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Why Peak Season Planning Needs to be a Year-Round Endeavor

Order fulfillment and logistics teams should be looking at peak season planning year-round to keep their operations prepared.

As the world continues to grapple with the ripple effects of a global pandemic, retailers and manufacturers are working overtime to reimagine their parcel shipping and order fulfillment operations. While it’s nice to imagine a future in which things return to some semblance of normal, the reality is that today’s landscape may just be the new normal.

A whopping 75% of supply-chain leaders have faced issues producing and distributing goods since the pandemic began — and believe those issues will significantly change how they operate in the near future. The question is, how do organizations rework their logistics operations in a way that’s both cost-efficient and highly effective in meeting consumer expectations?

First, let’s take a closer look at why order fulfillment and logistics teams should be adopting a 12-month peak season plan that keeps their operations prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Supply Chain Disruptions are Unpredictable

Historically, retailers and manufacturers have minimized their supply chain risks by accounting for future events that could cause trouble. Disruptions like poor supplier performance or transportation breakdowns were common enough that shippers could determine the likelihood of these occurrences and estimate their impact on supply chain performance.

But in today’s world, supply chain disruptions occur with little to no warning, leaving order fulfillment teams scrambling to keep operations running smoothly. In 2021 and already in 2022, disruptions have come in many shapes and sizes.

Weather

The consequences of 2021 weather events including Hurricane Ida, a typhoon near Chinese ports, the Texas freeze, British Columbia flooding, and December tornadoes across the U.S. make it clear there is more than a health crisis challenging supply chains.

In a 2020 article from the McKinsey Global Institute, “…questions about supply-chain risks and resilience are now being raised in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as acute weather events. As climate change makes extreme weather more frequent and/or severe, it increases the annual probability of events that are more intense…increasing the likelihood of supply-chain disruptions.” For example, McKinsey estimates the likelihood of a hurricane to disrupt leading-edge chip production, and therefore electronics supply chains, may grow two to four times by 2040.

Suffice to say, weather-related supply chain disruptions will continue to wreak havoc in the coming years, and order fulfillment teams need to be proactive when it comes to getting ahead of the problem. According to Olivia Rockeman in Bloomberg, a good first step for companies looking to fortify order fulfillment operations against weather events is to “…map their supply chains to better understand exactly where risks lie, whether that’s a supplier on the Gulf Coast subject to hurricanes or a transport hub susceptible to flooding.” In addition, retailers and manufacturers should forge strong supplier relationships to ensure consistent and clear communication during a climate crisis.

Overseas Conflicts

Global conflicts between far-off countries may not seem like a pressing concern to your onshore operations, but overseas disputes can have very real-world implications on supply chains in the U.S. For example, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is expected to spike prices for a wide range of commodities, from gas and oil to wheat and barley. As hard as you may try, predicting these global conflicts and how they’ll impact supply chains in the United States is almost impossible. However, the experts at Gartner recommend supply chain leaders gain visibility into all tiers of their network, especially tier-1 suppliers.  Gartner also recommends diversifying sources and routes where possible and preparing risk response plans.

Labor Shortage

Despite recent wage increases, warehouses and carriers still struggle to hire and retain frontline employees. There’s also been an uptick in absenteeism and strikes, further fueling the supply chain shortage fire. And even as we get a firmer grip on the pandemic, evidence suggests warehouses will still face worker-retention issues. In a recent article in LaborNotes, Kim Moody writes, “According to the American Trucking Association there’s a ‘historic high’ shortage of 80,000 drivers. This isn’t just truckers down with the virus. Nor is this ‘shortage’ due to a lack of people who could drive trucks. As any Teamster can tell you, it’s stagnant pay, long hours, high stress, and health issues that drive workers from the industry and keep job seekers away. And that was the case well before the pandemic struck.

Warehouse workers, who also saw stagnant wages and poor conditions over this period, were also in relatively short supply for the same reasons. The recent wage increases—which resulted from these labor shortages and high ‘quit’ levels—are too little, too late.”

To combat labor challenges, supply chain managers and logistics experts may want to consider migrating from a “Just in Time” (JIT) order fulfillment approach to a “Just in Case” (JIC) model. Brands are now keen to hold a larger buffer stock and plan for longer fulfillment lifecycles. Many are investing in more extensive storage and distribution centers to create self-mandated insurance policies that will help protect their operations — and their customers — against supply chain disruptions such as labor shortages. Rather than keeping their inventory as lean as possible to minimize extra costs, manufacturers and retailers are planning for the unexpected and making upfront investments in more stock to secure their operations in the long term.

However, transitioning to a Just in Case (JIC) supply chain strategy doesn’t mean companies should take their best guess at inventory needs or buy out suppliers at every opportunity. On the contrary, companies should lean heavily on their data, including e-commerce data, logistics data, and inventory performance data. This data can help companies adjust their inventory management processes to optimize lead times without putting themselves at risk. Increased data visibility will enable brands to make informed decisions and deliver optimal results for their end consumers and their bottom line while still accounting for potential disruption in the months or years ahead.

