We are in the middle of summer. Many parts of the country are experiencing record heat. So, time to think back to school. That’s right. For retailers and eCommerce companies, back-to-school shopping and shipping are expected to be in full swing this month.

The “2021 Deloitte Back-to-School Survey” shows that a year of supply chain challenges and continuing concerns over stockouts linger. According to the survey, 59% of K-12 planned spending will occur by the end of July as consumers rush to ensure getting the materials their kids need when heading back to school this fall.

The trend is also expected to extend the campuses across the country, with college students anticipating returning for in-person classes following a year of uncertainty and changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the “2021 Deloitte Back-to-College Survey,” back-to-college parents plan to spend $26.7 billion, or approximately $1,459 per student, a jump of 5% from 2020. Of this, college families plan to spend $9.4 billion online this fall.

Overall, Deloitte reports that more people expect to shop at online retailers (49%) than did a year ago during the back-to-school season.

Pack for Profits During Carrier Capacity Crunch

This jump in online back-to-school shopping may further strain carrier capacity and retailers and e-tailers as they ship more products than in the past, making packing for profits more important than ever. Here are three tips to help you save money from added costs such as Dimensional Weight (DIM) fees.

  1. Pack precisely:

Make sure to use the correct size cartons that are not too big or too small for what you are shipping. This will not only help save money by reducing air and fill—not to mention DIM fees—but also reduce waste and minimize damage during shipping.

  1. Build a multi-carrier network:

Today’s shipping environment calls for an expanded network of carriers, especially as retailers take an omnichannel logistics approach. Be sure to establish a multi-carrier network of national, regional, and local carriers to avoid being locked out of shipping due to capacity constraints. This will also enable you to rate shop more easily and negotiate DIM fees.

  1. Use the right shipping technology:

Use advanced cartonization algorithms, such as featured in Transtream multi-carrier parcel management solution, to help take the guesswork out of your packing, palletization, and container loading.

Ready for Online Returns

While being ready for back-to-school shopping is vital, it is almost equally important to be prepared for the back-to-store returns season that is bound to follow.

According to CNBC, the Mastercard SpendingPulse puts apparel purchases at the top of back-to-school shopping as parents and students expect to ditch the at-home wardrobe of pajamas and slippers for a more traditional school wardrobe this year.

Apparel sales are expected to rise a robust 78% compared with the back-to-school season last year and 11% from the 2019 season, which is the last time most students shopped with in-school attendance in mind, CNBC reported.  

The National Retail Federation reported that consumers returned an estimated $428 billion in merchandise to retailers in 2020, about 10.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales. Of that, 12.2% of returns were apparel, trailing only auto parts for returns.

Narvar’s State of Returns: New Expectations, more than 60% of consumers now bracket their online apparel purchases to ensure getting the correct fit, which is a 50% increase over the last three years, adding more returns to the back-to-school shopping season.

Making online returns easy for back-to-school shoppers is key to delivering a complete shipping experience and building consumer loyalty to your brand.

The State of Returns showed that 76% of first-time customers who had an “easy” or “very easy” returns experience said they would shop with that retailer again. In comparison, 33% of repeat customers who had a “difficult” or “very difficult” experience would NOT shop with that retailer again.

Whether packing correctly or providing easy returns, shipping efficiently during an early and busy back-to-school shopping season will make or break, turning the short season into year-round success by delivering customers for repeat business.

To learn how a multi-carrier parcel management solution can help you deliver a back-to-school consumer experience that gets an “A,” schedule your Transtream demonstration today.