The holidays are just around the corner, and as usual, there will be last-minute shoppers. Your holiday prep probably started earlier than usual this year — probably in March! There has been a sharp increase in e-commerce traffic in 2020 and this increase is cresting with the holiday shopping season. And with this wave of holiday shopping battering e-commerce sellers, it’s inevitable that the last-minute shoppers that typically do a mad dash through the mall will also turn online. 

All of your planning that you have put into place for the holiday rush is really going to be put to the test during this home stretch. Knowing consumer expectations and your timelines for getting these December purchases to customers on time is a great way to avoid holiday returns and grow your customer base. Here are some ways to help you prepare for those last-minute shoppers:

Help Customers Verify Addresses

Making sure that your customers include the correct addresses is doubly important for late shoppers in 2020. In years past, buyers would travel with their presents, but 2020 has more gifts sent to the final recipient (this is also an instance where offering gift-wrapping could pay off). But this increases the risk of improperly entered shipping addresses. And with less time to reroute parcels, you may be looking at returned orders. Using a shipping platform that verifies the addresses can cut down on headaches later. 

Prepare for Returns

Instore returns have dropped a bit this year. ShipStation found that 67% of consumers are less likely to complete a return in stores for a foreseeable future. However, returns are still popular. In fact, ShipStation also found that 86% of consumers say that ease of returns is a major factor when making a final purchase. As with everything else moving more online in 2020, returns have too, so expect to start 2021 off with customers exploring return or exchange options. 

Incentivize Exchanges

Customers can be incentivized to exchange. Offering coupons for exchanges are a good way to avoid entire refunds. Furthermore, exchanging an undesired gift for the right item can grow your customer base further. 

How Customers Prefer Returns 

In the same poll, ShipStation found that consumers have preferred methods of initiating returns to sellers. If any of these methods work for your business, here is how they are preferred:

  1. Free returns remain the most important factor for returns, though it is down slightly from years past.
  2. Customers prefer initiating a return to be as easy as placing an order. Features like a self-service returns portal make this easier. 
  3. Including prepaid returns in the box are also popular. This can be tricky to offer and generally comes down to customers not wanting to print a label. 

Understand Consumer Expectations around Shipping 

In addition to returns, COVID-19 has reshaped what customers want from shipping. To stay in tune with your customers, check out ShipStation’s Last Touch, Lasting Impact ebook to know what your customers expect from online retailers. 

Know Your Carrier’s Deadlines

With the pandemic tightening its grip on supply chains, less international commercial flights that many carriers use to ship parcels, and an increase in online orders, it is no surprise that shipping deadlines average an extra business day for orders to reach their final destinations over years past. Here are some of the major carrier anticipated holiday shipping deadlines in the coming weeks for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia

US Holiday Shipping Deadlines


Service Shipping Cutoff Date
Retail Ground™ Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
First Class Mail® Friday, December 18th, 2020
Priority Mail® Saturday, December 19th, 2020
Priority Mail Express® Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

For USPS’s international shipping deadlines, head here


Service Shipping Cutoff Date
FedEx SmartPost® Wednesday, December 9th, 2020* 
FedEx Ground® Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Home Delivery® Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Express Saver® Monday, December 21st, 2020
2Day® Services Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
Overnight® Services Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

For FedEx’s international shipping deadlines, head here.
*Exceptions may apply


Service Shipping Cutoff Date
Ground® Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
3 Day Select® Monday, December 21st, 2020
2nd Day Air® Services Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
Next Day Air® Services Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

For UPS’s international shipping deadlines, head here

Canada Holiday Shipping Deadlines 

Canada Post

Canada Post is not offering delivery guarantees for the 2020 holiday season. For the most up-to-date shipping deadlines, visit the Canada Post delivery tools


Destination Send by
Next Day Delivery to Canada or US Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
Mexico, Caribbean, South and Central America, Western Europe [including the United Kingdom, France and Germany], Australia Friday, December 18th, 2020
East Asia [including China, Japan and Thailand] Thursday, December 17th, 2020
United States via Purolator Ground® Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East Friday, December 11th, 2020

For more information on Purolator’s shipping deadlines, head here


Service Shipping Cutoff Date
FedEx Overnight® Services Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020*
FedEx 2Day® Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020*
FedEx Economy® Monday, December 21st, 2020*
FedEx Ground® Monday, December 15th, 2020

For information on FedEx Canada’s international deadlines, head here.
*Allow 1-3 additional days when shipping from western provinces to Atlantic provinces (includes Thunder Bay and surrounding areas).


Origin Send by
BC Dec 11th-23rd, 2020*
AB Dec 14th-23rd, 2020*
SK Dec 14th-23rd, 2020*
MB Dec 15th-23rd, 2020*
ON Dec 17th-23rd, 2020*
QC Dec 17th-23rd, 2020*
NB/NS/PEI Dec 16th-23rd, 2020*
NFLD Dec 11th-22nd, 2020*

Australia Holiday Shipping Deadlines


Service Latest Posting Dates
Express eParcel 18-23 December
Parcel Post 11-19 December

For a full list of Australia Post’s final post-by dates, click here.


Service Latest Posting Dates
Express eParcel 18-23 December
Parcel Post 11-19 December


For CouriesPlease’s shipping deadlines click here.

Aramex Post-By Dates

For Aramex’s shipping deadlines click here.

UK Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Royal Mail Domestic Services

Service Last Posting Date
2nd Class; Royal Mail Signed For® 2nd Class Friday 18 December 2020
1st Class; Royal Mail Signed For® 1st Class Monday 21 December 2020
Royal Mail Tracked 48® Monday 21 December 2020
Royal Mail Tracked 24® Tuesday 22 December 2020
Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed® Wednesday 23 December 2020


Service Last Posting Date
Timed Services

Express 9, Express 10, Express AM, Express PM

Send by Wednesday 23 December 2020
Next Day Services

Express 24

Send by Wednesday 23 December 2020
Two Day Services

Express 48, Express 48 Large

Send by Tuesday 22 December 2020


Service Last Posting Date
Last day for courier collection Saturday 19 December 2020
Last day for Standard Parcelshop drop-off Monday 21 December at 12:00 pm 
Last day for Next Day Parcelshop drop-off Tuesday 22 December at 12:00 pm


For DPD domestic parcels, the last collection date for delivery before Christmas Day would be Wednesday 23rd December 2020. Parcels collected on Wednesday 23rd December would be due for delivery on Thursday 24th December.

For more UK carriers and their shipping deadlines, head here

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