Fuel Prices

As previously mentioned, gas and oil prices can spike unexpectedly. And when they do, it can have severe implications on retailers’ and manufacturers’ ability to move goods quickly and efficiently. An increase in fuel costs inevitably leads to a rise in transportation costs. On top of this, shippers will have to deal with surcharges passed down by suppliers, further increasing the cost of producing and delivering items to customers. The trickle-down effect from surging fuel prices can be brutal for unprepared shippers, which is why you should work today to prepare for the worst.

For shippers looking to find a workaround, diversifying transportation networks serves as a valuable tactic to combat surcharges. Companies that can create greater access to more carriers and invest in a cloud multi-carrier parcel shipping system will have flexibility and diversity in fulfillment and stand a better chance of keeping costs in check. Effective multi-carrier parcel shipping software allows you to quickly onboard new carriers – including regional and last-mile carriers – and automatically rate, rate shop, and identify the best carrier service for each parcel shipment given the shipment’s origin, destination, delivery timeframe, delivery cost, and any applicable business rules. From there, the software can consolidate shipments at the time of order to reduce your transportation costs further and print carrier compliant labels or other necessary documentation.

Consumer Expectations Have Raised the Bar

In the wake of the pandemic, the world changed in a lot of ways, particularly in the emergence of e-commerce as consumers’ preferred shopping method. McKinsey recently reported that, when looking at historical data, the e-commerce industry saw 10 years of growth in just 3 months.

In addition to high order volumes, the uptick in e-commerce spending has also heightened consumer expectations for fast delivery. Thanks to brands like Amazon, 41% of consumers are desirous enough of same-day delivery to pay a charge for the service, meaning the pressure is on your order fulfillment teams to get products out the door and onto the doorstep – fast.

Considering how e-commerce is forcing retailers to speed up their operations and handle more order volume on a consistent basis, it makes sense for order fulfillment teams to treat every month as if it were the traditional peak season. Building out your carrier network with multiple options from which you can source transportation is a good way to remain competitive in the modern supply chain landscape.

Also key is adopting and promoting omnichannel distribution strategies that allow you to pull multiple e-commerce order fulfillment levers – such as ship from distribution center or warehouse; ship from store; buy online pickup in store (BOPIS); buy online pickup curbside (BOPIC); and buy online, return in-store. But to pull these various levers, shippers must have a distribution infrastructure in place that includes a cloud multi-carrier parcel shipping system. A cloud multi-carrier parcel shipping system seamlessly integrates with a retailer’s WMS, OMS, e-commerce, and ERP solutions to automate high volume, multi-carrier, omnichannel shipping. Regardless of which delivery option a customer chooses, the system automatically selects the right carrier service for each order according to parcel origin, parcel destination, carrier contracts, and business rules; and creates or acquires the tracking, labels, and documents. Therefore, retailers can satisfy customers’ delivery requirements and drive down the cost of shipping while transforming logistics into a profit center within the business.

Logistyx: Be Ready for Whatever Tomorrow Holds

Navigating an uncertain future may seem like a lofty endeavor. Operating in peak-season mode year-round is no easy feat and requires proactive action and hard work on your end. But lightening the supply chain load is made much easier with the right tools at your disposal.

At Logistyx, we empower manufacturers, retailers, and logistics providers to ship millions of parcels worldwide at the lowest possible cost. Our platform is designed with the future of multi-carrier parcel shipping in mind and works to help you thrive in our same-day delivery economy while handling unforeseen disruptions in stride.

To learn more about the need for year-round peak season planning, listen to our very own Ken Fleming, President of Logistyx, speak on SupplyChain 24/7’s podcast here.

For those interested in learning more about Logistyx’s parcel shipping solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

3 Ways to Plan Early for Peak Season

Discover three ways you should use your experience and data to inform this year’s peak season planning.

For many, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but for retailers, peak season can prove quite stressful. After surmounting last year’s challenges, which included limited carrier capacity, under-stocked inventories, and increasing transportation rates, taking a moment to breathe may sound appealing. At the risk of being a kill joy, however, we advise our clients NOT to step away from the pallets, so to speak. On the contrary, with freshly collected peak season data, now is the perfect time to prepare for peak season 2022.

In the post below, we’ll discover three ways you should use your experience and the data you collected during peak season 2021 to inform this year’s order fulfillment and logistics strategies.

1. Expect Supply Chain Disruptions

It’s no secret, carriers across the globe have experienced significant setbacks because of COVID-19. And with the spread of the Omicron variant, the pandemic is proving it will continue to impact the shipping industry for some time to come. Already, major carriers like FedEx and USPS have faced a new wave of staffing shortages, which will again affect capacity and cause shipping delays. And we’re not even out of January!

