The holiday season, Black Friday, and the end-of-year rush can be a double-edged sword for businesses.
While it's a time of increased sales and revenue opportunities, it's also a period marked by shipping challenges.
For small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs), managing the surge in orders during peak season is crucial for customer satisfaction and profitability, but the increased stress across the global supply chain can easily have negative effects on those who are unprepared.
In this blog post, we'll outline 5 essential tips to help your business navigate the 2023 peak season successfully.
What is the State of the Global Supply Chain in 2023?
Anyone who has spent the last few years in the shipping industry knows that the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are still affecting global supply chains to this day.
While on the surface this does not bode well for shippers heading into peak season, upon further investigation there is some hope.
In two recent reports from Reuters, while parts and labour shortages are still fueling higher-than-average rates, there has been a steep year-over-year decline in East Asia to U.S. West Coast container rates, helping to offset overall costs.
So, while 2023 may not be the most challenging peak season in recent years, it’s clear that shippers still aren’t out of the woods yet.
Whether it’s your first peak season or your fiftieth, the following tips can help you stay on track despite the challenges that 2023 has in store.
1. Plan Ahead and Forecast Accurately
One of the most common pitfalls during peak shipping season is underestimating the demand and failing to plan accordingly. To avoid this, start preparing well in advance.
Review historical sales data from previous peak seasons to identify patterns and trends.
This information can help you estimate the expected increase in orders and plan your shipping strategy accordingly.
Additionally, establish a clear communication channel with your suppliers, carriers, and logistics partners.
Make sure they are aware of your peak season needs and can accommodate increased shipping volumes.
Consider negotiating favorable rates and securing capacity ahead of time to prevent disruptions.
Also, consider creating a contingency plan for unforeseen challenges. While thorough planning is essential, it's equally important to have backup solutions in place to address unexpected issues that may arise during the peak season.
This proactive approach ensures that your shipping operations remain resilient even in the face of unexpected challenges, enhancing your reputation for reliability and customer satisfaction.
2. Optimize Your Packaging
Efficient packaging and pallet preparation is often overlooked but can make a significant difference in shipping costs and delivery times, especially during peak season.
Reevaluate your packaging materials and methods to ensure they are both cost-effective and protective of your products.
Consider using standardized packaging sizes to minimize wasted space and reduce potential overweight surcharges.
Invest in high-quality packaging materials that offer better protection while keeping the weight as low as possible.
Additionally, ensure that your packaging complies with carrier guidelines to prevent delays or extra charges.
As an added step, explore opportunities to reduce packaging waste and improve sustainability. While it may not seem especially relevant to peak season, eco-friendly packaging options not only appeal to environmentally conscious customers but can also contribute to cost savings and positive brand image.
3. Leverage Technology and Automation
Technology and automation can be your greatest allies when it comes to managing peak season shipping.
Implementing a Transportation Management System (TMS) or working with a reputable logistics platform like Freightcom can streamline your shipping operations.
These tools can help you optimize routes, track shipments in real-time, and manage inventory more efficiently.
They also provide valuable data and analytics that can inform your decision-making and help you identify areas for improvement.
Moreover, consider offering online tracking and order status updates to your customers.
Transparency in the shipping process can improve customer satisfaction and reduce customer inquiries during peak season, therein reducing stress points across your business’ supply and fulfillment chain.
By automating your shipping process, you can streamline order processing, and reduce manual errors, which can potentially occur more frequently on account of peak season’s sharp uptick in volume.
Additionally, invest in employee training to ensure that your team can make the most of the technology at their disposal. Well-trained staff can troubleshoot issues more effectively and maximize the benefits of automation, ultimately leading to smoother operations and enhanced customer service.
4. Diversify Your Carrier Options
Relying on a single carrier during peak season can be risky.
Carriers often experience capacity constraints and delays during this period, which can lead to missed delivery deadlines and unhappy customers.
To mitigate this risk, be sure to diversify your carrier options.
Working with multiple carriers not only increases your flexibility but also allows you to leverage carrier-specific strengths and cost-effective solutions.
Some carriers may excel in specific regions or offer better rates for certain shipping lanes, so diversifying your options can be a strategic advantage.
5. Know the Peak Season Surcharges
The unfortunate reality of shipping during peak season is that no matter what, surcharges in some shape or form are ultimately unavoidable for shippers.
As with much of the advice we’ve talked about so far, being informed and prepared is the key to ensuring that these surcharges don’t end up being a problem for your business.
That’s why every year Freightcom helps you stay prepared with our list of annual peak season surcharges, to help keep you on time, and on budget.
Trust Freightcom to Help You Navigate the Ups and Downs of Peak Season
At Freightcom, we understand the unique needs of SMBs in the shipping industry, especially during peak season.
Our platform offers you discounted rates on a wide range of LTL and courier shipping services from North America’s leading carriers all for zero upfront or monthly fees.
Reach out to one of our shipping experts today to learn more about how Freightcom can help support your shipping year-round.