Holiday Shipping Guidance for 2018: Analyzing FedEx 2017 Holiday Ship-By Dates

To better understand when shippers should send their packages during the holiday season, GrandCanals, a provider of analytics-driven fulfillment, launched an AI-powered website, where companies can view holiday ship-by predictions for 2018, updated nightly.

These predictions are determined by artificial intelligence and consider both historical and current shipping trends across the GrandCanals Delivery Performance tracking network.

The predictions are, in part, based on an analysis of the accuracy of FedEx’s 2017 holiday ship-by dates. These ship-by dates are published yearly by major carriers with the goal of describing, by service type (e.g., Express or Ground), when companies should ship packages to ensure arrival on or before December 25. GrandCanals’ data scientists first compared FedEx’s published dates to actual FedEx shipment results, across their customer base, between December 15 and 25, 2017. GrandCanals’ data scientists found that the FedEx ship-by date of December 21 for 1-day Express shipping was too late. Shippers should have shipped via 1-day Express service on or before December 20 to reach their consumers by Christmas with 95% reliability, meaning that 95% of the packages were successfully delivered on or before Christmas.

In contrast, the FedEx ship-by dates for Ground shipping were too conservative. GrandCanals’ analysis shows that shipments made 3 to 5 days later than the FedEx ship-by date reached their consumers by Christmas with 95% reliability. The ship-by date depends on shipping zones (i.e., the higher the zone number, the further distance between origin and destination) and GrandCanals’ analysis revealed that shippers could have shipped 5 days later for zones 2 through 5, 4 days later for zone 6, and 3 days later for zones 7 and 8. Thus, this AI-driven analysis revealed firms could have continued to take holiday orders for several days and still meet the Christmas deadline last year.

“For today’s e-consumer, order fulfillment is an integral part of the customer experience. It’s critically important to set and meet the customer’s expectations on their delivery date. This is especially important during the holiday season,” said Doug Jones, CEO, GrandCanals. “Businesses must be aware of the actual timeline needed to ensure that deliveries are made on time. Positive experiences can lead to higher customer loyalty and thus lifetime value. Conversely, negative consequences for missing a delivery date don’t end with losing any particular customer’s business. Factors, such as negative social media reviews and damage to reputation, can cripple brands, resulting in a decrease in new customer acquisition and long-term growth.”

Key takeaways from the GrandCanals research of 2017 ship-by dates include:

  • In general, shippers could have used 2-day Express vs. 1-day Express. There was no statistically significant difference in performance (same cutoff date of December 20), yet 2-day Express would be more cost effective. In fact, using the 1-day FedEx cutoff date of December 21 would lead to significant consumer disappointment because of missed deliveries (>10%).
  • For zones 2-5, shippers were better off using Ground rather than any Express service with equal or better performance with lower cost (cutoff date December 20).
  • For zone 6, shippers were better off using Ground when compared to 3-day Express service (cutoff December 19) but would have to use 2-day service starting December 20.
  • For zones 7 and 8, Ground service took longer than all Express services. However, the cutoff date of December 18 is still 3 days after the FedEx cutoff of December 15. Even for zones 7 and 8, shippers could have promised Christmas delivery for a longer duration than stated by FedEx and at a lower cost by using Ground.

“A detailed analysis of historical shipment data combined with cutting edge predictive algorithms can give us a much deeper understanding of actual carrier performance,” said Ram Bala, Chief Data Scientist, GrandCanals. “This understanding is crucial for shippers seeking to balance increasing consumer expectations regarding delivery and the costs incurred in meeting those expectations.”

In an effort to help shippers for this holiday season, GrandCanals’ AI-powered website allows shippers to review ship-by predictions for the 2018 holiday season, updated nightly. These predictions are determined by artificial intelligence and consider both historical and current shipping trends across the GrandCanals Delivery Performance tracking network.

GrandCanals helps eCommerce companies, retailers, and 3PLs profitably increase sales, deliver with confidence by enabling them to provide the best customer delivery experience—from the product page on their website to the customer doorstep. GrandCanals provides these capabilities via the Fulfillment Intelligence Cloud (FIC), a SaaS application that utilizes advanced data science to optimize websites and shipping networks. Purpose-built to optimize fulfillment and delivery, FIC helps leading eCommerce and retail companies increase sales, deliver orders with confidence, and delight their customers by improving their delivery experience. For more information on GrandCanals, please visit

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