In our opinion, it’s best to stop treating these hiccups as “disruptions” and instead consider them “the new normal.” To function optimally in this new normal, we advise looking at peak season data from 2021 and asking yourself critical questions, such as:

  • Were there delays you could have prevented if you had more carriers?
  • Did you incur unnecessary charges due to improper labeling?
  • Did you have the order fulfillment workflow flexibility you needed to handle unexpected disruptions and execute ship-from-store, ship-to-store for BOPIS or BOPIC, etc.?

Your answer to these types of questions may indicate you could benefit from parcel shipping technology to infuse agility into your order fulfillment operations and offset supply chain challenges.

2. Create a Multi-Carrier Strategy

Given the complexities and operational strain of high volume, global parcel shipping, relying on a single carrier is becoming obsolete. During last year’s peak season, we saw many unprepared shippers turn to the United States Postal Service (USPS) as a fallback option to get their products out the door in time.

Shippers should instead lean on a diverse network of carriers to avoid bottlenecks and maximize their capacity resources. Again, using parcel shipping technology can help. The goal of parcel shipping software is to help organizations ship high volumes of parcels quickly while decreasing transportation costs by making it easy to quickly onboard, leverage, and optimize multiple carrier services, including regional and last-mile providers.

Good warehouse management software, when integrated with parcel shipping software, will measure shipment volumes against carrier capacity thresholds and automatically help businesses manage their carrier capacity and optimize their shipping strategies – essentially maximizing capacity utilization to minimize transportation spend. Furthermore, by understanding how much product can ship with each contracted carrier at one time, shippers can also communicate accurate lead times and manage shipping expectations with their customers.

But a multi-carrier strategy isn’t the only way to solve this issue.

Many retailers have begun reexamining their retail footprint from new perspectives. No longer considering only ship-from-store to offset carrier capacity constraints, several retailers found other ways to leverage stores to reduce demand for traditional carrier services. First and foremost, retailers have begun to not just offer services like buy online, pickup instore (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, but to also  incentivize consumers to choose these fulfillment options. Belk, Petco, Target, and Walmart were among the first to offer customers discounts for picking up orders, but carrier capacity constraints have helped the concept catch on with others.

eBook - eBook Peak Season Parcel Shipping Thrival Guide

3. Plan for Damage Control

No matter how smoothly your organization runs during peak season, you should always be prepared for a disruption of some kind. Whether there is a period of extreme weather, a warehouse fire, power outages, or some other unforeseen event, it’s better to be safe than sorry and have the necessary flexibility to quickly execute contingency plans and proactively communicate with customers when things go wrong.

To meet this requirement, companies need a Control Tower. A Control Tower for parcel is unique because it “reacts” to the information it receives. Much like an airport control tower, which receives signal, GPS, location, and speed data that enables good decision-making, the Control Tower for parcel knows that when an order is placed, the warehouse is stocked and ready to ship the goods to a customer. It also knows the order is ready for parcel carrier pick-up – the point at which it appears on the customer’s radar (usually in the form of a tracking number).

In the event of a delivery delay, the Control Tower can flag the event, which gives the shipper the opportunity to communicate with the customer and make good. For example, perhaps the product can be sent from a different distribution center to arrive on time. Or perhaps the customer is willing to retrieve the product from a nearby store or locker. Or perhaps the shipper is willing to offer a discount on the customer’s next order. Customers will pay attention to how you handle mishaps and communicating clearly and openly about any delivery delays will affirm their trust in your brand.

Count on Smooth, Successful Parcel Shipping

Preparing for peak season can be a challenge no matter your industry expertise. Logistyx can help you manage carrier capacity, navigate supply chain disruptions, and ensure smooth parcel shipping through peak season 2022 and beyond. Contact our team to see how our solution can best serve you.

Returns Eating into Retailer Margins after Holiday Season

According to The Wall Street Journal, extended return windows for holiday shoppers combined with rate increases from parcel carriers could cut into profit margins significantly. They estimate that between $112 billion and $114 billion in goods could be returned to U.S. retailers, up from $100 billion in 2020 and $95 billion in 2019.

Between carrier capacity constraints, rising shipping costs, and staff pay to process the returns and evaluate whether the products can be shelved and re-sold, the costs add up quickly. In fact, for some retailers, it’s less expensive to refund the money and let the customer keep the item than to take it as a return.

Logistyx has detailed the importance of having a comprehensive returns strategy in place numerous times, setting up a parcel returns resource center dedicated to the topic. Among the resources available:

While the returns trend isn’t new, it’s still an overlooked part of the sales process that retailers must consider and optimize to ensure both customer satisfaction and a healthy bottom line.

