Why and How to Create a Holiday Shipping Calendar

Fifty-six percent of holiday shoppers plan to do at least some of their shopping online, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

With the holidays looming overhead as fast approaching deadlines, shoppers are anxious for reassurance that their orders will be delivered in time. After all, nothing would ruin Christmas like having to explain to family or loved ones on the morning of December 25th that their new bicycle or custom scented soap set might not arrive for up to another five business days.

In order to avoid such disasters, many nervous customers might elect to forgo their online shopping plans and buy a present at a brick-and-mortar store instead. After all, they can’t afford to order from your ecommerce shop if there’s a risk their presents won’t be delivered in time—no matter how terrific your product or compelling your deals.

To ease customer anxiety and protect them from holiday ordering mishaps, one effective solution is to create a holiday shipping calendar. By displaying a shipping calendar prominently on your site, you eliminate guesswork and uncertainty by informing your shoppers of the precise order date and shipping method they need to ensure their presents will arrive on time.

“Give buyers full transparency to the specific delivery day, not just the number of days,” urges UPS retail segment marketing director Bala Ganesh on UPS Compass. “…our research shows a vast majority of consumers prefer a specific date.” If you provide a calendar with specific and accurate shipping deadlines, you not only minimize your number of disappointed and upset customers, you become an appealing choice over competitors that don’t provide such reassurance.

Check Out Past Holiday Shipping Calendars from Popular Retailers

To get an idea of what your holiday shipping calendar should look like, take a look at previous calendars from popular retailers.

Fanelli_Calendar_ToysRUs
Fanelli_Calendar_Walmart

Walmart and Toys R Us calendars include standard, express, and pickup order deadlines.

Fanelli_Calendar_Net-a-Porter

Net-A-Porter’s calendar informs shoppers of deadlines based on their location and the shipping provider they choose.

Fanelli_Calendar_Amazon

Amazon’s calendar offers free shipping before a certain date, giving customers incentive to get orders in early.

Organizing Your Holiday Shipping Calendar

When organizing your own holiday shipping calendar, consider these factors:

  1. What shipping carriers do you use? What are their holiday deadlines?UPS has published a detailed calendar listing their normal pickup and delivery dates as well as no-service dates during the 2014 holiday season. The calendar includes information on when clients can expect orders to arrive based on pickup date. In addition, the UPS website features a handy chart with shipping deadlines for their different service levels if you want to have orders received before Christmas Eve.Similarly, FedEx’s holiday service schedule includes open, closed, and modified service dates for its various service levels. The FedEx “Last Days to Ship” chart showcases Christmas ordering deadlines depending on service level and destination.
  2. Where are your customers located? Part of the beauty of an ecommerce shop lies in its ability to be accessed by shoppers anywhere in the world. If you frequently ship your products to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or international countries, you’ll want to include deadlines specific to these regions on your calendar. Don’t forget that non-document shipments require customs clearance, so early shipping for international orders is particularly prudent.
  3. Which holidays are important to your customers?Christmas is a big one, but many of your buyers might want to know whether their package will arrive in time for Thanksgiving (November 27th), Hanukkah (December 16th), or Kwanzaa (December 26th – January 21st). Think about your target market. What holidays do they value and celebrate? If a significant part of your business comes from international shoppers, it’s worth checking out a list of upcoming international holidays.Also, think about your product—for instance, if you sell chic party dresses, it might be important to your customers that their orders arrive before New Year’s Eve (December 31st). If you sell hand-carved Advent calendars, your customers will want to know if they’ll receive their shipments before the Advent season begins (November 30th).
  4. Can you offer your customers a discount if they get their orders in early?It’s likely that your ecommerce store will experience a much higher volume of orders during the holiday season than other times of the year. To avoid an overwhelming, unmanageable burst of orders demanding pre-Christmas delivery, consider offering customers free or discounted shipping if they order by a certain date. “Try to move purchasing by your loyal customers further ahead,” advises Ganesh, “so you can cater to the impulse buyers who will hit you later in the season.”

Designing Your Holiday Shipping Calendar

You don’t have to be a graphic design whiz to craft a visually appealing and accessible calendar for your online store. Microsoft Office features straightforward software that walks users through the creation of custom calendars, and offers a variety of free calendar templates on their template site. Applications such as Google Calendar equip Google account holders with tools to create and embed calendars right onto their websites.

If you do have a graphic designer work on the project, ensure that they understand the goals of the calendar, and that they also use holiday-themed colors that stand out on your site without clashing.

However you choose to create and publish your holiday shipping calendar, what’s most important is that your calendar is simple to read and easy to spot on your site.