Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and the holiday shopping season is in full swing. But as shoppers and shippers review their long gift lists, they shouldn’t have short memories about the significant delivery snags of last year. Of course, that’s when countless packages were delivered late and countless people were disappointed. 

This year, we don’t expect history to repeat itself in the same way, since UPS and FedEx have learned from past experience and are planning ahead. However, it’s also important that B2B and residential shippers plan ahead and seek solutions to optimize on-time and intact deliveries. 

In this regard, as the demand for online deliveries increases, shoppers should consider the possible implications of having their packages delivered with the giants—as well as the advantages of going with a regional carrier. 

So, under the heading of “Buyer Beware,” here are some factors that might affect shopping plans:

● Record number of online shoppers. Many industry analysts have forecast dramatic spikes in online buyers. For instance, IBM’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday e-commerce report found that online sales were up 17% from last year. And according to a study by Forrester Research, 2014 will break e-commerce records, as shoppers in the States and Europe are expected to spend $130 billion on online purchases alone. While in-store Black Friday numbers may have been somewhat lower than expected, more consumers are still choosing to beat the crowds and shop online. With greater velocity comes an increased demand on the capacity of carriers. 

Takeaway: Try to avoid delivery delays by not leaving your orders till the last minute.

● Increased number of seasonal, temporary drivers. The national carriers have hired tens of thousands of new drivers to deliver the millions of packages this season. While the increased number of workers will help the nationals better handle demand, many of these employees are new to the shipping industry and lack the technical expertise and customer service skills of veteran drivers. Accordingly, delivery quality may well be compromised.

Takeaway: Think twice about trusting inexperienced couriers.

● Higher shipping costs. The increase in shipping demand also comes at a financial cost to consumers. Earlier this year, increases in DIM (dimensional) shipping rates caused businesses and residents to reconsider their shipping options to avoid expensive and unnecessary surcharges. Then customers were hit with additional price hikes, including new accessorial charges. This holiday season, cost-conscious customers and shippers are reminded to securitize prices, negotiate terms, and consider migration to ground shipping and regional carriers, as appropriate. As customers procrastinate, the costs of their shipments may increase exponentially.

Takeaway: Watch the bottom-line!

● Fewer guarantees. As mentioned, with more volume and fewer experienced drivers, we project a greater margin for error. Tied to this, the nationals have admitted that they cannot guarantee that all ground shipments will be delivered in time, and this will affect the increased costs referenced earlier. Accordingly, we encourage customers to track all shipments (online or over the phone using the provided tracking number) and to keep in touch with their carrier company to communicate any changes or concerns.

Takeaway: Keep on top of your order!

One thing we can’t control is the weather, which can certainly affect deliveries. But one thing we can control is shipping alternatives.

This season as always, customers and shippers should realize that they have options that may save them money and time. It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also the most hectic, so it only makes sense to consider the financial and logistical benefits regional shippers, which are more flexible and nimble that the giants.. For instance, if storms force airports to close, regional ground transport may be the only way to go. 

If regionals aren’t part of the decision-making process, some of us may be in for another blue Christmas. 

Ted Kauffman is Chairman of Eastern Connection, one of the largest regional small-package overnight carriers on the East Coast. Founded in 1983, Eastern Connection covers over 6,800 zip codes in the Northeast. The company, which has 16 facilities, is open 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Services include Next-Day Ground, Priority Overnight, Same-Day, Logistics & Warehousing, Trucking, Medical Logistics, and Expedited Mail. For more information,