Contact us today to learn how advanced multi-carrier parcel shipping technology can help your organization optimize it’s returns process and determine which approach is best based on your business goals.

eBook - eBook Peak Season Parcel Shipping Thrival Guide

Digital Commerce 360: Online Holiday Sales Set to Maintain Gains During 2021 Peak Season

To help open the potential to grow e-commerce sales during peak, retailers will have to  find creative ways to encourage 2021 holiday sales from other parts of the world and improve e-commerce fulfillment.

While 2020 brought an unprecedented surge in digital holiday sales, Digital Commerce 360 projects U.S. consumer spending online is set to grow a more modest 12.1% year over year (YoY) this 2021 holiday season. Still, digital revenue for the pivotal November-December period is expected to surpass the $200 billion mark for the first time, reaching $215.45 billion in e-commerce sales. The digital share of total retail sales will hit 25.5%, meaning more than $1 in every $4 spent on retail purchases during the 2021 holiday season will come from online orders.

Even with e-commerce sales growth expected to slow from last year, achieving robust gains on top of last year’s historic jump is notable given shoppers’ willingness to increasingly turn to online shopping and omnichannel services to purchase goods, even across borders.

Logistyx recently commissioned a survey showing purchase influences in cross-border e-commerce on consumers’ holiday shopping behavior this year. The research reveals that 55% of online shoppers from around the world would be open to buying holiday gifts from countries other than their own.

Respondents also indicated the following factors would impact whether to buy holiday gifts from a company abroad:

  • Price of the product (71%)
  • Uniqueness of the product (69%)
  • The ability to easily track orders online (69%)
  • Estimated delivery time (69%)
  • Having an easy returns process (69%)
  • Holiday sales and promotions offered by the e-commerce site (60%)

eBook - eBook Peak Season Parcel Shipping Thrival Guide

To help open the potential to grow e-commerce sales during peak, retailers will have to  find creative ways to encourage holiday gift sales from other parts of the world and improve e-commerce fulfillment.

Developing an omnichannel distribution strategy that includes e-commerce, in-store pickup, ship from store, etc. and utilizes advanced cloud-based multi-carrier shipping systems can position retailers for success during the holidays and beyond by providing them with greater flexibility to achieve cost savings while improving customer service and fulfillment. With the right technology, retailers can better respond to peak season demand to execute various fulfillment scenarios and enhance customer satisfaction.

To learn how you can take advantage of e-commerce growth and navigate various shipping scenarios this peak season and beyond, download our Peak Season Parcel Shipping Thrival Guide.

Customer Relationships at Stake as Peak Season Approaches

Regardless of preparedness, most retailers should brace for significant challenges this peak season. Atop the explosive growth of e-commerce in 2020, experts are calling for additional growth this year. The National Retail Federation revised its annual forecast in June 2021, projecting 2021 non-store and online sales to grow another 18-23 percent to $1.09-1.13 trillion, and many retailers should expect significantly more e-commerce order volume.

Merchants and other shippers also face lingering supply chain difficulties across a wide range of industries and products, as well as widespread shipping capacity limitations imposed by carriers. Some carriers have stopped accepting new peak season business completely, including some regional carriers. OnTrac, for example, stopped accepting new peak business on September 1.

Capacity limitations, of course, only represent part of the carrier-related peak season challenges shippers must overcome. Following suit with other major carriers like FedEx and UPS, even the USPS announced peak season surcharges for 2021, and if not properly managed, the additional fees and rate increases imposed by FedEx and other carriers can prove to be even more costly.

Alternative means of fulfilling orders can take pressure off some shippers; it can also help them attract new customers who prefer to shop online but pick up at the store or require faster delivery from a local distribution point. This is particularly true for retailers who can leverage a footprint of physical stores or tap into a new breed of gig economy carriers.

Free White Paper - Simplifying Multi-Carrier Parcel Management for Peak Season and Beyond

While all these solutions have the potential to help shippers improve performance and please customers during peak season, implementing them disrupts the workflows of unprepared distribution centers and stores, especially when done so haphazardly. A failed implementation can be more costly than no implementation at all in many of these cases.

With peak season here, shippers that have yet to come to terms with these challenges should honestly assess how bad things could get and consider what options may still be available to them to mitigate some of the problems. For most shippers, this means determining the right solution and the right now solution.

The Right Now Solution

It’s too late for unprepared shippers to properly address the problem this year. Band-Aid solutions will fill the gap for partially or totally unprepared shippers. Many unprepared U.S. shippers will rely more than ever on the USPS, for example.

Those who have diversified their carrier network to at least include multiple carriers will direct parcel volume to different partners, and multi-carrier parcel shipping technology can help them do this in a strategic and cost-effective manner. Those with business intelligence at their fingertips can consider more than cost to manage the entirety of their parcel shipping needs as effectively as possible.

Previous Fulfillment Investments Now Easing the Crunch for Some

Navigating peak season is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even partially prepared shippers will lean on their strengths to ease the crunch.

