Shopping has fundamentally changed

Scary statistic: there are only 12 more weekends left before Christmas!keep-calm-only-12-weeks-until-christmas-1

Halloween candy and costumes reside in the clearance sections of stores and you're starting to see discounts online because retailers are already pushing for the next holiday; Thanksgiving centerpieces are out and even Christmas ornaments and wreaths are starting to pop up.

With the holidays coming up quicker than we’re ready to accept, the shopping scramble is sure to begin sooner rather than later.  Traffic will start getting a little heavier at the mall and shopping centers each weekend as more and more people start realizing that their days are quickly dwindling.  And the internet may get a little slower, as people start searching for the best deal online for their parents, siblings, children, and friends.

Que up the sure to be massive hiring efforts that UPS and FedEx will start for seasonal delivery drivers to handle the large influx of shipped packages.

Why the cost of shipping will just keep rising

The cost of shipping is going up, despite the cost of crude oil staying relatively low.  And that’s because “whether a driver is hauling a super heavy piece of machinery or a feather-light box filled with rolls of paper towels bought in bulk, carrier costs including driver wages fuel remain the same,” says CNBC.

So, while it’s easy to keep anything from a pack of pacifiers to a big screen TV, US trucking tonnage is at record highs because we’re all indulging in the easiest way to shop – from our homes.  A recent Department of Transportation study showed that "online shopping (and the shipping it demands) will be a major contributor to the 29 billion tons of freight projected to travel on US roads every year by 2040."

Truck tonnage is expected to grow by approximately 40% by 2040 and air tonnage (think next day delivery or free Prime, 2 day deliveries) is anticipated to grow by 250% in the same time frame.

So, what does all this mean to shoppers?

What it means is that you can expect to continue to see increases in the price of shipping.  You can also expect to see increases in shipping damages, as shipping companies are trying to provide on-time delivery of such large increases in packages.  You’re also more likely to see delays in delivery, especially those free delivery services from Amazon and other e-commerce sites.

Popular Mechanics did a really interesting field test to determine which shipping company was the kindest to packages, including a Day in the Life infographic showing what a package may go through on its trip.

But that isn’t going to stop e-commerce and online shopping.  With internet addicted and instant gratification expecting millennials finding their way into the economic landscape, it’s more likely than not that online shopping and shipping will only continue to grow at astronomical rates.  The holiday season of 2014 saw double the sales online as brick and mortar stores did.

Cyber Monday exhibits its own unique traits outside of the Black Friday moniker, starting with the fact that it's outpacing its brethren for transactions. Cyber Monday grew 20.6% from 2012 with more than $2 billion in online sales last year, topping the $1.964 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined.

And what about shippers?

shipping-guyThe growth in the e-commerce market only leaves packaging companies with the staggering task of providing the perfectly tailored packaging designs for the products provided.  Checking All the Boxes, a study conducted in May 2014 by StellaService, explained that "proper package fit leaves a better impression with shoppers, saves retailers money on shipping costs, and reduces the possibility of damaged products."

"Impressive packaging," StellaService continued, "can be the differentiator for retailers hoping to stand out from the pack and create loyal brand advocates… Consider that going above and beyond (in terms of package fit, protection, and branding) can give a retailer an advantage over 80% of the market."

That means shippers are more dependent than ever on packaging companies providing quality products, including boxes, void fill, sealing tape, shrink wrap, etc., that will allow for their products to survive the rough shipping rides and the potential delay in delivery, arriving on shopper's doorsteps looking like it just left the warehouse and not that it had been hustled potentially thousands of miles in a matter of hours.

Now THAT's a big order to fill.