Poor inventory forecasting and ineffective marketing campaigns can have a major impact on holiday sales. But the part of online retail operations that has the potential to be the most costly is shipping. Because there are just so many parts of the process that can go wrong.

Want to prevent unnecessary headaches during the upcoming holiday season? Then take a look at these five common shipping and logistics mistakes and learn how you can avoid them.

Having a Cluttered Packing and Shipping Area
When you’re smack dab in the middle of processing orders, you’re probably not concerned with how the packing and shipping area looks. But as the holidays approach and order volume starts to increase, you’re going to really wish you’d taken the time earlier to organize everything.

Make sure the most frequently-used tools (for example, tape guns, scales, and scissors) are all easily accessible and within arm’s reach. Give each of those items its own dedicated place in the packing and shipping area, and remind your team to always return those tools to the proper location when they’re done using them. It may seem a bit nitpicky at first, but it’ll be worth it when no one has to waste time wandering around in search of a tape measure.

Packing up orders to ship out.

Using Only One Carrier
Nearly every ecommerce brand has the option of shipping with multiple carriers. The one exception would be any retailer operating out of Antarctica. But for online sellers on any other continent, working with only a single carrier is one of the biggest shipping and logistics mistakes. Especially since all carriers can provide different benefits.

For example, UPS has offices in almost every country, which means one company will manage shipping from your store or warehouse straight through to delivery. FedEx specializes in urgent delivery options, such as next-day and 2-3 day delivery. And DHL is an expert in international shipping and logistics. Plus, there are plenty of local options for domestic shipping, like Australia Post, Canada Post, Royal Mail, and USPS.

Working with only one postal carrier limits the shipping and delivery options you can offer customers. And in ecommerce (especially during the holidays), this is a major detractor. In fact, 66% of consumers have chosen one retailer over another simply on the availability of delivery options. In addition, if you don’t use multiple carriers, you have no backup plan if something goes wrong and the one carrier you use is out of commission.

Failing to Properly Communicate
A lot of ecommerce companies bring on temporary employees during the holidays because it’s a cost-effective way to manage the order influx. But the problem is, unlike most new hires, seasonal employees don’t get a grace period for mistakes.

So if important information like packaging requirements or shipping cut-off times aren’t properly communicated, orders will get delayed. And if someone’s order with their family’s Christmas presents isn’t delivered until the 27th? You can say goodbye to any future purchases from that shopper.

Pro Tip: Consult your team and make sure they have more than enough packing supplies to get them through the end of January. The holidays are about happy surprises. And discovering you’re out of boxes, envelopes, or packing tape the week of Christmas is definitely not a good surprise.

Neglecting to Announce Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Just as important as proper internal communication is how you communicate with customers. Most shoppers expect to receive an order in four days or less. But during the holidays, (reasonable) consumers will understand deliveries might take a bit longer.

However, it’s your responsibility to ensure every visitor to your site knows exactly when your shipping deadlines are. Display the order-by date in big bold letters on your homepage, on your product pages, on your checkout page — everywhere.

Normally, making assumptions can lead to disastrous shipping and logistics mistakes. But not in this case. Assume your customers are making assumptions about delivery speed. And assume those assumptions are incorrect.

Holiday Packaging

Not Offering Free Shipping
It’s one of the most oft-cited statistics in any article about ecommerce: the #1 reason shoppers abandon their carts is unexpected costs. More specifically, the cost of shipping. If you don’t want holiday shoppers jumping ship at the last moment, you need to offer free shipping.

Nearly ⅔ of shoppers claim free shipping is the biggest influencer on where they shop online. And over 90% will take action to qualify for free shipping, including adding more items to their cart.

Undoubtedly, there are plenty of ecommerce brands who don’t have the option to never charge for shipping. But if you don’t provide free shipping under any circumstances, you’re potentially missing out on increased order volumes and a higher average order value.

Consider offering free shipping on all orders over a certain amount. Or make it a special deal for first-time customers. Many shoppers are also willing to sacrifice speed for savings, so feel free to use a cheaper shipping option on these orders. You can also advertise free shipping only during the holidays.

Halloween lovers are famous for being annoyed by how Christmas decorations start popping up earlier and earlier every year. But for ecommerce companies, planning for Christmas in autumn is just par for the course. As long as you have all your ducks in a row long before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can avoid these potentially catastrophic shipping and logistics mistakes.

This is a guest post by Callie Hinman, the Content Marketer & Writer at ShipStation, a leading provider of shipping software for ecommerce fulfillment. Callie is a proud graduate of the University of Texas and is staunchly committed to following Ann Handley’s Rule of FIWTSBS (“Find Interesting Ways to Say Boring Stuff”).