Omnichannel retailers facing major carrier-related challenges may, for example, want to determine the value of each order that can be fulfilled without the use of a national carrier. Those who determine this to be a valuable outcome can stock locally popular products in nearby stores for quicker shipments with alternate carriers. Others will provide compelling incentives to customers, encouraging them to buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) or accept slower shipping. All these efforts can reduce fulfillment pressure on the organization.

Omnichannel retailers like Walgreens, which implemented same-day delivery in under two hours for more than 24,000 retail products, will be tapping into gig economy carriers for additional capacity. This can help to offset need for national carrier capacity and drive more sales to existing and new customers.

Shippers of all types who have taken the time to onboard additional carriers will have multiple pools of carrier capacity available to them. For some, this might only consist of two national carriers; others may have onboarded multiple major carriers, the USPS, and regional carriers where they fit nicely. Multi-carrier parcel shipping technology not only helps shippers deploy carriers more strategically, but it can also help them prioritize efforts to secure the right carrier mix in the first place to best meet customer expectations. With the right carriers in place, this technology empowers shippers to optimize carrier deployment for on-time delivery, cost saving, performance, and more.

The Right Solution

On January 2, while navigating returns season, tear off the Band-Aid measures put in place this year as the right now solution and begin to heal your fulfillment processes. Do not make the same mistake again; start planning for peak season right away in 2022. Shippers should secure executive support for the changes that need to be made to implement the right solution and invest in fulfillment processes so they can be readier than ever for Peak 2022. Addressing the need for carrier capacity and cost containment early in the year can free teams up to focus on growing sales and pleasing customers with far fewer fulfillment worries.

Unprepared shippers have very few fulfillment options available to them for 2021 Peak at this point, but whether there’s a need for last-minute guidance and recommendations or it’s time to start getting strategic with 2022 in your sights, Logistyx can help. To learn more, watch our webinar, Embrace the Unprecedented Pace and Scale of Parcel Shipping Technology.

An Open Message from Logistyx this Peak Season

Thank you for trusting Logistyx. We are grateful for our partnership and for the opportunity to help you this peak season.

Before the pandemic, supply chain topics rarely appeared in mainstream newspapers (and certainly not on the front page). The last 18 months, however, have changed this. Exploding e-commerce order volumes, increasing carrier capacity crunches, shipping surcharges and price increases, and, of course, heightened customer expectations for rapid and inexpensive shipping have all complicated order fulfillment and logistics for shippers around the world.

Every day, we meet with companies that have no choice but to rethink their order fulfillment strategies and innovate the ways in which they deliver products to their customers to successfully compete in this new shipping landscape. There’s no doubt the definition of ‘usual’ in ‘business as usual’ has changed, perhaps permanently, and peak season is now looming as a time of great stress and uncertainty for many.

This is a moment in time when the work Logistyx does is most critical, and therefore now seems a perfect opportunity to say,

Thank you for trusting Logistyx. We are grateful for our partnership and for the opportunity to help you and your teams execute parcel shipping on a global scale. We will continue to enable you to achieve your parcel shipping KPIs by adding new features and functionality, carriers, and support to help you optimize our solution.

Our customers are at the heart of our company.. You are why we strive to be the leading cloud-based multi-carrier shipping technology provider in the world, empowering companies of all sizes to build more efficient, intelligent, connected supply chains. And while this peak season will be challenging in many ways, the current shipping environment has only strengthened our purpose and fueled our determination to enable our customers to thrive.

Our faith in our ability to deliver for you is unwavering and based on our many successes over the last year and a half, which include enabling pharmaceutical manufacturers to deliver life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to global populations and empowering pharmacy chains to enable same-day delivery in under two hours.  These use cases reinforce our technology’s potential and highlight why the work Logistyx teams do with our customers every day is a source of incredible pride.

Best-in-Class Service; Technical Reliability

Our deepest purpose as your multi-carrier shipping software provider is to enable your success with dependable technology performance. Know you will experience best-in-class service and support in the weeks ahead, as well as the necessary technical reliability. Additionally, we will work extraordinarily hard to maintain an open dialogue with you to learn from this peak season to guarantee Logistyx continues to deliver value in 2022.

Our account management and customer support teams, backed by our executive team, are here to answer your questions and address any challenges you face. We have also published a Carrier Updates and Resources page on our website to help you track changes in carrier services and shipping costs.

Cause for Optimism

We look forward to navigating this unprecedented peak season with you and helping you maximize your investment in our technology. And though the increasing complexity of global supply chain disruptions will continue to test our resilience ― we see so much cause for optimism in the years ahead and feel confident we can overcome incredible challenges. It is our profound appreciation for you—our customers, partners, and all others in the global supply chain community—that inspires everyone at Logistyx to meet you where you are and transform your parcel shipping operations to take you where you want to be.

