surcharges
UPS recently introduced an additional surcharge for residential shipments during their peak season. The charge applies during two of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and for the week before Christmas. We don’t have to tell you that these are very critical parts of the year for your online orders. These charges can add up quickly and cut into your profits for the season. The good news is, FedEx won’t be following in their footsteps. The UPS competitor is only implementing an additional surcharge for oversized packages and special handling. Evaluate how you’re shipping out customer orders now and make any necessary changes before these times hit.
Set up a streamlined returns process
With increased holiday sales comes the inevitable – returns. According to a Narvar Consumer Report, 74% of customers said return shipping fees will prevent them from making a purchase. On the flip side, 72% said that a “no questions asked” return policy would make them more likely to buy from a retailer. The influence of the return policy on the purchase decision is undeniable. Make your return policy as customer friendly as possible and communicate it clearly at the beginning of the shopping experience. Also, take proactive steps like providing return labels in the original order and offering in-store returns so it is less of a headache for you and your customers.
Striking a balance with inventory, preparing your online store for increased traffic, and being mindful of your shipping options over the holidays can help make your season bright. When you work with PartnerShip, our shipping experts will help you with routings and ensure you’re receiving competitive pricing on your inbound and outbound shipments so you can focus on your business. Contacts us for a free shipping analysis to see how we could help you.
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What is Guaranteed LTL Shipping and When Should I Use It?
03/02/2017 — Jerry Spelic
What is guaranteed LTL service? It is a guarantee that your freight arrives by a pre-determined time of your choice on a standard-service delivery day.
It is very important to understand that LTL freight shipments are typically quoted with an estimated transit time. LTL freight carriers all have their own standard transit times, which take into consideration distance, the shipping lane in which the freight is moving and availability of trucks moving between the freight’s origin and destination. As an example, a carrier may estimate that freight moving between Atlanta and Chicago is two standard delivery days. Transit times are generally reliable, but again, are just an estimate so your shipment may be delayed.The standard LTL freight guaranteed delivery is a 5:00pm guarantee, which means that your shipment will be delivered by 5:00pm on your specified date of delivery. Another commonly used guarantee is a noon guarantee, where your freight must be delivered by noon on your specified date of delivery.
There is also a LTL guaranteed delivery window service, where you specify a time period in which a shipment must arrive (between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, for example).
When should you use guaranteed LTL service?
- When you are shipping to a retailer that has strict
delivery window requirements, or a MABD (Must Arrive By Date). Missing these delivery
dates and / or times may result in chargebacks of around 3% of the value of the
purchase order. So if an order valued at $50,000 was early or late, you’d pay a
$1500 fine. Paying extra for guaranteed LTL shipping is a small investment.
- When your customer requires just-in-time (JIT) delivery. If you
are shipping components to a manufacturer that utilizes JIT methodologies, a
delay in your component arriving may delay their production run, or shut it
down completely. This may result in a per-minute fine if your late delivery causes
a shutdown in production, or you may lose their business entirely.
- Similarly, if the delivery is required for an
installation in new construction or as a repair or replacement. For example, if
you are shipping a stainless steel fermentation tank to a new brewery, it needs
to arrive when the construction team needs it so that it can be installed and
not cause delays to their build-out schedule.
- When other shipping activity relies on your shipment
arriving at a specified time. For instance, you are shipping squishy stress
relief balls to a national non-profit association as part of an event
sponsorship. These stress balls, along with other sponsors’ promotional items,
will be put into “goodie bags” for event participants and shipped to local
chapters across the county for distribution. If your item doesn’t arrive in
time, it may be left out, and you may lose the brand impact that your
sponsorship was supposed to provide.
We have a couple of caveats to pass along regarding guaranteed LTL freight shipping. First, your shipment must happen during “business hours” on “business days.” This excludes holidays, so you should never assume that a guaranteed delivery can take place on a holiday. Second, it is important to find out if a guarantee is even available for your LTL freight shipment before you assume that one is. Some examples that may exclude a guarantee:
» Collect-on-Delivery (COD) shipments
» Oversized shipments
» Hazardous materials shipments
» Service to some remote areas
If you have questions about when to use guaranteed LTL freight service, or how to find freight carriers that offer guaranteed freight delivery, contact PartnerShip. We can help you stay competitive by matching your LTL freight shipping needs with the correct service option. Contact us at 800-599-2902 or get a quote now!
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- When you are shipping to a retailer that has strict delivery window requirements, or a MABD (Must Arrive By Date). Missing these delivery dates and / or times may result in chargebacks of around 3% of the value of the purchase order. So if an order valued at $50,000 was early or late, you’d pay a $1500 fine. Paying extra for guaranteed LTL shipping is a small investment.
Changes Coming to the FedEx Additional Handling Surcharge
04/28/2016 — Leah Palnik