With Black Friday creep, brick-and-mortar stores weren’t the only retailers working on Thanksgiving Day. Endicia, whose online postage service helps online merchants ship their ecommerce orders via the U.S. Postal Service, found shipping volume was up 45% on Thanksgiving Day over last year. And while seeing strong growth so far this year, the company believes the busiest day is yet to come.
On Cyber Monday, Endicia cofounder and General Manager Amine Khechfe provided EcommerceBytes with some year-over-year growth numbers. He also provided numbers for the weeks leading up to the holiday weekend in order to see if there was any “compressed shopping-season panic”: there are 6 fewer days between Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas holiday, with retailers starting holiday promotions earlier this year.
Week ending Nov. 17: 25%
Week ending Nov. 24th: 26%
Week ending Dec. 1st: 31%
Thursday, Thanksgiving Day: 45%
Black Friday: 41%
Small Business Saturday 43%
On Cyber Monday, the growth rate for the two hours between 10 am and noon exceeded the highest hourly peak of last year, which occurred the Monday before Christmas. And the growth experienced throughout the holiday season has been through all mail classes, he said.
Endicia expects its busiest shipping day of the season to be later in the season closer to the 16th, though there could be a peak in dollar volume for expedited services on the 23rd. Everything historically has seen peak shipping days in the week or two weeks leading before Christmas.
“If you look at the sales that happened last week, I think retailers are still holding back,” Khechfe said. He said on Monday that he expects stronger sales promotions in the next 10 days. Last year, Endicia experienced a 35% growth in shipping volume on the Monday before Christmas, with overall growth of 25% for last year’s holiday shopping season.
Khechfe also believes his numbers indicate more merchants are offering free shipping – “I am seeing a higher number of shippers using lower cost methods, which tells me they are looking at the cost of shipping. They’re sending less-so expedited and more-so potentially first class. But it’s also a tribute to the carriers and the Postal Service because the efficiency of some of the low-cost shipping methods is also on the rise.
“When you are shipping Priority Mail, you can get it there in half the time of the private carriers. And then the First Class network at the Postal Service is pretty darn strong, so if you have a lightweight package under a pound, in certain regions, you can send it First Class. And then with the flat rate packaging and the Regional Rate boxes, people are starting to understand that mix and maximize their efficiency.”
Khechfe said the USPS price rate increase announced this year for 2014 shipping was one of the lowest in years, and called it one of the smartest price changes that he’s seen.
The Intelligent Mail parcel barcode (IMpb) tracking is “phenomenal,” he said – the USPS provides up to 11 tracking events, which is higher than the private carriers in many cases. “I think it’s a good year for online sellers.”
First Class Parcel has the same IMpb tracking as Priority Mail, but First Class network is typically a surface network compared to Priority Mail, which goes on an airplane with some exceptions for lower zones. “So First Class takes a little bit longer, but you’ve got a lot of tracking points,” he said.
Asked if he had tips for online sellers during the holidays, Khechfe said “breathe and roll up your sleeves, you’re on the ride now, it’s started.”
- Know your cut-off shipping dates.
- Look at your costs, and maximize the speed-to-cost ratio.
- Look at free packaging you can get from the Postal Service; compare flat rate boxes to regular boxes. Optimize that mix.
- Once you’re sending out 5 packages a day, you need a shipping software product.
- And once you’re shipping daily, “you’re real now. Invest in a thermal printer; get that label stock so you can peel and stick rather than taping the label on to the package.” It’s easier to get those processes in place earlier.
Last year Endicia began pushing cross-border, and it plans a big push next year to do “super automation” of returns.
“We’re ensuring medium and small sellers have all the tools the high-volume sellers have in the marketplace so they can compete better.”