Sincerely,

The Logistyx Team

 

 

Logistics Viewpoints: Logistyx’s Ken Fleming Discusses the ‘Right’ and ‘Right Now’ Solutions for Peak Season Prep

Logistyx President Ken Fleming discusses the ‘right’ and the ‘right now’ solutions for peak season prep in 2021.

Online shopping continues to dominate in 2021 and many retailers should expect significantly more e-commerce orders during peak season. With the carrier capacity crunch and other challenges looming, seamlessly fulfilling all those orders will be no easy task for many merchants.

On the heels of Aimee Tierney guiding under-prepared retailers on what still might be possible as they brace for Peak 2021 in a recent Total Retail article, Logistyx President Ken Fleming discusses the right strategy for shippers to navigate future peak seasons and the right now strategy to more urgently mitigate some of the challenges of the upcoming peak season in his latest column for Logistics Viewpoints. Ken shares insights on leveraging business intelligence and a merchant’s own parcel shipping strategy to light the path to this year’s short-term solutions and next year’s roadmap for strategic investment to do peak season right.

“Band-Aid solutions can still help partially prepared shippers make the best of what may be a bleak situation, and the range of options available depends largely on just how much preparation has been done,” Ken states.

“On January 2, while navigating returns season, shippers should tear off the Band-Aid measures put in place this year as the right now solution and begin to heal their fulfillment processes. They should start planning for peak season right away in 2022 to avoid entering peak season unprepared again.”

Read Ken’s full article, “Peak Season Preparations for This Year and Next,” to learn how shippers can take stock of existing capabilities to determine what’s possible for this peak season and solidify plans to implement impactful strategies to get through Peak 2021.

Holiday Headaches? Retailers Must Prepare for 2021 Peak Season Challenges

While it’s the most wonderful time of the year for many, the holiday season can be stressful for the retail industry. Soaring e-commerce growth over the last 18 months has kept retailers on their toes, especially as they scramble to prepare for the added challenges of peak season 2021.

As Digital Commerce 360 reports, “2020’s peak holiday season was a peak on top of a peak” with U.S. shoppers spending $201.32 billion online during the season, up 45.2% from $138.65 billion in 2019. Remarkably, the pace of e-commerce sales has barely let up since last holiday season; meanwhile, retailers have had to contend with additional challenges driven by the ongoing pandemic, including periodic manufacturing shutdowns, transportation backlogs, and labor shortages that have disrupted supply chains for months, as Digital Commerce 360 points out.

Once again, retailers face a heavily strained supply chain this peak season, with online purchases outpacing resources required to meet the increased demand, leading to probable shipping delays on top of the reality of limited personnel, containers, and in some cases products. Retailers will have to get creative to safeguard against rising carrier rates and reduced capacity while finding ways to improve the way they fulfill e-commerce orders.

Free White Paper - Simplifying Multi-Carrier Parcel Management for Peak Season and Beyond

To minimize shipping and fulfillment headaches heading into peak season 2021, retailers should already be preparing by implementing the right mix of shipping and omnichannel strategies, including Buy Online, Pick-up In Store (BOPIS), ship-from-store, and on-demand delivery.

Developing an omnichannel distribution strategy that includes e-commerce, in-store pickup, ship from store, etc. and utilizes advanced cloud-based multi-carrier shipping systems positions retailers for success in the face of mounting challenges by providing them with greater flexibility to achieve cost savings while improving customer service and fulfillment.

Having the right technology to execute various fulfillment scenarios will improve customer satisfaction and enable retailers to better respond to peak season demand.

Contact Logistyx today to learn how you can ensure smooth parcel shipping this peak season and beyond.

Holiday Shipping and Return Policies for Major Retailers

The holiday season is always a busy one for shopping, which means it’s a busy one for both shipping and returns as well. But this is a year unlike any other, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you ventured out for Black Friday, chances are you didn’t see nearly as many people as usual.

Smaller crowds doesn’t mean holiday shopping has gone away entirely, though. Yes, there will likely be a small drop in overall holiday shopping volume thanks to the economic downturn that has accompanied the pandemic, but the bigger takeaway is just how much holiday shopping is moving from physical to online this year.

Companies have taken note, and many are updating their holiday shipping and return policies to accommodate these changes.

Overview of Shipping and Return Policy Changes

As far as shipping goes, many retailers are offering free or reduced shipping in more generous ways than the rest of the year. Additionally, thanks to increased shipping volumes, you should be prepared for shipping times that are longer than what’s typical. Many items will still arrive quickly, but it’s something of which to be aware.

And if your purchases fail to wow? Good news: many retailers are extending the returns period for items purchased during the holiday season (roughly end of October through end of December) to spread out the in-store returns crowd. In the middle of a pandemic, brick and mortar businesses don’t want long lines of customers waiting on returns.

