How D2C Businesses Can Overcome the 2021 Holiday Season’s Supply Chain & Shipping Crisis | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

How D2C Businesses Can Overcome the 2021 Holiday Season’s Supply Chain & Shipping Crisis

November 8, 2021

By Jenn Choo


Thanks to unprecedented supply chain shortages and an increasingly impossible demand on shipping carriers, 2021 is proving to be a challenging year for D2C businesses that rely on outside vendors and third-party shipping services. Not to mention, media coverage of the aptly named supply chain and shipping "crisis" is causing holiday shoppers to be more on edge than ever before.

The Supply Chain and Shipping Challenges Every D2C Business Should Know

Understanding how these challenges will affect your D2C business is essential to developing a holiday shipping strategy free of hiccups. Consider these critical factors as we enter what promises to be the most unpredictable holiday season yet.

First, keep tabs on how supply chain disruptions will affect your business. Ensure that your buyers and those tasked with sourcing products are in close touch with vendors and communicating delays and out-of-stock notices with the rest of your team. Having the most up-to-date estimates on hand provides your team with the information needed to respond appropriately through alternate sourcing methods and product lines.

Next, consider the extended shipping timelines. The increased shift to mobile and online shopping influenced by COVID means that the coming months will see digital shopping spike in double digits like we've never seen before. Although shipping carriers continue to advertise their usual delivery windows, D2C fulfillment company Airhouse reported one to three shipping day delays on average beginning with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and continuing through Christmas during the 2020 holiday season.

And given the buzz around shipping in 2021, these delays are sure to happen again this year, potentially on a grander scale. This means it is critical to plan for the holiday shipping surcharges that FedEx, UPS, and USPS will apply to recoup the costs of retooling their operations to support the flurry of shipments that begin in October and continue through January.

Finally, the year-end rush will cause some shipments to get lost in the mix, either due to tracking delays or unexpected mishaps. Although these operational snags are out of your control, customers will expect your business to right the situation.

Plan accordingly by developing communications and deciding upon resolutions. That way, when these issues arise, you and your team are fully prepared to respond in ways that reassure your customers and strengthen your relationships, even during an unpredictable holiday shopping season.

Save the Day with Effective Shipping Strategies

While these challenges are certainly an inconvenience, especially at your busiest time of year, planning and preparation can help ease the burdens they bring. To start, try these ideas:

Ditch the Economy Shipping Option

Economy shipping can save a buck because multiple carriers work together to handle a single package, which often results in slower ship times. This year, however, leaves lots of room for delays, so offering shipping methods that are slightly more spendy but much more streamlined can help reduce extended timelines and keep your deliveries on time.

Add a Buffer to Your Delivery Estimates

With the knowledge that shipping carriers run on one to three day delays this holiday season, your D2C business can avoid disappointing customers by padding your shipping estimates appropriately. It's always good practice to overestimate shipping times and delight customers with the early arrival of their orders rather than disappoint them with late deliveries.

Write Crystal Clear Descriptions for Items with Processing Times

For various reasons, some items require processing time before they ship. If you display processing time separately from shipping time, be forewarned that many of your customers will miss the memo and wonder why their package isn't on their doorstep within the shipping time window you promised. To ensure that holiday shoppers fully understand when an item will arrive after it's ordered, display these estimates together:

This item takes two to four days to process and four to five days to ship. It will be delivered within six to nine business days from the time you place your order.

Have a Back-Up Plan in Place for When the Inevitable Happens

From shipping delays and lost packages to the occasional porch pirates, disappointments don't have to ruin your customer relationships. Meet with your team to develop an action plan that equips your customer success team with the right words to say and the kind of offers and upgrades that make your customers feel seen, heard, and valued no matter what gets in the way of their smooth holiday delivery.

Above All Else, Stay True to Your Brand

While the supply chain and shipping crisis will undoubtedly cause changes in the way we'd typically approach the holidays, it could never change the characteristics and customer community that make your D2C brand a growing success. Once your plans are in place, move forward in confidence knowing that when you adhere to your values and keep the customer at the heart of your operations, this holiday season will be yet another opportunity to thrive.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jenn Choo is the marketing director at Theorem.

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