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The holidays are here! While an increase in sales is a welcome boom, the problems and challenges that come along with staying ahead of the competition can be a real headache for small business owners. Even when customers shop and order early they want to know their goods will be delivered quickly. This makes their shopping experience easier and it cements the idea that your company is there to help ease holiday stress instead of adding to it.

The rise of online shopping has made the holiday season a peak time for shippers as well as online stores, especially for the four biggest players in the shipping game – FedEx, United Parcel Service, DHL and the good old US Postal Service. Knowing how to best use these companies and how to branch out is what can easily set your business apart from the competition.

Inventory management for small business goes hand in hand with smart shipping. By controlling inventory levels and warehouse flow companies can have orders packaged and ready to be shipped quickly, making it easier for regular pick-up from any of these big players.

Developing and maintaining a relationship with each of these big name carriers takes time — but it’s time well spent. Account managers from each can come in and help you develop the procedures and understand the software need to speed the process along, making your order fulfillment run smoothly.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to shipping. Local customers can be considered for a same-day delivery service thanks to budding programs through companies such as Uber. Just recently, the start-up launched programs in a number of cities where drivers partner with local business to provide same day deliveries — an innovative concept that small companies can use to stay ahead.

When it comes to online shopping and sales, delivery is often a deciding factor for shoppers. Companies that make the most out of their forecasting tool for small business, inventory management and shipping options can truly stay ahead of the game — and the pack — this holiday season.