Of course, specifics vary from company to company. See below for shipping and return details for five top retailers.

Amazon

Amazon is the king of quick shipping, and this should continue (with some exceptions) through the holidays. Prime members can expect their usual level of service: free two-day, one-day, or even same-day shipping (for orders over $35) on most items depending on where they live. If you’re not a Prime member, shipping times and rates vary, but free standard (read: not two-day) shipping is available on many orders over $25.

All Amazon customers have the same holiday returns policy. Amazon allows returns until January 31 for anything shipped between October 1 and December 31.

One caveat with Amazon: look carefully at promised shipping times as well as sellers. Amazon hosts thousands of third-party sellers. Some play by their own rules: they don’t participate in Prime, they don’t promise speedy shipping times, and returns can work differently.

Home Depot

Home Depot might not top your mental list of holiday shopping destinations, but in reality, the hardware megaretailer does significant holiday business. This year, Home Depot isn’t making any specific changes for holiday shipping or returns. That said, their existing policy is quite generous.

Most Home Depot items can be returned for an impressive 180 days from the purchase date. Certain categories (gas-powered equipment, rugs, and furniture) have a shorter, 30-day return window.

Home Depot offers free shipping on most orders over $45 and on appliances over $396. Their most in-demand items are available with two-day delivery.

Macy’s

Many Macy’s items have a 90-day return window, with some exceptions. For the holidays this year, Macy’s has extended their holiday return window through January 31, 2021, for all holiday purchases made through December 31. If your purchase has a 90-day return window that lasts beyond January 31, the longer window remains valid.

As far as shipping, Macy’s differs from other retailers. Their website lays out an array of rates as well as a holiday shipping calendar. Orders over $99 ship free for everyone in the continental U.S. Orders under $99 cost $10.95 for standard shipping unless you’re a Platinum or Gold Macy’s Cardmember. Note: this is for standard shipping, which takes three to six days.

Faster shipping methods are available on most orders for a decent fee.

Macy’s also recommends ordering most in-stock merchandise by December 18 at the latest for arrival by December 25.

Target

Target isn’t making any specific adjustments for the holidays as far as we can find. That said, their standard shipping and returns policies are pretty great. On the shipping end, everything ships free and arrives in two days if you use your RedCard (Target’s store credit card) or if you spend at least $35.

As far as returns go, Target will take just about any item for 90 days after purchase as long as the item is unopened. Target-branded items have a much more generous policy: they can be returned for a full year from purchase date.

There are, of course, a few exceptions to this generous returns policy. One great thing about Target is that they specify these exceptions on the sales receipt.

Walmart

Walmart now offers free next-day or two-day delivery in many ZIP codes on most orders over $35, which continues through the holidays. If you don’t live in a ZIP code that qualifies for either of those categories, Walmart will still offer free standard shipping on orders over $35.

Walmart’s holiday returns policy has several layers to it. For purchases from October 16 through December 25, most items have a returns extension. Those that would have had a 14-day window may be returned through January 8. Those with a 30-day window get extended to January 24, and those with a 60-day window get pushed to February 23.

Note that third-party Marketplace sellers aren’t included in the above dates.

‘Tis the Season to Orchestrate your Parcel Shipping

If you’re a seller struggling to compete in this changing market, you need a transportation management system (TMS) to seamlessly orchestrate your parcel shipping. Logistyx can meet this need. Let’s chat today.

 

EPSNews: Logistyx President Ken Fleming Shares Insights for Avoiding Holiday Shipping Capacity Challenges

Now entering the thick of the holiday season with the pandemic resurging, the continued growth in online orders will lead to a significant increase in parcel shipping this peak season, with more packages headed to consumers’ doorsteps than ever before. Every part of the shipping chain will be stressed, with the last-mile part of the journey being stretched the most. In addition to shipping delays this holiday season, businesses must also contend with peak delivery surcharges and this peak season will add unprecedented expenses to shippers’ transportation budgets.

In a recent article for EPSNews, Logistyx Technologies President Ken Fleming discusses some of the shifts consumers and merchants are making to navigate this unique peak shopping season. He shares insights on carrier surcharges, early shopping trends, and other obstacles fulfillment teams face entering peak season 2020.

To manage the excess volumes successfully and offer cost-effective ways to meet rapidly evolving customer demands, many merchants have implemented fulfillment strategies that include a multi-carrier transportation network. By growing their carrier network, merchants can introduce more options and capacity into the parcel delivery mix and create greater flexibility and diversity in fulfillment to stay ahead of delivery capacity shortages and increasing e-commerce volumes.

Read Ken’s full article on EPSNews: “Avoiding the Strain of Shipping Capacities This Holiday Season

 

Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2020: What You Need to Know

With the 2020 holiday shipping deadlines quickly approaching, there are so many predictions this year’s peak season will see unprecedented shipping volumes, some have referred to it as “Shipaggedon.” The reasons for the doomsday forecast?

