Managing the ‘eCommerce Christmas’ together

Towards the end of a year where online shopping well and truly accelerated, we’re now in the midst of an unprecedented ‘eCommerce Christmas’. This is the moment to deliver on your customer experience promise – and take the opportunity to retain a growing number of online shoppers in the New Year.

Key points

  • A forecast record $4 billion in online spend is expected to make Christmas 2020 Australia’s largest online shopping event ever1
  • Australia Post has increased network capacity in anticipation of further volume growth
  • How you present your parcels can impact how efficiently they move through our network

Over the last few years, the peak holiday shopping season has represented an annual high point for online retail.2 But the pandemic has powered an eCommerce revolution in 2020, breaking ‘peak’ volume records again and again.3

Parcel growth from July to September was more than the growth for the entire year just two years ago, with eight million households having shopped online, including 1 million new households since COVID began.1

The Christmas rush has come early

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of yet another recording-breaking surge in demand. In October the momentum of parcel volume growth continued. There’s been over 130 days this year, where more than 2 million parcels have entered our network.4

“We are hurtling towards our biggest online shopping peak ever,” said Australia Post Executive General Manager Business, Government & International Gary Starr, in his opening session at Online Retailer FUSION 2020.3 “This will be a Christmas like no other.”

Starr was joined by founder Ruslan Kogan, who was enthusiastic about the eCommerce trends we’re seeing: “it’s going to be an eCommerce Christmas.” Having already seen volumes soar as much as 184% year-on-year for the week ending October 161, Kogan expects November to be the new December.2

Asked how his business will manage, Kogan said “We’ve got over a dozen distribution centres Australia wide. Many of them are working around the clock. We’ve had a huge focus on ensuring we build the right inventory levels to service the huge eCommerce demand." He added, “With the Marketplace, we’re giving Australian businesses the opportunity to speak to our customers (and) we’re saying to them, ‘be stocked up’.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s largest online bookstore Booktopia has adjusted to ‘peak demand’ being the ‘new norm’ over the course of this year.

“We've been at what we call Christmas peak demand since October 2019, shipping over 30,000 units a day out of our distribution centre,” says Booktopia Deputy CEO and CTO Wayne Baskin. His three-year distribution centre automation project will help them double that capacity for this Christmas, and also added another 3,000sqm in fulfilment space.

Keeping customers happy during peak demand

“Major events on the eCommerce calendar have a significant impact on our parcel volumes,” says Starr. Last year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday set new peak records when that sales week recorded 31.6% year-on-year growth.2

But this year, October’s events have already exceeded expectations. Vogue Online Shopping Night (October 6) volumes rose 52% year-on-year, and Amazon Prime Day (October 13-14)4 increased 53%.

For endota Spa, the two weeks before Christmas tend to be the busiest time of the year for spa product gift purchases online.

Knowing this may not meet Australia Post’s Christmas sending dates, they’ve developed a creative solution – an ‘eGift guarantee’ that ensures last-minute shoppers can still share their gift at Christmas. Within endota’s eCommerce checkout, customers can choose to send an email with a ‘little sparkle, love and joy’ to their gift recipient on Christmas Day, hinting at what is to come.

“They’ll get a lovely email on Christmas morning, and then they’ll get the added bonus of getting something actually delivered to them,” says Alana Adkins, endota Spa Brand and Product Marketing Manager.

Help us deliver a great customer experience

In order to cope with a record-breaking holiday period, we’ve worked hard to increase our network capacity by adding:

  • 3,000 additional road vehicles during peak, for a total of 18,000 – a 20% increase5
  • 18 dedicated air freighters and as many as 66 delivery flights per day5
  • 47 new delivery sites1
  • 30 additional Post Offices1
  • 5,000 more staff to help with parcel delivery, and assist in Customer Contact Centres and Post Offices3
  • New options for parcel collection1

To reduce the pressure on our parcel delivery drivers and ensure we can still deliver on your customer promise, we've also retrained 2,000 posties to deliver small parcels.7

“We’re doing everything we to manage the extraordinary volumes,” says Starr. “But Australia’s largest online retailers can also help our network to run as smoothly as possible.”

Here are four things to bear in mind as momentum continues to accelerate.

