Carrier Management for BFCM
Effectively managing your carriers during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) and Holiday busy seasons is essential to giving your customers a good post-purchase experience. With the increased shipping volume across the industry, there is always the risk of unexpected carrier capacity constraints and longer delivery times during this period. However, with a couple key strategies you can mitigate the risk that these challenges present, and ensure that your customers get the experience they expect. These include:
- Understanding Carrier Capacity
- Carrier Diversification
- Communication with Customers about Carriers
Understanding Carrier Capacity
One of the most important things to understand when heading into the BFCM and Holiday busy season, is that at least some of the carriers that you typically use will run out of capacity. Each carrier only has a certain amount of space on each vehicle in their fleet, whether that’s plane, train, or truck, and once that space has been filled they can no longer accept new shipments.
Note that if you’re a larger merchant, you’ll likely be notified by the carrier slightly in advance of their capacity running out, and can plan around this timeline accordingly. However, smaller merchants may not have this same warning and you should therefore be ready to switch carriers in bulk for customer shipments at any time.
Finally, to ensure that you get the most capacity out of each carrier, consider pre-generating shipping labels when possible. Carriers prioritize shipments chronologically from the time at which the label was generated, and pre-generating labels makes sure you stay at the top of the queue. Additionally, this will have the positive side effect of speeding up your packing stations, which will not need to wait for the label to generate.
Because of carrier capacity constraints, load balancing your customer shipments across multiple carriers is very important - you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket. Therefore, if a carrier does run out of capacity, the impact to your operations is minimized and only a certain fraction of your customer shipments will need to be reassigned to a new carrier.
In addition to the major, national carriers, consider onboarding several localized, regional last-mile carriers as well. These can be extremely effective at absorbing overflow volume from the larger carriers, and can often provide a superior customer experience in the last mile delivery as they are specialized to the specific region.
As an example, we’ve seen merchants have success with carriers like Fleet Optics for Western Canada shipments. Additionally, Fulfil’s integration with Shippo gives you access to 100s of carriers out of the box, and with Fulfil’s Carrier API it’s easy to integrate any additional carrier that has an API.
Communication with Customers about Carriers
The final step to set yourself up for success when it comes to carrier management during BFCM, is to not tell your customers which carrier you will be using during the checkout process. This is because often customers will have a specific carrier preference, and will be disappointed if you need to switch the carrier post-purchase.
That said, this doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your customers different shipping options, but instead of suggesting the specific carrier, structure the options around delivery times.
For example, don’t offer:
- UPS Ground (5-7 day shipping)
- DHL Air (2-3 day shipping)
- Standard shipping (1-7 day shipping)
- Express shipping (2-3 day shipping)
This enables your customers to have the option to expedite shipping if needed, but still gives you the flexibility to change carriers when required.
Furthermore, Fulfil will also optimize carrier selection in certain situations, which makes it more important to have flexibility around carrier selection. For example, if a customer lives in Seattle and your warehouse is also in Seattle, even if they select the fastest shipping option you obviously don’t need to ship by air. Fulfil will look at the requested shipping date, and the estimated delivery time of the different carrier options available, and select the cheapest option which still falls within the requested timeline.
An unexpected, last-minute carrier capacity issue can completely derail your BFCM fulfillment plans, and create a snowball effect with your warehouse team. This in turn can lead to increased emails to your support team, higher refund rates, and overall lower profitability.
That said, by following the advice in this article you can plan to effectively manage your carriers and give your team the flexibility they need for fulfillment. For more information about how Fulfil can help you manage your carriers, onboard with additional carriers, or to check out our Carrier API, book a demo with our team.