  • There’s a substantial influx of consumers shopping online for the holidays. In fact, the best guess right now is that online sales will grow in 2020 by 25% to 35%, which translates into a big increase in both domestic and international parcel shipping compared to the same time frame last year.
  • People are foregoing their usual holiday parties, which means many will mail gifts to friends and family they might normally see in person.
  • A second wave of the pandemic and new series of lockdowns has once again triggered a surge in online orders of essential goods.
2020 holiday shipping deadlines print
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It’s also important to note, stores are planning for lower-than-average in-store sales. It doesn’t make sense for retailers to stock inventory that won’t be sold, and they don’t want to invest in inventory that’s likely to stay on shelves for months. For the consumer, this means there will be fewer products available, and shopping early makes the most sense.

Pay Attention to the Dates

To survive Shipaggedon and make sure packages arrive on time, consumers need to know their shipping deadlines. Each carrier is expecting delays and they’re proactively letting customers know their “ship by” dates:

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

The United States Postal Service has its shipping schedule posted online with helpful tips. They typically experience their busiest time of year about two weeks before Christmas. According to their website, the USPS is gearing up for a season that is projected to be busier than usual. Here are some of the dates to which you need to pay attention if you’re shipping through the USPS:

  • Ground Mail: Ground service is the most budget-friendly, but it also takes the longest. If you’re sending packages through ground service, you need to mail them earlier. December 15 is the last date to mail most packages by ground service to ensure they are delivered on time. December 6 is the last date to mail any packages to military or diplomatic post office addresses. If you’re shipping care packages to service members, make sure you send them extra early.
  • First-Class Mail: December 18 is the last date to mail first-class mail and have it delivered on time. December 11 is the last date to mail first-class or priority mail to military or diplomatic post office addresses.
  • Priority Mail: December 19 is the last day to send packages by Priority Mail.
  • Priority Express: December 23 is the last day to send packages Priority Mail Express.

Some area codes and locations may have different schedules. Check your local post office to verify what their schedule is or visit the USPS website to verify any changes to the shipping schedule as the season progresses.

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines

FedEx has updated its schedule for holiday shipping on its website. You’ll notice some of the dates are earlier than in years past. You can still use the same day and priority overnight shipping options, but you can expect to pay more for these options.

  • Overnight should be mailed by December 23.
  • The same day delivery option is available on December 25.
  • For FedEx Ground and Home delivery, which are some of the most cost-effective options, you need to send your packages by December 15.
  • The FedEx Saver and 3-Day Freight packages need to be shipped by December 21.

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

UPS has their shipping options available on their website, along with the dates their locations are closed. Here is an overview of your time-table to ship with UPS:

  • December 15 is the last day to send packages using UPS Ground Service.
  • December 21 is the last day to send packages using UPS3 Day Select.
  • December 22 is the last day to send packages using UPS2nd Day Air.
  • December 23 is the last day to send packages using UPS Next Day Air.

If you’re planning to send packages using the standard ground service, December 15 is the universal deadline to have everything shipped. After this date, you’ll need to use a more expensive option in order to have your packages delivered on time.

Accommodate Consumers this Peak Season – and Beyond

The escalating delivery capacity shortage and increasing e-commerce volumes continue to raise the stakes for many businesses. Companies that can invest in a multi-carrier shipping system that creates flexibility and diversity in fulfillment stand a better chance of keeping costs in check. If you’re a shipper looking to add new carrier services to your transportation network to better accommodate consumers this peak season and beyond, contact a Logistyx expert today.

 

 

Digital Commerce 360: Ken Fleming on Peak Season Fulfillment Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted order fulfillment capabilities for retailers around the globe. While most finally managed to adjust systems to handle the volume spike, an unprecedented peak season raises a giant red flag. Major carriers have already alerted enterprise shippers they have limited capacity on top of announcing holiday surcharge increases.

In a recent article for Digital Commerce 360, Logistyx President Ken Fleming discusses the unique challenges:

“To reduce shipping costs, retailers need to manage flow amongst carriers via rate shopping, minimize the impact of surcharges during peak season, and choose the best-fit carrier and service for each fulfilled order. But by tying themselves to just one or two carriers, retailers have no chance to reduce costs.”

And how multi-carrier shipping technology provides a critical solution:

“Retailers looking to employ a multi-carrier shipping strategy to reduce shipping costs while also seeking to keep the process as simple as possible can turn to technology. SaaS-based multi-carrier shipping software ensures shippers can nimbly adjust to changing dynamics, whether pandemic-induced or merely the result of naturally growing sales.”

To learn how to reduce the risk of missing essential delivery windows for peak season, leaving customers unhappy and losing sales, read the full article on Digital Commerce 360: “Retailers not scaling fulfillment capacity are already behind the 8 ball