ShipStation’s Holiday Prep Guide

Published on October 13, 2022
Written by
Filed under Shipping News
Read time 10 Minutes

The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for many retailers. And this increased order volume can create some chaos. But we’re here to help. With input from shipping experts from ShipStation, our partners, and our users, we have compiled a guide to help make sense of this chaos. We’ve got helpful hints and strategies to make packaging, fulfilling, and shipping your orders the easiest part of the holiday rush. 

We recommend looking at conversion rate, average order value, and ROI on marketing as indicators of your work paying off. Additionally, we recommend tracking your holiday season success by measuring the happiness of your customers using reviews, product return rates, and signups as indicators.


The Holidays Don’t Start With Black Friday

For consumers, the official start to the holiday season may be Black Friday, but ecommerce merchants have to start planning well in advance. Having an effective strategy involves more than changing your website’s banner image. Sometimes the holiday rush can feel like too much of a good thing.

Throughout the year, out-of-stock items can cause customer complaints. But this is amplified when buying gifts. And the busy holiday season sees a massive influx in gift-buying. Missed delivery dates can cause refunds, increased work to process returns, and bad reviews. Being able to scale with this increased holiday volume allows you to establish a larger customer base throughout the year—resulting in an even busier rush next year.

“Automating your backend operations so you can handle & properly control your stock.  You want to ensure you have a system in place to know when you need to re-order & what’s selling best (and in what sales channel)”

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What Changes Do I Need to Make?

Knowing how to prepare for an influx of orders, which supplies to order and when, and how to update your website to appeal to holiday shoppers is the first step. For instance, one thing that may seem minor, but is actually a major is setting up a good returns policy. 91% of customers factor return policies into their online shopping. And during the holiday season, this rate is even higher. Should you reorganize and add on to your warehouse or outsource fulfillment and which is cheaper?

Get great data-backed insight like:

Remove any purchase barriers to ensure easy checkout. Some merchants may require shoppers to sign in before making a purchase, but it’s better to encourage guest checkout during the holiday season to avoid abandoned carts.


Ensure that your site is well-optimized and designed to capture the increase of holiday demand. An easy CX trick is reformatting a home page so it displays product categories over specific products to begin a buyer’s journey. This funnels a consumer to their desired good, or whitespace to highlight prominent deals by making the product “pop” on the site.

-Born Group

Packaging and Advertising Tips:

A fantastic unboxing experience adds value to your products year-round, but it carries particular significance during the holidays when people are putting gifts under the tree. Holiday packaging also makes for some fantastic social media content.”


Don’t miss the chance to make your shipping boxes Christmas or Black Friday themed. Using beautifully decorated, colorful packaging truly enhances the gift value of your product during the holiday season. Also, how often do you see people sharing pictures of their prettiest gifts on their Social Media profiles? Making your products look good is one way to ensure your brand gets huge Social Media exposure.


When shoppers are inundated with ads everywhere they turn, a traditional lifestyle shot in front of a tree doesn’t cut it anymore. Think outside the giftbox! Break up the monotony with witty video ads. Pull on some heartstrings with reminders of what the season is truly about. Add depth to your brand with a charitable giveback component. Whatever you do, be thoughtful and unique!”


Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Once the holiday season starts coming to a close, you need to know which carrier services work best with which shipping options to meet shipping deadlines. Carriers, like everyone else, have to adjust their hours for the holiday schedule to accommodate the increased order volume. Understanding if any of your services have shortened or extended transit times will help you plan accordingly. Furthermore, Shopify reports that 40% of customers are still shopping within the final 10 days of the season. So, accommodating to these last-minute shoppers could mean the difference between a sale or an abandoned cart.

“The merchant has to trust that their suppliers will provide accurate visibility to current inventory levels with the required frequency so the product is not oversold AND that inventory positions across the DC, Store and Vendor Inventory can handle the forecasted sales volume during peak periods. If they are planning to source additional trading partners or SKUs for a particular season, confirming the supplier has the ability to fully support the various order fulfillment models leveraging automation in order to avoid unnecessary expansion of manual processes during this increased volume is essential.”

-SPS Commerce

DHL Express’s Shipping Deadline Hints

Add deadlines. Deadlines should be reiterated through the online purchase process. Remember, deadlines for reaching your international customers will differ from domestic. Convey them clearly to your customers.

  1. Make sure visitors understand exactly when they need to place an order by country and region, so their shipment will reach them before the holiday
  2. When designing your holiday website, consider placing notifications of relevant deadlines on your homepage to encourage international shoppers to make their purchases timely, and secure that the goods are in the hands of your happy customer!
  3. 30% of consumers would deliberately choose retailers who offer a next day/premium delivery option
  4. 45% of shoppers have abandoned their basket due to unclarity of delivery options
  5. 91% of consumers look for the available delivery options before reaching the check-out

-DHL Express (US)

Australia Post Shipping Tips

As we move towards the largest shopping events of the year, online shopping is just starting to ramp up.How you can prepare

  • Get in early to secure market share as customers shop earlier and competition intensifies.
  • Make allowances for the extended sales periods compared to previous years.
  • Keep an eye on stock levels, resources and manage customer expectations.
  • Take the opportunity to move old stock.
  • Balance shoppers’ expectations of substantial discounts by increasing basket size through threshold-based shipping offers, such as free express shipping.
  • Manage returns with a clear and up-front policy and a reasonable returns timeframe.Key tip: Offer threshold-based express shipping options to increase basket size and conversion.

How Do Customers Change During the Holiday?

Looking at your holiday planning through the right lens is important for making the most sales possible. Understanding how customers’ buying habits vary this time of year, including higher than average mobile shoppers. The importance of an efficient workflow is crucial. While free, slower shipping is largely preferred when we shop for ourselves, consumers are 75% more likely to upgrade for a more premium, express shipping service when buying gifts. 

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Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

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