1. Separate Express Post and Parcel Post

When customers choose express shipping, they expect a faster service. But to make that as efficient as possible, it’s important to separate your Express Post and Parcel Post items for pickup.

2. Flex your use of pallets and ULDs

With such a remarkable increase in volume, we're running short on the number of ULDs we can provide customers. So we're asking some businesses to use pallets instead.

“We know it’s been a huge change for our customers, and we really appreciate people working around that with us,” Michelle Francis, Australia Post Head of Service, Business, Intermediaries & International says. “Without that co-operation, we wouldn’t have been able to flex our network the way we have. Everybody’s worked really well together to do that.”

3. Separate large and small items

To make the most of our network – including our 2,000 retrained posties – we’ve developed specialised sorting capabilities for small parcels at many of our facilities. That’s why you can help us by dividing deliveries into small and large parcels, so we can automatically feed smaller parcels into the postie network.

4. Use support tools

The fastest way to lodge an enquiry with Australia Post is through the Business Support Portal. This self-serve portal can help you to find solutions to many customer enquiries 24/7, including:

  • Tracking information and delivery ETAs8
  • Recall or redirect lodged parcels9
  • Download Proof of Delivery documents or Safe Drop images10
  • Summary of your enquiries and be notified when more information is needed to progress your inquiry.11

You can also access live chat from 8am-6pm (AEST) Monday-Friday and raise enquiries to have deliveries investigated. This helps you quickly respond to customer queries, while also easing the call volume pressure on our Customer Contact Centre.

‘Tis the season to be early

It's our busiest time of the year, so send your parcels as early as you can – and by the below dates – to give them the best chance of arriving time.

We’ll still deliver items sent after these dates, but they may not arrive until after Christmas.

Sending within Australia

  • Send Parcel Post items by 12 December 2020
  • Send Express Post items by 19 December 2020

Sending internationally

We recommend sending by the below dates for major destinations (Standard Post):

  • USA, Canada, UK, and Europe: 16 November 2020
  • Most of Asia: 23 November 2020
  • New Zealand: 27 November 2020

Please note that our recommend post-by dates do not allow for customs delays, which are outside our control. International deliveries may also be affected by rapidly evolving conditions as other countries continue adapting to COVID-19.

And in case you missed it, you can download our Preparing for peaks in online shopping: A toolkit for business (PDF 6.8MB) for more insight into how you can make it as easy as possible for your parcels to move through our network.

Preparing for peaks and surges in online shopping: a strategic toolkit for your business provides practical information on best practice parcel preparation to help get parcels to your customers as quickly as possible.

This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be advice specific to your business needs.

1 Digital sales boom for Christmas: Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, Glenda Korporaal, October 21 2020, The Australian

2 Inside Australian Online Shopping 2020 eCommerce Industry Report, Australia Post April 2020

3 AusPost warns of November e-commerce peaks, Tess Bennett, October 20 2020 IT News

4 Australia Post eCommerce and Merchant update for week ending Friday October 16th

5 Christmas in November as retailers prepare for e-commerce rush, Dominic Powell, October 14 2020 Sydney Morning Herald

6 Preparing for peaks in online shopping, A toolkit for business, Australia Post

7 Australia Post will retrain 2000 posties to deliver parcels, as demand for package delivery doubles in just four weeks, Business Insider Australia, 21 April 2020

8 Track events will vary depending on the service used and how your item is lodged and delivered. For details visit our tracking service

9 Our recall or redirect services are only available for parcels in transit that have been lodged using the eParcel platform, and have been addressed to a street address. If your parcel is addressed to a 24/7 Parcel Locker, PO Box or Parcel Collect please log a case by selecting RTS from the drop down box. The return to sender charge outlined in your contract will apply to any redirection or recall services that we provide to you. If you choose to redirect your parcel this will add at least one extra business day to the delivery. While we will make all reasonable efforts to recall or redirect your parcel, it may not be possible in certain circumstances. Australia Post does not accept any responsibility for failing to redirect or recall the parcel.

10 Proof of Delivery and Safe Drop images are only available for articles lodged through eParcel / Parcel Send and for selected articles.

11 Your guide to the Business Support Portal: Managing your deliveries and enquiries with Australia Post via the Business Support Portal.

12 Circumstances can change rapidly, so these dates may be subject to change.